Beyonce: A Soundtrack for this Generation’s Grown, Sexy and Free!

15 Jan

beyonce album

*This is not a review of the full body of work, only thoughts on its controversial content regarding sexuality.

I’m going to be very honest. When I first heard the snippets of Beyoncé’s latest self-titled album on iTunes, I was disappointed. I made up then in my mind that based on those 30second or so teasers that it was too racy. As a collector of every Beyoncé album prior to, I held The Queen in such high regard. I appreciated the fact that unlike her industry peers, she was the only one who didn’t have to sell out on sex because she actually had raw talent. She brought balance to mainstream music in every way: her image, her content, even the way she carried herself off stage. So, you can only imagine how shocked I was when I heard the always graceful Bey singing, “Now my mascara runnin, red lipstick smudged/Oh he so horny, yea he want to f*ck/He popped all my buttons and he ripped my blouse/He Monica Lewinsky’d all on my gown.” I wasn’t even interested in hearing the whole song, much less listening to the full album. I decided then that this album would just have to be the one missing from my collection… and then I came to my senses.

About three days later I was restless in the wee hours of the morning. After scrolling down Instagram for about the fifth time, I decided out of sheer boredom to listen to the full album. I wasn’t expecting to like it and a part of me didn’t even want to because I prided myself on being able to separate my admiration of the artist and the actual art. Just because I loved Beyoncé didn’t mean that I had to love or agree with her every project. But as I listened to each track in full, my feelings start churning a different direction. When I first heard the snippet of “Pretty Hurts,” I appreciated the aim of the song but wasn’t really impressed. It came across to me as a cliché approach to the whole beauty standard issue. What I wasn’t able to hear until I listened to the entire 4 minutes and 17 seconds, however, was her conviction and personal testimony. At one point, Beyoncé declares, “Plastic smiles and denial can only take you so far/And you break when the vapor signs leave you in the dark/You’re left with shattered mirrors and the shards of a beautiful girl.” Bey continues to belt out how “Pretty Hurts” all the way to the end where she asks, “When you’re alone all by yourself/and you’re lying in your bed/ reflection stares right into you/are you happy with yourself?/ You strip away the masquerade/the illusion has been shed/Are you happy with yourself?/Are you happy with yourself?” I find it no coincidence that right after “Are you happy with yourself?” her final note and run of the song sounds like a relieved and airy “yes.” After that song, which is also track one of the album, a little more of it clicked to me. I wasn’t sure what all was to come, but I got a hint of the concept and direction. This album was an intentional and forceful escape out of the perfect little box we held her in. The same boring cardboard box we hold all “respectable” women in–especially wives and mothers. She wasn’t a picture perfect doll or lost pageant girl, as the “Pretty Hurts” video illustrated. She was no longer the same teen girl or even early 20s girl in need of her dad’s guidance and steady hand. She was a wife, mom, and above all else, a woman.

screenshot of "Pretty Hurts" video

screenshot of “Pretty Hurts” video

With such a solid foundation anchored by “Pretty Hurts,” Beyoncé goes on to sing other tunes like “Drunk in Love” and “Blow” with lots of sexual innuendos. In the “Drunk in Love” video, she sings of filling the tub half way, riding it with her surfboard and “grainin’ on that wood, grainin, grainin’ on that wood” while carelessly smiling and playing on the beach with her song’s muse and husband, Jay-Z. Later on, she sings the most risqué of them all on track 6, “Partition.” In addition to the aforementioned lyrics (in intro), the explicit video features a very sexy Beyoncé showing off her post-baby body in glitzed out bras and flashes of bare derrière. She winds and grinds on top of a piano, over a chair, and even swings down the pole for Jay-Z as he puffs his cigar and enjoys the show. It wasn’t at all too lustful; it was perfect and in a sense very responsible.

Up until now, Beyoncé had barely scratched the surface of her sexuality. She’s kept in mind that while she was all grown up, some of her fans were not. Other than a little poppin’ and droppin’ in bedazzled onesies, she’s kept everything really clean and G-rated, especially when you compare her work to that of her peers. For the first time, on this album, she makes no apology for being a woman who’s not only drunk in love, but drunk in love as a grown woman with her grown husband.

screenshot of "Partition" video

screenshot of “Partition” video

While I do believe that we as women reserve the right to express our sexuality how we see fit, we’re living in a day where that expression within the realms of pop culture seems predictable and very surface: a young starlet, with an even younger audience, twerking and showing lots of skin all in the name of “doing me” or “not caring what people think.” [insert my yawn here please] Then they illustrate via Instagram pics of blunt puffing and nude selfies with captions that usually go something like this: #f**ckyofave, #myb**chbadderthanyours, etc. Meanwhile, their high school fanbase who’s still trying to figure out their own identities and have no clue that sexuality is deeper than screwing and mini dresses have front row seats to it all. Beyoncé, however, is 32 now and her audience has evolved a little more. Yes, there are still plenty of toddlers who can recite “Drunk in Love” from the carseat as their moms play it full blast, but her overall image screams “GROWN WOMAN!” and she’s not marketing to those who don’t fall into that category. Even on the song “Blow,” Knowles-Carter drops somewhat of a disclaimer and says, “I’m about to get into this, girls. This for all my grown woman out there.”

She certainly didn’t have to wait this long to get her grown woman on, but it’s refreshing that she did. She’s in a healthy, committed relationship, something so many of her fellow grown woman fans can relate to; whether we’re in one too or hoping to some day be. Unlike her iconic peers, she’s beyond that phase of relationships built on comfortability or lust, going back and forth with the same triflin’ busta, and just sexing whoever because “I’m single, free and responsible.” (Not that she ever did any of those things [highly doubted], but if she did, she’s matured beyond that.) She’s a woman–a full grown woman–who realizes the value of not just her body, but everything she brings to the table. She realizes it so much that if she was “on her knees” or winding down poles for any other man before, she certainly didn’t find them worthy enough to sing about. She waited until she met her equivalent, as she sings in “Rocket,” before celebrating him in such a public way. There’s so much beauty and power in this album for that reason alone.

Now this is in no way suggesting that you have to be married like Beyoncé before you proudly disclose all the ways you like to please and be pleased, but being in a healthy relationship where your partner respects you and all of your offerings and is secure enough to celebrate you should be part of the requirement. Additionally, Beyoncé is now a wife and mother in her 30s. When you’re 20-something, single and without child, that’s when society finds you most sexy and valuable. Because that’s the time the world encourages you to be sexual, that population already has a voice. But who’s speaking, or singing, on behalf of the moms, the wives and the women 30 and up? Who’s letting them know that you don’t lose your sexy as you age, commit your life to your partner or make babies? Up until now, there was no voice for those women of this generation. Beyoncé’s Beyoncé is the much needed filling to a painful void. Those women who’ve been told for so long, “You’re too old for that” or “That’s inappropriate for a mother” no longer have to feel shackled. They can say “I’m a growwwn woman. I can do whatever I want!” and really own it!

With regard to my initial concern, this album is no way her “selling out” or blending with her peers. If anything, it elevates her even higher and sets her further apart. Her raciest songs are simply extended expressions of deeper meaning, like the beautiful and intimate “Rocket” where it’s clear she’s first in love with self and then her man. She’s no longer responsible for that younger Destiny’s Child audience. She has a new calling to a new audience: the grown, sexy and free!

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One Response to “Beyonce: A Soundtrack for this Generation’s Grown, Sexy and Free!”

  1. sudom121 January 15, 2014 at 8:53 am #

    HAHA i dont believe that you even thought you would be able to resist lol

    Like

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