My love of Beyoncé has been well documented on this blog before, so I won't get into it again here. However, I do want to talk about Bey's new video for "The Best Thing I Never Had," or rather, talk about the way other people are talking about it. First, the video, which is mostly just Beyoncé dancing around and looking really pretty in a wedding dress:
OK, first things first: I am a Beyoncé fan. However, fandom aside (well, sort of, because you can't ever really throw fandom aside) I must say that I'm surprised by all of the negative pushback Bey's latest video, "Run the World (Girls)," is getting. Not because it's a perfect video with a flawless, amazing message (it isn't), but because so many people are fired up about it. On the one hand, this pushback is terrific, because it means lots of people are talking about race and feminism and doing a close read of a music video, which doesn't happen all that often. On the other hand, this pushback is a bit harsh and asks more of a pop song and pop singer (whose heart I believe to be in the right place—more on that in a minute) than is perhaps fair.
I hate to overload you with Beyoncé news, but just after I critiqued the Daily Mail op-ed accusing her of looking too white, news broke that Beyoncé donned blackface and pseudo African garb for French glossy L’Officiel. Why did Bey make this enormous misstep? According to reports, she participated in the African-themed photo shoot to pay tribute to Nigerian musician Fela Kuti.
Is Beyoncé Knowles’ bleached blonde hair and light skin reason enough to accuse the singer of racial treason? Yes, says Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who just penned a piece in the Daily Mail about how Beyoncé is betraying black and Asian (meaning South Asian) women with her exterior.
Because I'm not a musician, I'm a writer, I tend to like and analyze and pick at the lyrics of songs. But at the same time, to be any sort of a pop music critic I have to look at the whole package, not just the lyrics. Each part of a pop song is a deliberate choice, and sometimes those choices deliberately contradict one another, undercut one meaning and substitute another, add layer upon layer and give you things to think about with each listen.