Thursday, 11 April 2013

My Beef With "Big Country"

Hi there, Gentle Reader(s). I was inspired by reading an editorial on titled "I'm Sick of Pretending: I Don't "Get" Beyoncé", linked on Facebook by the amazing sociopolitical commentator, Son of Baldwin. I have some longstanding thoughts on Beyoncé, or "Big Country", as I affectionately call her (because she's big and country, a term historically used by African Americans to describe those perceived as unsophisticated and intellectually simple). And though you guys have probably heard it all before, I'm going to give it to you nonetheless.

I am not a fan of Beyoncé and one reason is because I don't tend to listen to her genre of music very much (I like very little contemporary Pop R & B). But then add to that the fact that I don't particularly like her vocal quality (i.e, the style of her voice), and what's more, I intensely dislike most of what I deem to be her sort of weird 'desperation' dance moves, circa Crazy In Love, where she's scrambling and wiping herself all over some loading dock floor like a human mop. That terrible dancing irks me. Conversely, I did like the Run the World (Girls) video - but then again, I'm a big Mad Max trilogy fan, adore most post-apocalyptic imaginings (and efforts towards the genre), and I also like the Tofo Tofo inspired dance moves featured in the music video. So overall, not a big Beyoncé fan musically, but you know, I can get over all that; I'm flexible. I'm not going to tread into the realm of discourse over her blond weaves. The broaching of that discourse would merit a separate, longer, far more extensive blog entry covering mainstream beauty standards, patriarchy, self-hatred, and whitewashing (no pun intended).

More than any of that, I cringe when I hear Beyoncé speak because she really doesn't seem very bright at all, and as the author of the article mentions, it's pretty awkward. With all the pomp and circumstance and sort of power role play in her performances, I know the truth, but amazingly and stupidly keep expecting over and over that she'll speak and suddenly speak like Tina Turner, Janet Jackson, or hell, even Mariah... or any one of the many relatively intelligent musical 'Divas' of the 20th and 21st centuries. Beyoncé's just not very engaging as a person, her verbal skills seem rudimentary, her elocution fairly poor (still), and I can't figure out how someone who appears to be essentially tabula rasa, could command so much respect and give these so-called powerhouse performances (well, I can figure it out, but my mental answer to the rhetorical question disturbs me).

I find myself expecting 'power' there; the maturity and intellect of a seasoned and well traveled performer. But no matter how many times I hear Beyoncé speak, I don't get anything but a shell with nothing to back up the amaze-balls image. I realize that my standards for entertainers of color are high, and I suppose it's because, as a product of the post-Jim Crow, post-Civil Rights generation, I still fall prey to that collective consciousness representation paradigm where I want to see them do well and do everyone proud. But also, on an even more subjective level, I like musical artists who are thinkers. It's not enough to be extra pretty, dance, sing, and deliver lyrics about empowerment (all be it, light lyrics about empowerment). I always inherently feel that something is missing from the message of a performer's music if that performer is revealed to be more of the puppet than the puppeteer of their image. All that girl power business lacks authenticity when its messenger is about as bright as a bag of wet hammers, speaking as if she was coached, but dropped out of elocution lessons after the second week.

I wish Beyoncé would go back to school - and I'm not suggesting this sarcastically; I honestly wish that she'd take the opportunity to enhance her intellect and verbal communication skills. It would be amazing if she did. Imagine all that elaborate costuming, performace power, hair whipping, hip shaking, empowering messages with a finely tuned intellect to back all it up. But she probably won't further her education. She has enough unconditional support from her fans, and has done enough speaking engagements just as she is for me to assume that she doesn't see any reason to enhance her cognitive and verbal skills. The irony of Run the World (Girls) and its homage to Mad Max, specifically Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome starring Tina Turner, is that for all her long legs, strong thighs and blond tresses, Beyoncé will never be Tina Turner. She hasn't the intellect.