This post was guest written by John Foley ’15.
“If you want to hear God laugh, make plans.” The old saying has never proven more true than it did today. It almost seems as though it was created for December 13th, 2013: the day of pop reckoning. Somewhere Katy Perry is quietly sobbing as she holds her Grammy… oh wait, I forgot Katy Perry doesn’t have any Grammys. The most popular* hashtag on twitter last night was #prayforgaga as music critics tweeted gems like “I am serious that random fireworks just went off in my neighborhood and I genuinely believe it is Beyoncé related,” and “Beyoncé is the real ArtPop of the year.” Most crucially, and most fatefully, let us turn our thoughts and prayers to Kanye. It was only yesterday, YESTERDAY, that Yeezy said this in a radio interview: “I am going to make Kim Kardashian a bigger popstar than Beyoncé. We are going to be the new first couple of Hip-Hop.”
Oh muse! How cruel. That is just beyond tragic coincidence. That is fate.
And as though she had an entire revenge album prepared specially for a diss from Kanye, Beyoncé delivered her cosmic answer to his boast. She immediately released her “surprise” video album directly to iTunes. The self titled album includes 13 songs and 17 videos. The internet convulsed in tears of joy, terror and wonder. And it was good. According to Billboard, the album sold 80,000 copies in its first 3 hours, immediately jumping to number one on the Top 200. That’s the same as having a TV show about your beauty routine on E!, said the fateful Greek chorus that mocked Kanye and Kim’s terrible hubris. Beyoncé, too dignified to even acknowledge those mortals, simply shifted her eyes and made the slightest, most subtle smile.
Here in Gambier, reaction to the news of the coming was mixed. To the surprise of her most ardent fans, no classes were cancelled or stores shuttered in Beyonce’s honor. According to witnesses at the library, while there was “mild euphoria” in some corners, no windows exploded and no hair caught on fire. While these rumors cannot be confirmed, it is said that in the hours immediately following the album’s release, the water of the Kokosing turned to wine. Partially frozen wine, but still: wine.
While the universe is still reeling from the galactic tremors of this surprise,** many corners of the internet have begun to examine Beyoncé in more detail. While as a work of art the album is no doubt extraordinarily impressive, legitimate critiques are already emerging about Beyoncé’s use of feminism (in ***Flawless and Yonce), body dysmorphia (in Pretty Hurts) and potential cultural appropriation in Blue, a melodic ode her daughter, who needs no introduction. It would be tempting to let this article become a meditation on what kind of feminist Beyoncé is, and to that extent, what kind of obligation her art owes to feminist causes. While I think that is a totally valid discussion, and I personally have many conflicted feelings about it, let’s save that more intense talk for another time. In brief: I don’t know. It’s complicated.
I’ll leave you with these last takeaways from the album:
- Beyonce loves gold: she brings her gold on roller coasters, on yachts, into haunted houses and on her finger nails. Coincidentally, when Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland appear next to Bey in a cameo role in Superpower, they get no gold. Some things never change.
- Beyonce loves Jay-Z: this one should be obvious already, but boy does she make it clear. Drunk in Love tells us all we need to know about the state of her marriage. All that staring on the beach. All that ear whispering.
- Beyonce knows who Monica Lewinsky is: and finds a very clever way to incorporate her into song. Thanks for the memories, Bill.
*by popular, I mean used at least once the last time I checked twitter.
**purposeful pre-emptive strike against Kimye.