University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

Becyon-Say Her Name, Say Her Name

Ciaran Barry

ByCiaran Barry

May 14, 2024

If I were to say that Beyoncé had made as much of an impact on the music industry as the likes of David Bowie, I would probably have one hundred copies of Let’s Dance frisbeed at my head! However, I will die on the hill that, no matter your personal music taste, anybody with a Spotify account and a pair of headphones should be paying attention to not only how Beyoncé constantly evolves as an artist, but also how she takes a sledgehammer to genre and has maintained a constant and prevalent political voice for over twenty years, all while serving *country*.

Texas-born Beyoncé Knowles first rose to fame as part of the R&B sensation Destiny’s Child, slamming into the music scene with tracks that preached girl-power, killer vocals, and songs that still feature heavily on everybody’s break-up playlists (and if ‘Survivor’ isn’t on yours, then add it!) Before long, she began releasing her solo material, starring in several movies (including the often slept-on Austin Powers), and of course kickstarting an entire Renaissance, eventually culminating in the Zeitgeist she is today; but this is not the only reason why we should be listening to her.

An element that constantly shines through any project she works on, and empowers her fan base, is the pride she harbours over her identity, not just as a singer, but as an entrepreneur, a writer, a resonant voice in the Black Lives Matter movement, as a genre-defying pioneer, as an independent woman, and as a mother. This is all celebrated constantly throughout her career, a crucial example being her monumentous Coachella performance, in which she paid tribute to historically Black colleges and universities through her use of a colossal fully African-American marching band on stage and her integration of the voices of Malcolm X and Nina Simone, turning the iconic opening bars of ‘Crazy in Love’ into nothing short of a fanfare as she marched across the stage.

Furthermore, Beyoncé also uses her artistry to lend a voice and a platform to those who never get enough credit for the impact they had on music, featuring several Black American country artists who have been marginalised from the gate-kept Nashville scene in her recent cover of Paul Macartney’s ‘Blackbird’, a song inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and the  Little Rock Nine in particular. Moreover, after being influenced by her Uncle Johnny (of “made my dress, that cheap spandex” fame), her seventh studio album Renaissance, released in the wake of the pandemic, honoured the legacy of the Black ballroom scenes of New York City, whilst injecting house music, dance, bounce, and obviously disco, giving us all music to dance to when we needed it most whilst paying homage to the unsung pioneers of the genre.

And on the matter of genre, “genres are a funny little concept, aren’t they”, Linda Martell, another singer who was forced out of the Nashville scene due to racial prejudice, preaches on Cowboy Carter, and Beyoncé is without a doubt testament to this! Blending the likes of Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus on an album that simultaneously makes you want to barn dance and twerk, getting the sainted Grace Jones to feature on an album that remixes Donna Summer and makes you feel nothing short of unique, to blessing us with ‘Single Ladies’, for the love that is good pay attention to what Beyoncé is singing at you! Having begun her career at such a young age, Beyoncé has carved her career with such grace and precision that not even the harshest critic can deny her talent and her voice as an artist.

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