I was a Beyoncé holdout. For good reason, I think. There’s the matter of her very ambivalent feminism. (“Bootylicious” as a substitute for the word “feminist,” though? Nah, Bey.) Then there’s her really intense fan base. (I tweeted once that her HBO documentary wasn’t all that revealing — it wasn’t— and my mentions were on FIRE.) Then there’s the fact that my favorite Beyoncé songs were all co-written by her supremely, disappointingly underrated younger sister, Solange. (They aren’t in competition, but I have my own kid sister chip on my shoulder, and I really like underdogs.) To me, Beyoncé was overexposed, and seemingly overrated in world that wanted so badly to replace R&B/Pop titans like Whitney, Mariah, and Toni, who had quieted down significantly in the early aughts. (Yes, of course, Mariah was still making noise, but not this kind of noise.)
But then the Beyoncé Bowl happened, and I started to see it a little differently. How could you not? She and her all female band were absolutely breathtaking. And the release of her Pepsi Ad “Mirrors” reminded me that hard as it’s been to admit at times, Bey’s been making me shake since I was a tween. Then she released photos of her controversial trip to Cuba, and I found myself clicking through, smiling widely and saying aloud to myself, “them braids are stunning, Bey.” And, when audio of the song “Grown Woman” leaked online, it hit me the way it does the male lead of every Rom-com when he finally realizes the woman for him has been under his nose the whole time — Holy eff, yo! I’m in love with Beyoncé!
“Grown Woman” did it, I think. And maybe this wonderfully weird cover of the late Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black" Beyoncé did with Andre 3000 for The Great Gatsby soundtrack. But it was mostly "Grown Woman." (By the way, is Beyoncé no longer part of the Illuminati? Apparently the song wasn’t released by her people, but this link has been online for a whole eleven days. And this fool slapped Beyoncé’s butt while she was onstage in Denmark, and to my knowledge, he’s still alive. No one got to him. Weird.) The song, co-written by frequent collaborator The Dream and produced by Timbaland, has an afrobeat sound that warms my Fela Kuti loving Nigerian heart. Beyoncé’s jam is not as political as the father of Afrobeat often was, but she’s decidedly a boss in this far superior attempt at anthemic female empowerment than the confused, frenetic disaster that was “Run the World (Girls)." The songstress is a grown, confident woman now, who does whatever she wants. With an empire worth $300 million, Beyoncé’s making “all these racks/all these racks” and, as she notes “they listen to me when I talk/ Cause I ain’t pretending.” True, indeed.
And grown Beyoncé is so wonderfully sex positive. “I’m a grown woman,” she sings, “so I know how to ride it/I’m a grown woman/ And I’m so erotic.” And grown, erotic Beyoncé has agency. She’s not the girl being passed around on Snoop Dogg’s uber misogynistic 1993 song “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None).” She turns that directly on its head — “It ain't no fun/If a girl can’t have none” and goes on to celebrate her fun having skills. “Go girl (go girl)/ she got that bomb (bomb)… Go girl (hey girl)/She got that tight (that tight).” I'm not the biggest fan of King Bey qualifying her feminism with "modern-day," but if she keeps on tackling misogyny this way, well, she can be as futuristic a feminist as she wants.
Check out the superstar's performance of the funky cut on tour earlier this year.