When Beyonce’s fifth studio album dropped late last year, she nearly broke the Internet. It was an epic reconnaissance commissioned by a pop queen determined to flex her might as a self-possessed businesswoman—someone who knows that her brand is dependent upon her celebrity status, and vice versa.
This has not been a great year for women mega-pop artists. Lady Gaga’s Artpop fell flat, as well as Britney Spears’s Britney Jean. Sure, there was Miley Cyrus’s Bangerz but one could argue that her on-and-offstage antics suggest that she was more focused on getting press than creating music with longevity. What will make Beyoncé, the album Beyoncé Knowles surprise-dropped last Friday, stand out is partly the lackluster playing field and partly because the digital-only format which includes 14 well-produced, highly stylized videos to accompany the 14-track album (with three additional bonus videos) has satiated the public’s appetite for Netflix-style entertainment.
We live in an era where anyone can increasingly curate their own personas, even us "normals" as 30 Rock'sJenna Maroney would say. Any nobody with the internet can create and filter the public perception of their personality, but of course this self-conscious curation is most obvious with pop stars—Lizzy Grant turned into Lana Del Rey, Christian pop singer Katy Perry became whipped-cream-loving pop superstar Katy Perry.
No one is better at this than Beyoncé. With Life Is But a Dream—the documentary directed, written and produced by Beyoncé herself that aired on HBO this weekend—Beyoncé appeared to give fans an intimate peek into her life while actually delivering, of course, a carefully constructed portrait.
The film is a mishmash of home videos, selfie Photobooth confessional videos (always sans makeup and looking flawless) and more typical documentary style video. It's not completely linear—it's more like you are watching a collage, a scrapbook of moments in Beyoncé's life.
We all love Beyoncé. It's practically engrained in our cultural fabric at this point. But what about Beyoncé's incredibly talented, sorely underappreciated younger sister, Solange?
While Beyoncé crafts incredible mainstream pop, Solange has created an EP, True, that draws from the mainstream and places it in the margins. True is a refreshing, stripped-down take on what we've become accustomed to in pop music. And I'm not the only one who thinks so; True ended up on many year-end lists and Solange is currently touring with sold out shows and snagged the cover of the February/March issue of Fader.
I want the Knowles sisters to take over pop culture. Judging from this EP, I don't think that's going to be a problem.
Welcome to the latest installment of Ms. Opinionated, in which readers have questions about the pesky day-to-day choices we all face, and I give advice about how to make ones that (hopefully) best reflect our shared commitment to feminist values—as well as advice on what to do when they don't. This week, how to be the perfect feminist by accepting you're not the perfect feminist.
Dear Ms. Opinionated,
As a feminist I am always trying to stay up to date on news, research and blogs like Bitch. Lately, though, I have been feeling very muddled. I vocally criticize objectification of women in TV and movies, yet I am a huge fan of artists like Beyoncé and Rihanna who are marketed as sex symbols. I go on about the lack of coverage and opportunities for female athletes but I rarely watch women's sports myself. I tell my friends not to worry about their weight, but I get upset when I put on a few pounds. I confront sexual harassers on the street yet my sexual fantasies often involve domination by men. I tell myself that everyone is feminist in their own way, but it also seems that most activists and websites espouse a "right" way to be feminist. I can't help feeling that I am doing it wrong or not enough. How do I (and other women reading) reconcile all of these contradictions?
Sports pundits are still be trying to make yesterday's Super Bowl all about the actual game (and yes, that 108-yard touchdown was pretty impressive), but let's be honest with ourselves—the real winner of the game was Beyoncé's halftime performance. And not just because she didn't lip sync or because of the holograms, but because of the fact that for the first time in recent memory, women of color were the main focus of the show. Women who could dance. Women who could sing. Women who could play instruments with sparks shooting out of them.
And yet, still, predictably and sadly, there are people (many of them women) who want to make the show about the fact that Queen Bey wasn't wearing saggy denims and an ill-fitting University of Somewhere sweatshirt. Instead, she wore a dominatrix-esque boydsuit that got rapidly smaller as the performance progressed. In a thread on the Binders Full Of Women Facebook community, the slut-shaming began with a speed that could make Oreo's head spin.
It was a strip-tease! Why do women always have to be taking off their clothes! This does nothing to advance the position of women because there was too much skin visible!
Really? Didn't we just have this conversation like a week ago when she was on the cover of GQ?
Welcome to the first proper installment of RetroPop! A blog in which I, your humble guest writer, bring together my loves for the Billboard Hot 100 and bodacious bits from female artists of the past. It's all based on my argument that lady-related pop messages of today are no less worthy than pop messages from the canon of women artists throughout history, and that by comparing them a bit maybe we can have some fun and give today's female pop stars a bit more cred in the process. (Possibly making us "thinking girls" feel less guilty about bustin' a move to Beyoncé? Added benefit.)
Today, in this first true demonstration of the RetroPop mashup style, we'll take a look at some parallels between Carly Rae Jepsen's dancelicious song of the summer, "Call Me Maybe," and my favorite Jane Austen novel, good old Pride & Prejudice (P&P).