Monday, February 9, 2015

Queen Bey & the Commodity of Creativity

Beyonce. Queen Bey. The social media world prefers to consider her the leader of our nation over President Barack Obama. She’s kind of a big deal.

She has been a performer for most of her life, and first became famous as a member of the girl group Destiny’s Child. However, her solo career was unprecedented. She released several hit songs initially, but some time in the last few years, Beyonce became a queen. Was it because she married a king named Jay Z? Or was it because she has a kickass team working for her behind the scenes? Or did Beyonce really just wake up like that?

She has over 26 million followers on Instagram, making her the fourth-most highly followed Instagrammer (only behind Instagram itself, Justin Bieber, and Kim Kardashian). What is it about Beyonce that makes her get well over a million likes on multiple pictures from the Grammys in a matter of hours?

Beyonce knows what the people want. Yes, she (or whoever runs her account) posts glamorous pictures of her smiling and holding her awards. But you know what else is in those pictures? Stretch marks are visible on her breasts, even from a small, square-shaped photo that can’t be zoomed on a smartphone. There is also a picture of she and Jay Z snarling while showing off all of the awards they’re bringing home to Blue Ivy. Beyonce isn’t just another celebrity – she’s a real person.

“You have the same number of hours in your day as Beyonce.” This is a viral quote that can be found on motivational coffee mugs all over the Internet. Yes, Beyonce is queen, but she’s just like us, so we can be Beyonce too. Not our own version of our best selves, but BEYONCE.

She could have the best choreographers, trainers, stylists, managers, musicians, songwriters, etc., but Beyonce’s creativity is found in her brand. She has self-constructed a brand for herself that outshines any other celebrity in the world. Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian may surpass her in Instagram followers, but both are universally considered jokes. Beyonce, however, is the real deal.

In November, she released “7/11”, the newest song from the BEYONCE Platinum Edition. The music video for “7/11” is incomparable to anything she has ever done before. BEYONCE was principally a video album, with high-budget videography. Her surprise album took the world by storm, and “7/11” did the same, but in a different way.

You can watch the video here:

Its low-quality, unprofessional style again brings Beyonce back down to earth. She may run the world, but she can also dance around in her underwear and knee pads with her girls, even with a young daughter. She can be goofy. She can be real.

Okay, do we actually believe that Beyonce drinks out of red Solo cups? Probably not. She also gives monumental performances like at the Grammys this last weekend. Was her glowing, white figure at all realistic and relatable to the typical American woman? Not at all. Everything about Beyonce at the Grammys was on fleek. But who cares if it’s real or not? It’s Beyonce, and she’s making bank off of the fact that she knows what you want to see.

Beyonce has accomplished for decades now every solo performer’s goal: “how a single body can capture and hold the audience’s attention” (Hagendoorn). It wasn’t that anything Beyonce was doing in the “7/11” music video was particularly striking. To the sensitive eye, her dress might be revealing. Her twerking may be seen as difficult or inappropriate to others. But anyone, any child even, could spin in an office chair and clap their hands. So why do we want to watch her so badly?

“Minimal and conceptual dance can be boring at a perceptual level, but intellectually interesting . . . which explains why, over the course of a career, the work of many artists becomes more complex and subtle.” Yes, the choreography and videography is simple, but it also says a lot more than just a dance. It defines Beyonce and her brand.

Beyonce’s brand has been developed by contrast. This is why audiences can enjoy her feminist song “Flawless” featuring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie embracing equal rights while simultaneously enjoying “Partition” in which Beyonce is speaking to her husband “Take all of me, I just want to be the girl you like.” This is why she can dance in her bathroom while getting ready, but still rock the Grammys like an angel.

Beyonce may have began her career with natural talent and intrinsic motivation for creative, but she is currently a superstar because she knows how to please audiences worldwide. It’s difficult to put a dollar sign to creativity and artistry, but that’s exactly what Beyonce has done. And she isn't apologizing.

Hagendoorn: Hagendoorn, I. (2011 ). Dance, choreography and the brain. In F. Bacci and D. Melcher (Eds.) Art & The Senses. New York, NY: Oxford University Press

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