Sunday, November 23, 2008

More Beyoncé Angst

Emily Gould does a really good job describing "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" in her post on marriage:

Since she’s a married lady — married to Jay-Z, duh! — Beyoncé can’t very well sing lyrics like “man on my hips/got me tighter than my Dereon jeans,” anymore, so she has had to create an alternate persona named Sasha Fierce. Sasha performs the half of B’s new double album that’s not treacly, wife-appropriate ballads, and the best of the resulting tracks, ‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)’ is not going to start getting played by wedding DJs anytime soon. It’s a feminist anthem! Well, sort of. If you want it to be. It’s a classic post-breakup eff you about being “up in the club” and dancing with another guy to make your ex jealous — “I could care less what you think,” ‘Sasha’ sings, which is always a funny kind of line because, hello, you are making it clear that you’re just acting this way for the dude’s benefit. (cf: “You probably think this song is about you” [MediaMaven note: Carly Simon's "You're So Vain"] or “Thanks to you, now I get what I want.” [Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone"]). And then the chorus: an amazing, jumpropey chant of “If you like it then you should have put a ring on it.” In the video the chorus is accompanied by an amazing hip-twitching dance that’s capped by this move where Beyoncé and her backup dancers raise and revolve their left hands, flashing what ought to be conspicuously ringless fingers — “All the single ladies, put your hands up!” But Beyoncé doesn’t just have her famous 5 million dollar diamond — hey, what happened to ‘Sasha?’ — on hers, she’s also got on a whole metal-plated robot glove that makes ominous and addictive and comic-bookish kriiiing sounds when she twists her wrist.

‘Sasha’ wants to be up in the club, acting up, drink in her cup — but she also, badly, wants someone to put a ring on it, or at least she wants someone to want to.
Emily's onto something. She ends her post in a very Housian way, with "we're all going to die alone anyway"--very cynical and reductive. But I understand her ambivalence, and the onslaught of the current culture, especially if you're single and a woman, is just so damn hard to fight sometimes. I listened to a lot of "Single Ladies" last week (as well as I am Sasha Fierce, since it's available free on MySpace), and while the album was better than I expected, it was still the usual Beyoncé fare. And I felt incredibly guilty and conflicted listening to it. Why? I liked the music, and I actually thought it was good, but it was just that the messages offended me. Do people feel this way when they listen to Eminem or hardcore racist mysogynistic rap? Beyoncé's songs (like so many other pop songs) are reductive. There's nothing wrong with that--music doesn't have to be deep, and I love plenty of music and musicians that aren't. But I just can't figure out why her music bothers me so. One of the reasons I've always loved Beyoncé is because she's a consummate professional--she's just so confident and cool and just so good at what she does. I've never seen her perform, but my brother told me she's one hell of a performer, and her performance with Tina Turner at the Grammys was fantastic, to say the least. I'm tired of her songs being the same two notes--I-love-my-man-so-much-I'll-do-anything-for-him, and My-man-screwed-me-over-I-don't-need-him-anymore. It doesn't fit her life, and if she wants to show audiences a more personal side of her, she's failing (I am Sasha Fierce is not bold and honest). She needs to grow up, look past the simplistic polars of relationships, and stop infusing an entire generation of women with retarded notions of love.

But boy, do I ever wish I could dance like Beyoncé in that video. Hot damn.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


TRL is ending.

Too much JT, too much new stuff. Stick with the nostalgia.

OF COURSE they go over. If I remember correctly, if they went over with the actual show it'd just be cut off and we'd hear Carson shoving the last words out before the camera cut.

And in true TRL style, the top ten videos played are on for less than a minute. Nice.

I was hoping they'd do a lightening-fast montage of every video played, every artist on the show...those things are fun.

Britney Spears, "...Baby One More Time" is the #1 most influential video under the TRL years. And yep, I totally guessed it.

So yeah, pointless post. Time to truly say goodbye to my teenage years.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

And Another Thing, Beyoncé...

As if women don't have enough problems, we should expect a man who will do all these things:
[...] what I deserve
Is a man that makes me then takes me
And delivers me to a destiny, to infinity and beyond

Dear Lord, Beyoncé, a man is going to exalt me to such new heights that I'll go beyond infinity? That orgasm sure must be powerful.

I deserve a man who's going to take me to my destiny. Which means that my destiny can only be achieved by such a great man. So then that great man must arrive, right? The logic of this gives me a headache.

So does this mean that if this unbelievable man with unbelievable charms doesn't fit into this unbelievable package, then "like a ghost, I'll be gone"? I shouldn't accept anything less than infinite magic?

What Beyoncé Should Sing...

...Is "Angel". Natasha Bedingfield's "Angel."

Now this is a song about respecting your man. It's the complete opposite of practically everything Beyoncé sings, even as a member of Destiny's Child. Natasha wants her man to be disrespected so she can rush to his defense and show the world how proud of his she is. She wants women to stand up to prove there are good guys out there. She's tired of the Beyoncés of the world, constantly bashing their men.

"Angel" even fits into the retrograde values that Beyoncé & co. espouses. Although there are elements of the "Cater 2 U" philosophy, Natasha Bedingfield doesn't intend to pamper her guy or bow down to his every whim. She does, however, put herself aside so her man can have the spotlight. That's a bit worrisome. But she'll do whatever he wishes. There are no strings--she just loves the dude.

What struck me the first time about "Angel", though, was that the sentiment of the song--wanting to protect one's lover "from the pain"--is something most commonly heard from males. Men sing about protecting women all the time. Women, not so much. It's the verb that changes the sentiment slightly, since it's men who are the stereotypical protectors and saviors. Men will sing promises of keep their lady "safe from danger", not the other way around.

But she's still a woman. She'll guide him home and provide shelter, as images of hearth and home are traditional to females. Even the title of the song, "Angel", tends to be associated with women, though guardian angels can be either gender.

"Angel" continues the trend of spelling out the title (see Stefani, Gwen; "Hollaback Girl", and Fergie; "Glamorous"). The video has multiple Natashas singing in multiple outfits (like Beyoncé's current video for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)"), but it's done in front of black-and-white drawings in panes, like comics, a style I really like. Also, her green dress reminds me of the one Carrie wore in the Sex and the City finale.

Overall, Natasha Bedingfield is a woman who's had lots of positive messages in her music. She even released a song, "Single", about how great being single is. It wasn't sarcastic; unfortunately, it was dreadful. So dreadful that I won't link to it and I'm embarrassed to mention it. Her songs are positive, and from what I've seen, she's a pretty upbeat and down-to-earth person who seems to have some semblence of what she's singing about. Now that's the kind of women pop music needs more of.