Saturday, 27 November 2010
Learning to love Ms Knowles
A few months ago I started wondering if it was me. I mean if the world loves her, surely millions of people can't be wrong. Why is it so hard for me embrace her beauty and talent? Could I possibly be consumed by the 'green-eyed monster'?
My husband and probably every man I've ever dated thinks of Beyonce Knowles as their ultimate fantasy so this could have something to do with it albeit on a subconscious level. I say subconscious because I'm quite comfortable in the knowledge that he will never have the opportunity to declare his undying love for her so what's there to worry about? Nonetheless whenever I've expressed my lack of enthusiasm for her and her music, I've been met with accusations of jealousy, especially by men. I've decided to put that down to the fact that a lot of men like to imagine that women are always jealous of each other and constantly feel threatened by other pretty women. Although female rivalry exists I will readily admit, it's not nearly as widespread as the over-active imaginations of the male species would suggest. Speaking for myself, I have always been surrounded by beautiful and talented women. I love the fact that my friends are just as or even more talented and/or beautiful than me, infact call me vain but I think good looking friends compliment me. Besides I'm mature enough to know that a fabulous personality trumps good looks any day.
So after one too many accusations of being jealous of the gorgeous Ms Knowles, I decided to do some research. I started by thinking of other female stars that I adore and whose talents and beauty I would happily praise any day. I came up with Alicia Keys, Gabrielle Union, India Arie, Jill Scott, Chrisette Michelle, Kelly Rowland, Jennifer Hudson, Traci Ellis-Ross, Angie Stone...and so the list went on and on and on. All of these women I would consider as extremely brilliant at what they do, beautiful and sexy to boot.
Determined to get to the root of the problem, I started listening to her music. I found myself arguing about the strength of her voice with a friend of mine, I had never thought of her as having a big strong voice, one that is more powerful than Alicia Keys, yet when my friend argued convincingly I decided to pay closer attention to tracks like 'Listen' from the Dreamgirls soundtrack and Dangerously in Love. I had to concede that she did have a big voice but why hadn't I noticed before? Clearly something must have clouded my judgement.
As I listened to her songs which span a solo career of seven years, it began to make sense. I could barely pick out a handful that spoke to me. I either found them too frivolous a la 'Baby Boy' , 'Green light', 'Naughty Girl' or the abysmal 'Check on it' or I just didn't think they hit the nail like 'If I were a boy' which doesn't deliver the message of a male-dominated world half as effectively as Ciara's 'Like a boy'. When I watched her videos, I saw a whole lot of gyrating and very little dancing; I remember loving Janet Jackson's choreography and being wowed by Aaliyah on videos like 'Rock the boat' and then marvelling at Ciara's incredible flexibility in the video for 'My Goodies'. Beyonce's dancing doesn't come close to any of those artists in my opinion.
Next, I thought about her sense of style which I'll admit does not reflect who I am today. Perhaps it's simply an age thing and were I in my 20s, I may want to rush out and get my hands on some 'House of Dereon' hotpants. As a women in her 30s, I am inspired by the style of the likes of India Arie, Angela Bassett and Traci Ellis Ross. I often find Beyonce 'over done', whether it's the hair or the make up or the flesh exposed. Like I said, it may simply be an age thing.
By breaking down Beyonce's music and style, I realised that the dislike or let's call it indifference came from the fact that she did not reflect my personality. Although I'm happy to dance to meaningless music, I wouldn't buy a song that didn't speak to me. I also find it hard to reconcile the smart woman in me with women who are constantly 'selling sex' by bearing flesh and playing up their female 'assets'. Mariah Carey is an example of someone who, for all her vocal range, I have zero respect for. I believe women should be empowered enough to dress however they please but I also think it's important to strike a balance. If I enter a boardroom and want a group of male colleagues to pay attention to my ideas, I will not wear a low cut top and a tight mini skirt. If female artists constantly perform in skimpy clothes and spend time either showing their cleavage or their booty then clearly they are asking their audience to focus on those 'assets' primarily and exclusively in cases where their talent is not so obvious.
That being said, I still think it's important for me to like Beyonce because for all her 'ass shaking', scandalously skimpy clothes-wearing, she is an artist of incredible talents and humility. She is constantly thankful for the opportunities that she has been given in life. She is one of the most generous artists when it comes to giving to charity, helping women, children and vulnerable members of society. She is incredibly private and does not pander to the media like so many of her peers. She takes her art very seriously and gives a 100% one hundred percent of the time. She is a performer of equal calibre to Michael Jackson; always striving to wow their fans. No amount of falling on stage or broken shoe heels will stop this woman from giving a fun-filled energetic performance. For those reasons I think she is special and deserves my admiration. I can't say I will buy her albums, or let my daughter watch her videos but she does have my respect, from one resilient, doggedly determined black woman to another.