In response to some disparaging remarks that a person who, in real life, is legitimately named Becky made about the queen in my presence, I had to send off the following email….
When you came back over to talk about Lemonade, I was so excited to engage in an exchange of ideas with you, and when I said, “I understand your point of view,” I absolutely did; I was just hoping for a more balanced conversation where I could also share mine.
When I watched Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade, I not only liked the music, but I was awed by the range of genres; the songs include reggae, ballad, pop, country, rock, gospel and more, so I found it hard to understand why you said she turned you off with her “gangster rap” right from the beginning. Gangster rap is actually a specific type of hip hop music and there isn’t any of it on her album, but I could see how the term could get misunderstood and misused. Outside of the music itself, since music is always subjective and it makes total sense that two people would disagree on whether or not an album is “good,” the messages in Lemonade are so deep and far-reaching and universal that I hate to see it incorrectly reduced to “gangster rap” and then dismissed without being able to represent alternative views on it. For example:
NPR calls it a “a full-length visual album, following a sweeping narrative arc of rage to redemption.”
The Daily Beast calls it “an ode to strong women, black love, and everyday magic… This is Bey at her most subversive and powerful” in one article and epic, cathartic, powerful, feminist, unapologetically black, transfixing, gorgeous, assured, groundbreaking, refreshing, and jarring in another.
The Root says it’s “a stunning piece of art…a burning, soaring love letter to herself and black women.”
So when you say Beyoncé focuses on one small facet of life, that doesn’t match what I know of her as a musician and performer or what I’ve read about her in the think-pieces referenced above as well as the others I’ve collected on a Pinterest board I used to use to keep track of resources I wanted to share with my advisory, but again, that may be your interpretation of what you’ve seen of her work. To say though, as you did, that she “only uses her cunt” in her performances is straight up wrong. She uses her brains and her voice and her self-possessed star power and, yes, her body, but there is nothing implicitly wrong with a woman choosing to move or dance a certain way, in my opinion. You say you chose to remain asexual while being strong, politically vocal and business savvy, and that’s great. I wouldn’t begrudge you that choice, but I also wouldn’t encourage women to judge one another for making different choices than the ones they’ve made for themselves. Beyoncé does not only “fuck the floor,” as you characterized her dancing. She’s an accomplished singer and dancer and it confuses and saddens me to think that all you see when you view her is someone using her cunt to fuck the floor.
Another point of yours I listened to but disagreed with was that she and Jay-Z “use their blackness” to bolster themselves in events connected to President Obama, capitalizing on what you described as the likelihood that his young children like her music. As you said, I don’t know you very well, so I suppose it’s possible that you’ve also speculated that white musicians and performers have been “using their whiteness” to align themselves with every single president that came before Obama, but if not, I would question why you choose to view Beyoncé performing at the White House as an exploitation of a shared race. You asked me if I thought that was racist, and I said no, because, as Damon Young pointed out in this article, “something is racist if the act stems from either a belief of racial superiority or a position of constructed/structural racial superiority, or both,” but the term does not cover “all unfavorable acts which might be race-based.” There was no reason for me to assume that your position on Beyoncé and Jay-Z “using their blackness” stemmed from a belief of racial superiority, so I was trying to reply to your question by saying that no, I wasn’t assuming you are racist, but I did think your statement was wrong and wondered whether you’d applied the same logic to white presidents and the musicians they’d invited to perform.
I understand that you don’t like Beyoncé and I wouldn’t try to convince you to change your mind; I would just ask that you listen while I explain why I do, as I listened to you.