Saturday, April 13Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

‘Drunk in Love’ or Mild Indifference?

For Beyoncé:

Beyoncé, in the simplest terms, is the epitome of the modern feminist. With songs
that speak to women across the world and voice feminist issues, she has slowly
become somewhat an idol to many. Whilst building her career she has managed
to maintain a successful marriage and given birth to a child; a feat admired by
me personally and I am sure by many others. Though, she hasn’t always had the
support of some women through singing (on some albums) solely about men and
sex. According to some this means that she isn’t a true feminist- but not in my

In modern society the media creates our understanding of the world and how we
see it, this means that artists must now go further than creating music, they must
become a role model, sex icon or both- why is that a bad thing when her music is
still amazing?

More recently on the releasing of her curious fifth album where she by-passed all
publicity, Beyoncé confirms her role model status by singing: why we shouldn’t
obsess over our image, about the trials of motherhood and female sexual
gratification. Most prominently on her new album in the song ‘***Flawless’ she
includes a spoken word interlude from the TED Talk on feminism by the brilliant,
Nigerian born writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie inspires us as listeners,
by making valid points regarding societal pressures and expectations. These
pressures and expectations are ones that teach women to aspire to be married
but not successful, encourage us to compete with other women and inform us
how we are not permitted by society to enjoy sex.

Beyoncé tries to change these expectations and pressures as she shows us
through her music that we can take on many roles like her – as independent,
sexy, married feminists. Rather ironically for some, she is a sex icon and I don’t
think that is a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with being proud of whom you
are and confident, when your music so clearly speaks for itself.
The way she communicates these things is exactly the reason why she is
loved, she breaks down the polar boundaries that sadly exist between a
famous person and fan by showing us that she experiences society as we do.
To add to that, we need her because she shows people that feminism isn’t
something to be afraid of, and isn’t something that is believed in by ‘men
hating’, ‘unhygienic’, ‘hysterical’, ‘unfuckable’ women.

It is okay that some people do not see her as an icon and I can appreciate that,
but what we should all recognize is the importance of gender issues in her songs
– and anyone who doesn’t is extremely old fashioned or uneducated. Regardless
of whether or not the releasing of her album and claiming to be a feminist is
a publicity stunt, she makes us feel as if we can ‘run the world’- is that not the
point? Do her intentions really matter when she speaks to so many? I think it
would be hard for her to disagree with what she sings about and if she did she
wouldn’t sing about it…

Against Beyoncé:

I can’t get my head around the Beyoncé hype. I’ve tried, honestly. I’ve watched the Glasto set, listened to the albums (including the new one) and watched a lot of interviews, and considering that people bandy around the word ‘perfect’ about her, I just can’t see it.

First of all, I’d strongly assert that the huge entourage of stylists, PR people and production designers create much of the ‘perfection’ people seem to see in her. Would she be as perfect without the thousands and thousands of dollars of production money behind her? Now I can’t argue she doesn’t make good pop music but the iconic people of the past (The Beatles, Elvis etc.) didn’t depend so heavily on what are essentially peripheral elements to a real artist. The truly brilliant popular musicians of our time have been those who embed themselves into popular culture seamlessly: you can go to any covers-night in any pub in Britain and someone playing a Beatles song with just a guitar can sound great. But you’d be harder pressed to find a Beyoncé song that anyone can just get up and do a song that resonates to those on all levels.

Obviously that’s just an example and many people cover Beyoncé on YouTube and so on every day, but the example highlights a key difference of the icons of the past and those we hail as perfection now; they just needed the music. The Beatles were great because they started something, musically; all the other hype was spun around it. Sam Phillips said of Elvis that he needed to “find a white man who had the Negro sound and Negro feel, [then] I could make a billion dollars” which while not a politically great sentiment, illustrates the way he changed a segregated nations view of music and the surrounding culture, that’s why those people were revered. All the corporate nonsense, the flashy videos, the great image and the aspirational desirability aside: what is it about her music that makes Beyoncé perfect?
Having already received a barrage of bile from some of my peers for asking this question, perhaps I am truly missing out. Perhaps some neurone in my brain truly doesn’t work, or if I were perhaps a better person, maybe I would agree with everyone else that Beyoncé is the world’s most perfect human being.

Or maybe she’s just got a fucking amazing
marketing team, something to think about…

Article: Karen White (For); Raoul Duke (Against)

Photographs: (Featured); (Main)