University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

Beyoncé: jumping on the bandwagon or genuine activist?



Mar 2, 2016

And so the Super Bowl 50 came and went and I, for one, missed it. It is fair to say that I am one of those who proudly avail to Dean Cavanagh’s withering summation that the Super Bowl is anything but ‘super’: “a Petri dish under the lens of mediocrity, where surveillance of the spectators is just as mind numbing as the incomprehensible homoerotic beefcake ballet being enacted on the pitch.”

Personally, as a sporting spectacle I find it only slightly less egregious than rugby, our very own home grown ‘incomprehensible homo- erotic beefcake ballet’.

Although, all things considered, it seems only just to state that the Yank’s association football deriva- tive is markedly more tedious than our own – and I hear that Super Bowl 50 was more tedious than most.

It may come as news to you that it was in fact the Denver Broncos who triumphed over the Carolina Panthers; it may even be news to you that they were the teams contesting. However, what I suspect will not have eluded you were the events at the half-time show.

British exports Coldplay serenaded the American masses with an endearing melody of songs new and old, as ever Chris Martin and co. demonstrated that they aren’t nearly as bad as everyone likes to think, but neither are they really as entertaining as they ought to be. Bruno Mars belted ‘Uptown Funk’, the Grammy’s ‘Record of the Year’, to the surprise of nobody and the displeasure of the many who’ve struggled to escape it since its release.

But most notably it was Beyoncé’s performance of her new song ‘Formation’ that provoked the most reaction and inspired the most column inches. Backed with dancers styled as Black Panthers, it has been hailed by some as a positive endorsement of the #BlackLivesMat- ter and the Feminist movement and by others as ‘anti-police’.

A harsher critic might ask why an international superstar feels the need to wade into what is, essen-
tially, Student Union politics, but few could disagree that intellectual content of her intervention would flatter even the most challenged of undergraduates.

It has been said, rather patronisingly, that this isn’t ‘for white people’ – inspiring a rather troubled Saturday Night Live sketch – and that it is a song ‘celebrating black culture’.

Right OK, but it is awfully light on culture. Carrying hot sauce in your bag (‘swag’), or shopping for Nike Jordan’s are neither culturally specific, nor for that matter, worthy of celebration.

Furthermore, you’d be unlikely to have heard Mahalia Jackson singing lines like: ‘When he fuck me good I take his ass to Red Lobster, cause I slay’ (oh, how the other half live). It’s hardly Linton Kwesi Johnson.

The lightweight lyrical content, and musicianship, in ‘Formation’ are indicative of a performing artist afforded too much creative control with too few creative credentials, and more importantly, too little to actually say. But this should come as no surprise to those familiar with ‘Queen Bee’. Her recently political adoptions are frequently as crass as they are incongruous, and are really little more than the cynical exploitation of causes.

For someone so lithe on high heels, the clumsiness of her cultural analysis is staggering.

Cheaply evoking the sentiments of Marxist inspired revolutionaries like the Black Panthers whilst pos- sessing a net worth of $1 billion does little to help the millions of Black Americans below the poverty line.

It seems odd that someone who has rarely, if ever, articulated these Brandonio Youtube sentiments should choose to do so, after a career of hiding away from such issues of race.

It seems odd that she should choose now to celebrate her ‘negro’ appearance after frequently facing accusations from black activists of cosmetically denying her black heritage – which she of course profusely denies.

Charlie Brooker once wrote in The Guardian that Banksy’s work ‘looks dazzlingly clever to idiots’. I can’t think of a more fitting description for Beyoncé’s recent output.

James Munro


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