Dear Mr. President,
I am sorry I missed your inauguration. I do not remember your televised address, which means I also missed the election date—if there ever was one. You have hidden your identity quite well, I must admit, behind the impressive mask of “Barack Obama,” under the sweeping cloak of the American governmental structure. From the back alleys of Brooklyn, to the forefront of the music industry, now one of the most coveted leadership positions in the whole world, Jay-Z, you have come quite far. I understand that you are a high-profile businessperson with a low-key attitude, but if you are going to usurp the American Presidency, I think that the American people should at least be publicly notified—I mean, so they can rally behind you in ardent support of course. Don’t you know, Jay-Z? You can do no wrong, and you have a hand in everything. Shawn Carter: Our low-key president.
Besides, this is not really about you anyway, Jay-Z—Mr. President, forgive me. I am actually more intrigued by your wife because, to me, she is the one who really beguiled us all. I just wanted to address you first, to assure you that I mean no ill will or disrespect.
It has just come to my attention that I should voice my opinion now, while our country is still relatively free—or before the fanatics find me and drown me out forever.
Please, Mr. President, indulge me for a moment:
I realize the dangerous waters that I am wading into by even suggesting that Beyoncé’s existence may be less than perfect, but what I find more dangerous is the hysterical adoration that compels millions to bow down in the wake of her image.
Her latest album was nothing more than a successful experiment with the purpose of testing the boundaries of that fanaticism.
Combine the success of her last album, last year’s Super bowl shutdown, her marriage to Jay-Z, and the birth of Blue Ivy, with the explosion that rocked the internet the night she decided to drop her album on us, Beyoncé has proved herself untouchable. People scream, fall over, and convulse for her. If they are not doing that, they watch her hips tick violently across their screens and resignedly say, “Well, she’s Beyoncé. She can do anything she wants.” You know it is true and she knows it is true. Nevertheless, to me, the worst thing is that she is using that blind fervor and making money off it.
I want to be sure to make apparent that this commentary is not coming from some sour-faced hater, determined to go against the grain and hate Beyoncé. On the contrary, when I heard that Beyoncé dropped a new album, I was genuinely excited. She is a phenomenal performer and a creative artist. That is undeniable. So naturally, when I heard there was a visual album, I rushed to record it because God forbid I miss it!
I hadn’t heard any of the songs in their entirety yet since she restricted them to iTunes and Spotify (Media, I am sure is quite easy, to control from a position with such a high security clearance. Right, Mr. President?), so I was ready. More than ready.
With anticipation, I pressed the play button.
After that, it just fell apart.
Beyoncé’s visual album was an exercise in narcissism. The visual album is a whole hour and half of Beyoncé flaunting herself from various angles, in various positions, in various styles of opulent garments. Every move was overly-sexualized, and even though some videos contained a story of some kind, they were interrupted by frequent cuts to an excessively dramatic display of Beyoncé splayed about or flawless close up shots of her face—Mr. President, there was no need. We know Beyoncé is beautiful.
The melodic and lyrical creativity could be described as minimal (at the very nicest). Most songs had one catch phrase that repeated over and over. Where were the verses? Where was the bridge? Where were the dynamic vocals and hooks that captivate everyone?
I do not know. All I know is that halfway through this fest of foolishness, I was bored and disappointed. Granted, I liked a handful of videos and songs but I disagree that the album in its entirety deserved the reaction it has received since the actual music lacked depth and demonstration of creative growth. She left all the dynamics for the screen.
That idea of a visual album is revolutionary for the industry, but she cheapened the execution of the idea with an incessant focus on her body and her sexuality. In lieu of the visual album, she had said, “she saw music.” Personally, it strikes me as discomforting that when you see music come to life in your imagination, you see only your face and your body. I admit that such images are not initially displeasing to the eye, but after Beyoncé continually hit me over the head with the celebration of her own presence, I found watching the album rather laborious and repetitive.
Apparently, millions did not share my reaction, and Beyoncé succeeded in selling her music to them based on image alone.
The fact that we let her get away with it is what disturbs me. I do not understand how other celebrities come under so much oppressive scrutiny. We blaspheme others in all kinds of original ways, but when Beyoncé writhes around a chair half-naked, we call her our idol. When she opens her legs and shakes her backside, we are captivated by her “original” performance. When she sings about surfboards and being drunk in love at the Grammy’s, we sing it right back and never think about the banality of her lyrics.
I marvel at the way we have let her slip through the cracks of our hyper-scrutiny and come out on the other side superior, with the ability to string us all along by the swish of her hair and the curves of thighs.
She has usurped our minds while you, Jay-Z, snuck in and usurped the presidency. Ironically, I am not genuinely upset about it though. With your shrewd business deals, career versatility, and understated charisma, there is no doubt that we are in good hands. However, if by chance we are not, you always have your First Lady, Beyoncé, to bamboozle us all and render us incapable of nothing else but appreciative applause.
God Bless America.
Thank you for your time Jay-Z (sorry, Mr. President. Old habits.)
-Jada Bullen, Slant Writer