A new Beyonce song has leaked! She’s singing to her husband Jay Z for their seventh anniversary! And he filmed the video! Stop what you’re doing—we all have to listen. Cut to your coworker with the loudest speakers ripping out her headphones as everyone crowds in her cubicle to declare, in unison, that it’s the icon’s greatest track yet.
It’s not. “Die With You,” released exclusively on Mr. Z’s streaming service Tidal, isn’t even a good song--it’s hard to tell what grates more, the clunky piano or the clichéd lyrics--let alone Beyonce’s best. But at this point, everyone long ago boarded the barreling Beyonce bandwagon and is powerless to stop its momentum. Has any other artist inspired such all-consuming adoration? It’s not just that people love her; it’s that they’re required to love Queen Bey. Should anyone refuse to worship, it’s off with their heads.
I don’t like Beyonce. There, I said it. It’s not really fair to her, since I don’t think I would have given her a second thought if she were any other artist. “She’s fine,” I would say. Or better yet: “Meh.” But Mrs. Carter has transcended the usual conversation about musicians—you aren’t allowed to be ambivalent about her. She is allegedly fierce, flawless, queen, perfection and a number of other hyperbolic terms that suggest if you are not obsessed with her, there is something fundamentally wrong with you.
To be clear, I’m not arguing that no one should like Beyonce. I’m just saying that there is nothing about her that demands blind idolization, and I remain in search of what it is exactly that cultivated the BeyHive.
Former child of destiny Beyonce exploded to a new galaxy as a solo artist in 2008 with the release of her third album “I Am… Sasha Fierce,” otherwise known as the era of “Single Ladies.” So many unitards and so many parodies. The song won three Grammys and the heart of America because … Beyonce gave women the courage to badger men for an engagement ring?
This is the problem with a lot of Beyonce’s music. It masquerades as an anthem of empowerment but at best reinforces gender stereotypes (women are nags obsessed with marriage) and at worst encourages damaging ideas (men can claim women as their property).
Die With You” is more of the same. “I don’t need air in my lungs if I can’t sing your song,” she croons. A woman’s voice is worthless if she doesn’t have a man to sing about.
And if you really want to get into it, her voice just isn’t all that. There are plenty of amazing voices to rally an international cult around, but Beyonce’s doesn’t inspire awe like Adele’s. Did Beyonce earn an Oscar for owning “Dreamgirls?” No, she did not.
People have referred to Beyonce and Jay Z as the “real first family.” Even Kim and Kanye want to be the Carters, who have matching tattoos and a cute baby (or #relationshipgoals, as the kids say). On their own, each is arguably the most respected artist of their genre. Together, they are an unstoppable power that rules the music industry without question.
But aside from the fascination, Beyonce’s marriage represents the idea that women can indeed “have it all.” She’s the top female artist, but she’s also a wife and a mother. She has a husband who’s wildly successful in his own right but also encourages her magnificent star power.
Look, marriages aren’t meant for pedestals. Beyonce’s marriage, like any relationship, has shown signs of strain over the years, from lyrics suggesting infidelity to the bizarre elevator incident of last summer. (Perhaps these indicators of being real, flawed people only endear them to fans more?) It’s nice that Beyonce found a man to put a ring on it and everything, but I’m not going to worship an artist simply because she makes music with her husband and has an adorable daughter.
A big Beyonce selling point is how perfect she is. She produced and directed a documentary on herself entitled, “Life Is But a Dream,” and that title says it all. Promoted as an inside look at the superstar, the film was nothing more than an airbrushed presentation of how Beyonce wants us to see Beyonce. (If her self-titled 2013 album did have a darker and more personal tone, it was hard to hear over the sound of the record’s surprise drop. Even when she’s revealing herself, Beyonce makes everything a performance, diminishing vulnerability with control.)
Her body type supposedly makes Beyonce a symbol for women larger than size 2, but she’s been caught photoshopping her Instagram photos too many times to make that statement anymore. She refused to be labeled a feminist until enough other women had done so that it no longer posed a risk to her image. Her fashion choices are basic. You heard me. Tight dresses do not a fashion icon make.
Beyonce is flawless, and that’s my biggest problem with her: She’s so obsessed with being perfect that she’s mind-numbingly boring. Rihanna—once accused of being an off-brand Beyonce—owns her tumultuous relationships, sings about her darker impulses and wears seriously bizarre clothing. But at least her identity is defined beyond her brand and how much her fans love her.
It’s impossible to create truly great art without allowing for things to get ugly, and Beyonce doesn’t have the courage to muck up her pretty. You can only marvel at something’s shiny exterior for so long before wondering what—if anything—is underneath.
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By Lauren Chval