Beyoncé Knowles has become a runaway train of media-saturated publicity, according to a report by NPR.
For a recent broadcast, NPR Music’s pop critic Ann Powers discussed star’s ubiquity, and the extent to which she might continue pumping out her perfected product tailored for the entertainment-hungry masses.
“I do feel that what we’re watching, we might call it The Beyonce Experiment,” Powers said in an interview on NPR. “She wants to be A-class, No. 1 in critics’ eyes. She wants to sell the most, and she wants to influence the culture. I’m interested to see how far she can take it.”
What is “The Beyonce Experiment”?
Ms. Knowles — or Mrs. Carter, as the names of her current world tour and H&M campaign suggest she prefers being called — has certainly been everywhere lately, a steamrolling media magnet who has not stopped garnering clicks, looks, and ticket buys since she lip-synced at the inauguration in January.
But unlike other hyper-mediated stars, for Powers, what sets Beyoncé apart is the control she has over what she is producing and how people are consuming it.
“One of the things about Beyoncé’s saturation of every moment of our lives is that she is largely in control of it,” Powers said, “which makes her very different than many tabloid stars. The nature of tabloid media is that it’s not in the star’s control. We think of Britney Spears, that moment years ago when she shaved her head. Beyoncé has almost completely taken command of her representation in these media, which is extremely unusual.”
“In command” or just controlling?
This image of the star as completely in “command” has seeped into the public’s consciousness in many forms, sometimes as rumors and in other ways as collective judgments of her choices.
Mrs. Carter just released a documentary, Life Is But a Dream, through HBO, a highly-edited, tight-fisted glance into her personal life, critics say.
Stories that Beyoncé has banned press photographers from her current tour (a report that has not been confirmed by her team) have spread like wildfire, perhaps pushing the image of the diva beyond the realm of just being in control into the arena of being a “control freak.”
And that’s not all.
A diva’s demands
Amusingly, alleged evidence of Queen B’s tour rider has surfaced as well, that document that specifies contractually what a star requires of the venues where she performs. Some of her supposed requirements?
“The 31-year-old singer is said to have a list of specific requirements for every venue on her Mrs. Carter world tour and her mandate includes alkaline water, new toilet seats and bizarrely red toilet paper,” various reports, including the Daily Mail, have stated. “Beyoncé has also requested that all her crew members wear 100 percent cotton, her water is chilled to 21 degrees and served through $900 titanium straws and [that] she has access to hand carved ice balls after every show to cool her throat[.]”
The Huffington Post adds that, “Whether or not the rider is legitimate is unclear,” but “[o]ne thing that has been confirmed is Beyonce does require a lot of space backstage.” The outlet goes on to describe some of the divalicious dresing room accommodations the star has enjoyed for at least one performance, which portrays her as, if not exactly demanding, definitely anything but demure.
In control, and making it work
Yes, Mrs. Carter is a powerhouse, with business-savvy tentacles spinning plates supporting projects across several realms. And she wants to look pretty while she is doing it. Beyoncé also always wants the world to be watching — the best version of her perfectly-crafted radiant self, and that alone. While perhaps not organic or transparent, her actions, as the public is reading them, are certainly understandable.
She seems to be having her desired effect.
“You may think she’s great; you may think she’s overexposed,” NPR opined about her success. “but there’s no denying: Today, Beyoncé stands alone in the pop landscape.”
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.