Illuminati, Fake Bumps and Dorian Gray
ALL PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images
Why the Rumours and Conspiracies Surrounding Beyoncé Cannot Hide the Fact: We Need Her to Guide Music Right Now
WHETHER you consider yourself a big fan…
PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin Mazur (Getty Images for TIDAL)
of Beyoncé or a casual observer; you are probably aware of the ridiculous rumours that surround her. These (rumours) include the nature of age – exactly how old is she?! – and she is part of the Illuminati. Some think her recent pregnancy was a fake – a child would disprove that theory! – and that, Solange Knowles, is actually Bey’s daughter! The fact Beyoncé is in her thirties and, unless she popped out Solange when she was in school; that assumption holds little water – and, why would anyone think Solange would lie about being Bey’s sibling?! Others have speculated Beyoncé killed Joan Rivers and held Sia captive in a lair years ago. I never had Beyoncé pegged as a killer and dictator: going after random celebrates and getting a criminal record is not the best way to shift records! Other sources have linked her to former President Barack Obama; other absurd and wild theories have come to light. Bey actually hit back at those Illuminati rumours in her song, Formation (from her 2016 album, Lemonade). Whether you have enough patience to scotch those rumours and give credence to any turn of the gossip wheel – Beyoncé is not the first musician who has had many theories attached to their name. From the rumours surrounding Paul McCartney’s death back in the 1960s to, well…you can do your own research!
IN THIS PHOTO: Jay-Z and Beyoncé
I am not sure why so many idle and non-seneschal theories surround Beyoncé. I guess, when an artist seems normal and well-adjusted; the press get it into their heads they are hiding something. It is not possible, we are told, for a big name to be an ordinary person – albeit, someone blessed with enormous talent! Beyoncé has hit back at these slights and has, with her husband Jay-Z, added more dates to their On the Run II tour. They will head to the London Stadium on 16th June and, assuming there are no other conspiracy theories thrown at her before then; she will be free to kick some arse in the U.K. I guess, in a way, it is flattering to have people take an interest in your life that does not revolve around fidelity and relationships – even though claiming she is a murderer is a bit much! One of the reasons I wanted to write about Beyoncé is because, right now, she has a role to fulfil in music. She has recently given birth to Rumi and Sir. Having twins can put a career on the back-burner for a bit: the fact she is embarking on tour dates means there is not a lot of time to ponder and relax! Lemonade, two years ago, was the last album we heard from Bey.
That record tackled reports around Jay-Z: many felt her husband was having an affair; one can detect a lot of anger and marital tension in the songs. She came out and claimed Lemonade’s most fired-up tracks were fictional – not related to the suspected cheating of Jay-Z. However you view that statement – maybe there is some truth in it – the sheer anger and confidence put into the music took many by surprise. Other songs, looking at political tension and the role of women in society, got under the skin – Lemonade is her best-reviewed album to date. Aside from Sanaa Lathan being revealed as the actor who bit Beyoncé – the woman can’t catch a break – we have not heard too much from Beyoncé since 2016. I am still listening to Lemonade and feel, back during the Obama administration; there was less reason to be riled and furious than the current (Trump) incarnation. Now, with gun violence and racial tensions; sexism and bigotry acting as White House wallpaper – surely, now, is a time for music’s foremost voice to come forward and attack?! The thirty-six-year-old Texan superstar has enjoyed a long and varied career. Lemonade, to many, is the peak of Beyoncé’s career. Although there were a fair few writers and producers in the musical kitchen: it is Beyoncé’s voice and power that strides through. The tracks run right through R&B, Rock; Soul, Hip-Hop and Blues. There are Country touches and nods to traditional Pop – although, like any Beyoncé album, there is nothing sugary and empty. Anger and betrayal played a big role; anger, political and personal, were evident – that was mixed with lighter tones and reasons for celebration.
Standouts like Don’t Hurt Yourself, Formation; Freedom and Hold Up are as good as any Beyoncé track. Few artists have the same potency and ability to grab the listener by the throat. Look back at her career and you can hear the evolution. I have been a fan of hers since the Destiny’s Child days. In my view; Beyoncé started coming into her own as a leader and performer during Destiny’s Child’s second album, The Writing’s on the Wall. In 1999, with singles like Bills, Bills, Bills; Bug a Boo and Say My Name out in the ether – we could hear Beyoncé stand as the unofficial band lead and bring these songs to life. 2001’s Survivor found the band, and Beyoncé, turn from songs about faithfulness and love to womanhood and independence (although, sexual liberation and equality were part of the band’s make-up from the debut). The title cut is as emphatic and anthemic as they come; Independent Women Part I is a huge banger; Bootylicious and Dangerously in Love are, perhaps, two of the best-known Destiny’s Child songs. During this time, Bey stood out as the group’s lead writer and took more control of the music. Prior to 2004’s Destiny Fulfilled coming out; it was announced each member of the group would release a solo album – to heighten interest in Destiny’s Child and get them more attention. Some felt this move was a mistake: reviews for their final album were not as good as expected.
More writers and producers came back into the folder; there were fewer anthems and ready hits as earlier records – band members Kelly Rowlands and Michelle Williams were more involved as producers. None of this was bad or an error of judgement: the group’s time had run and, despite a couple of gold tracks (Lose My Breath and Soldier), it was time for a change: a time for Beyoncé to stand out alone. A year before Destiny’s Child’s last studio album; Beyoncé released her debut solo album, Dangerously in Love. Its opener, Crazy in Love (featuring Jay-Z) hit number-one in the U.S. and demonstrated how strong Bey was when stepping out of the ‘shadows’. Not that her then-band were causing restrictions: it was about each member and, as such, harder for each member to put their stamp on songs that were, quite often, written by committees. Beyoncé’s solo debut allowed her to help master, produce and write the songs she would go on to perform. She hit her first peak, in my view, on the sophomore album, B’Day. Released on 1st September, 2006 – to coincide with Beyoncé’s twenty-five birthday – the album’s cover sees the star in a sexy and sultry mood. That is not to say the songs on the album had any intention of being submissive and predictable. Among the tracks are some of the most personal and emphatic slices of Bey’s career to that date.
She was in a productive mood and, with good teams around her, free to conspire, create and expand. Working with her husband, Jay-Z; the album was recorded at four different studios with a range of names/producers. It is not a shock B’Day won the award for Best Contemporary R&B Album at the 2007 Grammy Awards. Get Me Bodied and Ring the Alarm are as good an example of Beyoncé’s magic as you will get – the latter, a song that suggested what the heroine would do if she caught her man walking around town with another woman! Songs on the album hinted at what she would create a decade later: a strong and proud woman who was taught to take vengeance on men who wronged her. Although there are enough names on B’Day – like every Beyoncé solo album – it was designed to give her range and diversity…rather than show a lack of talent and confidence. I Am… Sasha Fierce was a two-sided release. The first, ‘I Am…’ was composed, largely, on slower songs and ballads: the latter, employing her new persona, was a more pumped and sexual offering. Although the 2008 album did not get universally hot reviews upon its release; singles like Halo and If I Were a Boy (from the first side) impressed and showed a sensitive, mature side to Bey. Nine singles were released from the album: Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), from the second-half, stands as the highlight cut. Some felt the album failed to reconcile its disparate and unique halves; others expressed doubts regarding the number of singles released and the hype the album received – never able to live up to such expectation.
2011’s 4 and 2013’s Beyoncé got the wheels back on the tracks, as it were. 2011’s swansong, Run the World (Girls) and Beyoncé’s XO showed she had lost none of her ability and talent. 4 showed sensitivity and Beyoncé’s ability to shine as a torch singer. Beyoncé was, at that point, the best-reviewed album of her career. That upward trajectory was no shock: with each release, she was growing in stature and acquiring new skills as a songwriter. Maybe changes in her life – the security of love and motherhood – she gave birth to Blue Ivy Carter in 2012 following a miscarriage the year before – was responsible. However you view her career and quality up until that point; there is no denying the reliability and determination. Live performances were heralded and proffered; her fanbase swelled and, prior to Lemonade, Beyoncé was the most sought-after and influential female solo artist on the planet. Her 2016-released masterpiece prefaced her brief hiatus – with new life in her came new responsibilities. Lemonade blew the doors open and showed, at that point, there was nobody quite like her. In summing-up; the reason I feel we need a Beyoncé charge ties to everything she has achieved – and what we need in music right now. The fact she has overcome marriage difficulties – if you feel Lemonade was autobiographical – and achieved a lot since then means, surely, there is the inspiration for something heartfelt and passionate.
It is the potential righteousness and aggression that excites me. Trump is now in office and there is the Time’s Up and Me Too movements. Women’s rights are at the forefront and there is the fetid sleaze of Harvey Weinstein hanging in the air like an insistent fart. More revelations and accusations are coming out; racism and aggression against the black population are unabated; gun violence is still a huge issue – so many troubles, not only in the U.S., but the wider political stage. In a world divided and struggling; the sort of sermons and spirit Bey brings to the music world is now, surely, needed more than ever?! I look out at music and, aside from Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z; there aren’t that many big artists able to adequately articulate the frustrations we all face. Sure; there are Punk and Rock bands who make a good stab at it – I feel U.S. artists, sadly, are more impressive when it comes to that much-needed fire and leadership. Eminem, sadly, produced a weak album with Revival. I felt, when it was announced, it would be a modern (albeit, older) version of The Marshall Mathers LP – a collection of songs that reminded us why he is one of the best rappers ever. A lack of focus and too much collaboration (Ed Sheeran, for Christ’s sake!) meant it failed to register and impress – signalling an end to his best days; perhaps, it seems, his last album?!
I feel Beyoncé is the person to step forward and provide the album we all need right now: one that would show it political colours and, at the same time, provide personal and passionate songs (a mix of maternal ponderings and sexual, sensual hip-swivelers!). A new album could stray along the same lines of Lemonade: it would not be bad hearing the second part of that record. What I feel is best – and what she could do – is update its political mandates and bring in some of the inspirations we heard in her earlier career – a 2018 version of Ring the Alarm of Lose My Breath, perhaps? She is in her mid-thirties now; the inspirational palette has taken in new colours. In any case; there is a definite spotlight waiting to be filled. I have been impressed by recent albums by St. Vincent and Phoebe Bridgers. There are so many great female artists providing exceptional, nuanced music. At a time when there is gender-inequality and discrimination; ‘Queen Bey’, it seems, need to sit back on the throne and deliver a devastating message to the world. Whether that will come post-tour – there is chatter she is working on music right now – I hope there is plenty of anger in her heart. An all-ballads record would be understandable: it is not what the public, and her fans, want right now. I am excited to see what could come and, in a year where we need a strong and defiant voice to show us the way; it seems Beyoncé’s talents and powers are required now…
MORE than ever.