One may act like she doesn't exist, but she is inescapable. The force known as Beyonce Giselle Knowles has been in our lives for over 15 years. For better or worse, her impact in pop culture is undeniable. Her music has topped charts all across the world and her music videos have created viral sensations. The world tours are epic and her attention to detail impeccable. The story of the young girl from Houston, Texas who stayed persistent in her dreams and personal values to eventually become a global superstar inspired millions.
But today, it is fair to say that Beyonce is no longer that role model and neither should we try to act as if she is.
Why Beyonce, you ask? Unlike many artists in our present memory, the 17-time Grammy winner publicly made herself a standard that modeled class, elegance and grace. While we could expect artists such as Rihanna to be rebellious and partake in careless behavior, we know it would never be "Bey." Her upbringing ensured us that Beyonce was of a different breed of celebrity. She was an artist that never relied on the cheap thrills of publicity stunts, but more on the power of raw talent. And for the first 10 years of her career, Beyonce stayed focus on being that figure. We focused on her music and her talent and rarely cared much about her personal life. It can be argued that perhaps her best work came from us not diving in too deep in matters that didn't involve us whereas others relied too heavily on it.
But as this pedestal began to mount very heavily through the years, wrinkles and contradiction soon followed. A woman who strongly advocated for individual beauty and grace for women of color and beyond now faced allegations that she might have been lightening her skin in ads and material. A woman who once advocated for a healthy sustainable living was now taking an unnecessary $50 million endorsement from Pepsi. And more recently, a leading superstar advocating for women empowerment, now wants to remind those very women to "bow down, b*tches."
And let's not act as if Beyonce hasn't taken a ping-pong imbalance to her public image. In magazines, one moment she is gracefully modest in Vogue, but then you can find her half-naked and provocative on the cover of GQ. This would not be much of a shock factor had it not been that she was also the same woman who graced us with her lip-syncing vocals at the Presidential Inauguration and later became self-produced and managed her own documentary about how much she is different in values about empowering women, being a mother, and her life journey.
Is this an identity crisis? I doubt it. What we are witnessing is the competitive attempt to stay relevant in a culture that has gravitated more to outlandish and unnecessary buzz than the craft that is music. When Beyonce released "Bow Down," it was very obvious she wanted attention. There is no way that she could have envisioned the song to have any real substance or value at all. What happened to "Diva" or "Halo"? Not all of her songs have to be as bold as "Crazy in Love" or as dramatic as "Resentment," but reminding people that "this is [your] sh*t" is not much of a come-up.
If this image switch was done for Nicki Minaj, Ciara, or for worse, Keisha Cole, I don't think many would hardly notice because the world does not expect the same caliber, unfortunately. However, when you performed in the United Nations General Assembly and even had your music video filmed in front of world leaders... you can't be compared.
What is even worse is that at a time when the 31-year old artist is landing one of her biggest roles -- being a mother -- her image declines. And even though Mrs. Carter argues that she doesn't tweet, she has time to Instagram racy photos of herself just for the sake of it. And what used to be reserved for House of Dereon, is now ads for low-priced couture for H&M.
Let's call it what it is: Beyonce is in an arms race to stay relevant and come back on top. However, this time she will return back with a little less dignity and respect than before. We can no longer call her class because she has shredded more clothes in her ads and front covers than before, and we can't consider her the squeaky clean artist for women empowerment now that just like many others she had to resort to defaming the very women she once inspired.
And yet, despite all of the visible qualms, I have no doubt that Beyonce's album will sell high and her tour will be a blow out. If anyone had as much self-pushing press that went from the White House to the Superbowl, what should you expect? However, we can never consider her another Aretha Franklin or Tina Turner or Patti LaBelle. The beacons of musical soul and grace and class never fell for the petty desires of unrequited attention. Here were women that lives shined through their music and empowered us all. It was about the craft and that embodied the image. Beyonce had that once, and now it is slowly fading away.
I know her "BeyHive" will buzz and sting when they read this, but I encourage them to think for themselves for a change and not falter into the defense. Beyonce Knowles will be that big mega superstar she is trying to be, if not already. However, while Bey is telling "b*tches" to "bow down," there is a 24-year old artist named Adele who have matched Mrs. Carter's Grammy record and now has a Golden Globe, Oscar, and over 25 million albums sold for her last record alone.
If anything needs to "bow down" right now, it's King Bey's ego.