The phrase “controversial Beyonce song” shouldn’t exist.
For the first 14 years of her career, Beyonce has been the perfect everything. She’s never quietly farted in an elevator, let alone has she ever made an impolite comment, took a divisive political stand or sang a controversial song.
“Controversial Beyonce song” actually became a thing last Saturday when Queen Bey released “Bow Down,” the first track, we assume, off her upcoming fifth studio album.
Like most Beyonce songs, the response was strong, however, consensus of the quality and the message was split. Here’s a taste of some of the song’s lyrics:
- “I know when you were little girls, you dreamt of being in my world.
- Don’t forget it, don’t forget it, respect that, bow down b*tches.
- I took some time to live my life, but don’t think I’m just his little wife
- Don’t get it twisted, get it twisted, this my shit, bow down bitches”
Beyonce’s gone ratchet, folks, and not everyone is happy.
The first piece of criticism came from Rahiel Tesfamariam, who, for the Washington Post, wrote that the song was a disappointment because it goes against the female empowerment message Bey has been spreading (post that whole Destiny’s Child “Bills, Bills, Bllls” era, of course.)
“The self-glorifying anthem cannot go without criticism amidst Women’s History Month as it sabotages many of Beyonce’s past female empowerment efforts. The release of “Bow Down” suggests that the pop icon only adorns the feminist label when it suits her – dangerously straddling the line between female empowerment and subjugation.”
(More widespread criticism came from a certain conservative mouthpiece – ahem, Rush Limbaugh – who went on a weird rant about Beyonce, misconstruing the message of the song. Son is a troll and should be treated as one.)
Words like the ones Rahiel wrote carry weight because Beyonce, who has identified herself as a feminist in the past, was questioned about her feminism earlier in the year. Feminist critics took Bey to task for appearing on the February cover of GQ magazine wearing panties.
In the rag’s interview, Beyonce said:
“Equality is a myth, and for some reason everyone accepts that women don’t make as much money as men do,” she rails. “I truly believe that women should be financially independent from their men. And let’s face it, money gives men the power to run the show. It gives men the power to define value. They define what’s sexy. And men define what’s feminine. It’s ridiculous.”
Writing for The Guardian, columnist Hadley Freeman lit up Bey about the racy cover.
So is the criticism of “Bow Down” warranted? I’ll admit when I heard the song, which I like a lot, the song’s contradictory theme stuck out to me. However, I quickly ignored that feeling and just enjoyed how badass Beyonce sounded.
I think we need to realize what Bey’s doing here: It’s called Beyonce business. She’s a pop artist, who is in tune to what popular music of the day should sound like. From “Diva” to “Run the World,” Bey has an immaculate record of capturing the popular sound of the day and enhancing it, mostly using her high skill level.
In 2013, rap music is the backbone of most popular pop songs of the day – which would explain “Bow Down.” The song has been described as her paying homage to her Houston roots. But really, “Bow Down” is Bey doing a 2013 rap song, using elements (the chopped and screwed effect) that popular music acts like A$AP Rocky and Kanye West resurrected.
And speaking of hip-hop music: one of my biggest pet peeves with fans and mainstream media outlets is how literal they take the art form. I believe 50 Cent is going to shoot someone in 2013 as much as I believe Beyonce will smack a trick. As an artist, Bey has the right to make any kind of song she wants, even if it clashes with some of her themes of the past. There’s nothing wrong with Bey being a feminist in real life, while throwing some shade using her musical persona.
The song might be a distraction from her women empowerment songs, but go listen to “Single Ladies” again if you want to hear more of that sh*t.
I ragged on Beyonce in the past because of what I mentioned before: she’s too perfect. So she’s boring. I love “Bow Down” because the track added some much needed grit to her persona.
Now the question remains is what will she do with the record: will she keep it on the album, despite all the criticism, or will she discard it like the public does a new Keri Hilson single?
I don’t know. Let’s hope she does the right thing, though.
All the single ladies, let’s Twitter @Milkman__Dead