In a previous post, I discussed some of the lyrics on R. Kelly’s new album, “Black Panties,” alongside the words of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in his essay “The Body’s Grace.” Looking at the lyrics to “Marry the Pussy” alongside similar lyrics in songs like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Miguel’s “How Many Drinks,” I noticed a similar ability to disguise male desire and male need in the trappings of celebrating women. Each of these three songs is about what a male agent wants, and each of these three songs denies or obscures the agency of the women they’re sung about or to. But in making women (or women’s body parts) the objects of desire, these songs lull critics into thinking they are pro women, so that Jezebel calls “Marry the Pussy” a “magnificent ode to pussy,” and another source I can’t find calls rapist R. Kelly’s album “sex-positive.”Continue reading
Beyonce’s inauguration performance, half-time show, and the recent release of her new single “Bow Down” have provided grist for the production of an enormous amount of writing.
Or, to use another metaphor:
Beyonce’s inauguration performance, half-time show, and the recent release of her new single “Bow Down” not only made waves, they have left a wake of scholarship and criticism behind them.
As the whole country, and certainly the popular media, have accepted Beyonce’s Napoleonic christening of herself as “Queen Bey,” these last three Beyonce experiences have spawned conversations about whether Bey is a feminist, post-feminist, capitalist feminist, black, black enough, the Queen of Pop, ratchet, anti-feminist, and so on. A few days ago she released “Bow Down,” which commands the listener, “Bow down bitches, bow down bitches.” You know. ‘Cause she’s the queen. And you ain’t.
If I have any argument to make in this post, it’s that Beyonce knows she can say whatever she wants and the whole country will flip their shit about it. Whatever her use of “bitch” signifies about feminism, post-feminism, or anti-feminism, the one certainty here is that Beyonce used it on purpose and knew it would problematize our picture of her as a Michelle-Obama-hugging-post-racial-feminist. Because Beyonce has her image on lock.
Mostly what I want to do here is simply marvel at the size and scope of the cultural conversations generated by this song, that halftime performance, that inauguration lipsync and non-apologetic press conference. As pop culture scholars, we should be thanking her for pushing the envelope, rocking our boats, giving us something to type about. And here I defer to my colleagues and offer a selection of rockin’ readings about Queen Bey, listed in order of how much they fascinate me, though all are fascinating. (I didn’t find boring links for y’all!)
Ok, here we go:
Maco L. Faniel contextualizes Beyonce’s “Bow Down” in southern rap history and aesthetics (Maco L. Faniel Blogs)
Mark Bittman eviscerates Beyonce for her PepsiCo endorsement deal (fascinating for Beyonce’s cultural saturation, even into the food column – The New York Times, “Why Do Stars Think It’s O.K. to Sell Soda?”) (I also wrote about that post before)
Rahiel Tesfamariam and Joan Morgan sound off on Twitter about “Bow Down’s” use of “bitch” (check out their whole feeds from 3/20 and 3/21)
RN Bradley considers “Bow Down” as a flirtation with the ratchet (Red Clay Scholar)
Avidly examines the masks of Beyonce’s face, at the Superbowl and in the more distant past (Avidly, “On Beyonce’s Face”)
Guthrie Ramsey argues that the scandal over Beyonce’s inauguration lipsync is part of a historical American obsession with authenticity (Dr. Guy’s Musiqology, “Beyond Beyonce Gate: Looking for the American Authentic”)
Anne Helen Petersen decodes Beyonce’s Tumblr and then argues for Bey’s ambivalent relationship to feminism (ok, these could be at the top of the list, but I link to Petersen all the time, so read those other great scholars first- Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style, “Decoding Beyonce’s Tumblr”)
GQ’s cover story on Beyonce has no philosophical problem sexifying and celebrating Bey simultaneously (interesting mainly for the sexy pics and the philosophical problems raised, but not acknowledged- GQ, “Miss Millenium”)
David J. Leonard thinks haters on the Halftime Show are enforcing a “politics of civility” (NewBlackMan, “Beyoncé, The Super Bowl and the Politics of “Civility””
In the wake of the Super Bowl, Gawker’s Rich Juzwiak christens Beyonce the King of Pop (Gawker, “Beyonce Knowles is the King of Pop”)
Ann Powers argues that Beyonce’s Super Bowl show is kind of the apex of black American female pop performances (NPR, “The Roots of Beyonce’s Super Bowl Spectacular”)
Sophie Wiener suggests that Beyonce is probably, but not neccessarily, a feminist (The Atlantic, “Is Beyonce a Feminist?”)
and, just for fun: