Beyoncé’s been catching a lot flack lately. In the past month, if gossip bloggers weren’t clucking about her pregnancy (or non-pregnancy, as some people still believe), they were taking the diva to task for not rolling a disclaimer that her newest videos have been inspired by 90s R&B supergroups and Belgian choreographers.
Now, someone else is jumping in the “Beyoncé-copied-off-of-me” pool — Tampa rapper Khia.
This week, a sneak of Beyoncé’s video for “Party” hit the web, showing a pre-preggo Bey and a good-looking gaggle of extras enjoying a sunny summer day. It wasn’t long before Twitter fired up, and Khia accused of Beyoncé plagiarizing her “concept” for her 2002 video, “My Neck, My Back.”
That concept? A pool party.
Let’s imagine for a moment that Khia actually has a legit claim here. If she has a copyright on music videos filmed by a pool, then Fergie, Sean Kingston and pop singer Ximena Sarinana also owe her some kind of restitution for infringement. Pools will have to start checking for explicit permission from Khia’s legal team before allowing film crews on the premises. College friends won’t be able to upload summertime pool shenanigans onto Youtube, lest they get a cease and desist letter from Tampa, Florida. What a sad way end to a summer.
Snark aside, Khia’s claim is easily the weakest one leveled against Beyoncé in recent memory. But maybe music fans are just on high alert, after Beyoncé’s run-in with Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker over the “Countdown” video earlier this month, and the revelation that her stunning performance at the 2011 Billboard Awards was uncomfortably similar to that of Italian performer Lorella Cuccarini.
Though she’s earned the nickname “Xeroxé” in some circles, It’s hard to believe that Beyoncé’s intentions are malicious, or designed to take credit for other people’s work. In her documentary, “The Year of 4,” viewers saw Beyoncé’s team work tirelessly to bring the Mozambican dance group Tofo Tofo to the States, after Beyoncé stumbled on a Youtube video of their dancing.
The singer also regularly sends up tributes to Michael Jackson (the bassline of her song “End of Time” mimics that of Jackson’s “I Can’t Help It,” and choreography incorporates some classic MJ moves), and her video for “Love On Top” inspired nostalgia for those of us who grew up singing New Edition’s “If It Isn’t Love.”
Beyoncé is as much a fan of performers as she is a performer herself. And her inspirations have run the gamut from the musical Chicago, to Gwen Verndon’s “Mexican Breakfast,” to Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation.” And when those inspirations are evident, as in the “Love on Top” video, fans respond positively. But it gets dicey when that inspiration comes from beyond the 50 states.
Beyoncé is a world-traveled musician, and there’s no doubt she has picked up as many ideas abroad as she has stateside. Her mistake then, is not realizing that her fans may not be as familiar with Lorella Cuccarini as they are with Tina Turner, and that they may feel duped when they find out their new favorite Beyoncé video isn’t really new at all.
And in the worlds of art, music, dance and fashion, that’s how it always is. Everything new is old again. Even Michael Jackson, the man regarded as the greatest performer of our time, borrowed from his inspirations. He learned to dance from Jackie Wilson and James Brown, and to this day, breakdancer Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers insists that the moonwalk existed long before Jackson’s legendary performance at Motown 25.
For fans, it was disappointing to learn that the Beyoncé’s Billboard Awards performance wasn’t one she developed herself. Still, it remained no less amazing to watch. And if there’s a positive to be seen in Beyonce’s Xerox habit, it’s that she’s is exposing her audience to, quite literally, a world of entertainment.
As for Khia, many things can be seen as unique and innovative. A pool party is not among them. And if Beyonce suddenly shares that she is, in fact, inspired by a one-hit-wonder rapper whose only song was a profane ode to oral sex, then music fans are in more trouble than we thought.