The Root: Beyoncé Can Do Whatever She Wants
UPDATE: In the hours since this post was originally published yesterday, British newspaper UK Metro referred to America’s Queen of Pop as “Whore Beyonce'” for Sunday night’s Grammy performance.
C’mon, son. It was a risque performance, no doubt. Extra? Perhaps. Sexy? Yes, gawd! But for Yeezus’s sake, she’s a pop star. This is pretty much in the job description and compared to say, Miley Cyrus at the 2013 VMA’s, it was pretty tame. Let’s be reasonable here. A married woman grinded on and writhed for her husband. Miley Cyrus twerked, wagged her tongue, rubbed someone else’s ass, humped a “We’re #1” fan sign then bent over in front of someone else’s husband and didn’t even get called a whore.
Over on My Black Baby, writer Denene Millner was rightfully fit to be pissed over the w-word. She wrote:
Now mind you, these are the same people who would turn a blind eye to racist “art” depicting a white woman using a naked Black woman as a chair and applaud Miley Cyrus using Black women’s asses as props in a bizarre, crotch-grabbing, chicken-twerk dance at the VMAs, but have a conniption when Beyonce straddles her phatty across a chair and sings about making love to her husband. They’re the same people, too, who would giggle about how adorbs Justin Beiber looks in his DUI mugshot but would nod their heads furiously in agreement when fellow Tweeters call pro NFL player Richard Sherman a thug and ape and nigger for expressing his emotion after a game-changing play that sent his team to the Super Bowl. And you best be clear that these same people probably wouldn’t have said a peep when a major media outlet referred to then-9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallisas a cunt on the biggest night of her life, but probably had to be buried, resurrected and given a bushel of throat lozenges to get over seeing Janet Jackson’s boob tassle in the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. Did any of those women call Pink a whore for showing off her Brazilian bikini wax during her splits and sexy curtain twirling at Sunday’s Grammy performance? No?
See the pattern?
I’ll tell you this much: I’m done—done—with all this righteous indignation over the baring of Black bodies and the demand that Black artists color within the lines of respectability drawn specifically for us. (I’m tired, too, of Black folks who quickly co-sign this foolishness by dragging Beyonce for looking sexy while daring to sing about explosive sex, complicated relationships, the beauty of motherhood and finding her voice as a woman in a sexist world, or dogging out shows like Being Mary Jane and Scandal for showing the less-than-perfect, complicated lives of single Black women.)
When it was announced that entertainment’s “it” couple, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Jay Z, would be performing at the Grammys—the opening act, no less—I knew it wasn’t going to go well. They were undoubtedly going to perform their latest hit, “Drunk in Love,” an ode to liquor and the joys of marital sex, replete with raunchy innuendo. Everyone would tune in, and there would be a mega backlash.
There’s been a lot of fuss over the song. Over at the Huffington Post, Frances Cudjoe Waters took issue with Beyoncé’s admission that she’s a 32-year-old woman who drinks, but the song’s most troubling lyrics came during Jay Z’s guest verse. In response to his trash-talking wife, who is boasting of her sexual prowess, he slickly—or sickly, depending on your perspective—says, “I’m Ike Turner turn up/You know I don’t play/Now eat the cake, Anna Mae/Eat the cake Anna Mae/I’m nice.” Le scandal.
Jay Z’s allusion to the Tina Turner biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It—particularly the scene where Ike Turner (Laurence Fishburne) smashes a slice of cake into the face of wife Tina (Angela Bassett)—has been repeatedly (over) analyzed. It’s been called evidence that Bey and Jay Z condone domestic violence and proof of the couple’s insensitivity to Turner, with whom Beyoncé has performed in the past.
Because there have been so many essays taking Jay Z to task since Beyoncé’s album was released in December, I’m well-versed in the argument that his lyrics, joking or not, go too far. But the hype is just that.
Jay Z is in no way condoning domestic abuse on that verse. He’s drunk-talking—hence the song’s title—to his wife, who has been playfully trash-talking to him. By the middle of the verse, he, too, is talking trash about what he’s going to do to her sexually—and, most important, with her consent. I mean, she’s drunk-giggling in the background of the video as he talks drunk mess on a song called “Drunk in Love.” If his wife is fine with him talking about rough sex, what is the problem here?
Is an Ike Turner allusion the best choice? No. But in context, there’s nothing to see here, folks. Drunk married people are playfully saying drunk words to each other—he even says, “I’m nice,” i.e., drunk—right before they “surfboard.”
I know that drunk Beyoncé is a little jarring for some, but at 32, if she wants to get drunk and then be “filthy” with her husband, that’s her adult and wifely right to do so—and her prerogative to sing about it, even at the Grammys, because she’s a “Grown Woman.”
Over at Colorlines, Akiba Solomon seemed fine with all this but believed that Beyoncé should have stayed silent about that “eat the cake” line:
At least one radio station—in the U.K.—blurs out this part of the song because it’s a jokey joke reference to physical abuse. So last night when Jay got to the “eat the cake” line, I thought maybe Queen Bey would stay silent on it. Instead she puts bass in her voice and chants along with her husband, “Eat the cake Anna-Mae!”
That Tina Turner is supposed to be one of Beyoncé’s idols makes this even worse … I’m disappointed in Beyoncé. I wish in this moment she could have been more Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and less “Cater 2 U.”
Read more: here