I hate writing about Beyoncé. I do my best to avoid writing about Beyoncé. Mostly because she’s so polarizing, which means people love to love her or have already decided to hate her and nothing I say has the remote chance of swaying an opinion. If you love her and I critique her, I’m a “hater.” If you hate her and I don’t dutifully throw her under the cliched bus, then I’m a “stan” caught up in the swarm of her “Bey-hive,” the self-described name for her most devoted fans.
But I’m writing about Beyoncé today because I can’t avoid her. Earlier this week, she released a new song on the Internet, “Bow Down/I Been On,” and since then, every major site I frequent, from trashy blogs to high brow news, is talking about her and her new song. Is it disrespectful to fans? Just fun? Hypocritical? The jury is still out.
Rush Limbaugh, single-handedly the last person I expected to weigh in on these matters, interpreted the song, in which Beyoncé instructs “b***hes” to “bow down,” to mean Beyoncé has turned in her feminist card. “(Her older) songs were attempts to inspire young women not to take any grief from men,” Limbaugh said. “She’s done a 180… Because she married a rich guy . . . she now understands it’s worth it to bow down.” Admittedly, the lyrics could have many interpretations. I am positive this is not one of them.
Singer Keyshia Cole also weighed in, not so unexpectedly as she’s been on a Twitter rampage lately. (She blasted former Destiny’s Child Michelle Williams after her DC reunion performance at the Super Bowl.) “First ‘Women need to stick together’ now [b***hes] better Bow. Smh,” Cole tweeted on Monday. “Can’t stand when people [are] all self-righteous when it’s convenient… but can still talk s–t when convenient [too].” Given Cole’s most recent salty behavior on social media, her opinion didn’t carry the weight it should have.
The thing is, Cole’s got a point. Beyoncé has built her entire career on feel-good sisterhood lyrics — from “Independent Women” to “Who Run This World” — set to infectious beats. Her songs became the unofficial soundtrack to Middle America’s Girl’s Night Out where women celebrated whatever the occasion is in “freek’um dresses,” patting their weaves and mimicking the dance routine from the “Single Ladies” video at the club. In interview after interview, Beyoncé has extolled the virtues of having female friends. She even hired an all-girl band to drive home her all-girl-power-everything message.
And this is why it seems so… jarring, really, for Beyoncé, after 15 years in the game, to start calling fellow women “b***hes” and demanding that they “bow down” like they are her lowly subjects.
Maybe Bey’s picked up her husband’s hip-hop swagger and God Complex by association, but I wish she’d put it back down. If for no other reason than as much as everyone dislikes a sore loser (like Cole appears to be), they loathe an arrogant winner even more. (And it’s not because she’s a woman. Kanye West is maligned for his arrogance, too.)
In some circles, Bey seems like she has it all — an amazing and lucrative career, an enviable figure, an adoring and powerful husband, and an adorable daughter. She rubs elbows with the president, and has the first lady gushing over her so much as to declare her a “role model.” Beyoncé has a legion of fans around the world who seem awestruck by her every move, outfit and hairstyle change. And with all those notches under belt, her humility, commented upon by near every journalist whose ever scored an interview, has always made her hard for most to hate on — until now.
About those so-called haters… of course they exist. Anybody on social media has encountered their share of them. I get that, famous or not, even Beyoncé must get a little irritated when she works so hard for her dreams, yet still there are those who go for her throat at every turn. I imagine they are the gas fueling her new fired up single. But anyone who’s ever dealt with a bully knows once they see you sweat, they just go harder. Beyoncé’s just given them more ammunition for their attacks.
Years ago, someone told me, “the best revenge is living well.” Beyoncé’s annual yacht vacations with her family, her struts around the world in the latest designer wares, and big brand endorsements are the best “bow down” message she can send to her detractors. Her seeming identity crisis on “Bow Down/I Been On” is a messy and misdirected retort that reveals just how unstable King Bey’s perceived throne really is.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk.