Confessions of a Beyoncé Dissident

by Ian Russell
(Photo via Instagram)

I write this with careful and calculated determination, knowing that at any moment a swarm of killer Beys could descend on my desk, stinging me senseless, some openly buzzing about the PAPER offices...

I'm a Beyoncé dissenter.

I see and feel her oppressive pop culture reign all around us and I'm just not convinced that she deserves the crown.

Don't get me wrong. I don't necessarily hate Beyoncé. I just don't think she's all that. Her music is great for a party, great for stomping down the street with my headphones on, great for some YouTube pomp and circumstance.

I've been there since the beginning, too. I had "No, No, No" as a CD single. I stayed with her as her career skyrocketed, complete with multiple world tours, Super Bowl performances, surprise albums and HBO produced propaganda films. And last Friday, I, along with hordes of pubescent girls, their moms, and a good portion of the tri-state area's gay men, made the trek to MetLife Stadium in New Jersey for Beyoncé and Jay Z's "On the Run" tour.

Overall, the concert was a great time. Though Jay's projects peaked in 1999, the rapper was still spectacular, running through a slew of throwbacks with both lyrical precision and fiery energy. He was certainly not the main attraction for the majority of concert-goers, though. His songs were sprinkled throughout a Beyoncé concert with a capital BEY.

The thing about a Beyoncé concert is that it isn't that much different from watching a Beyoncé music video. The woman is a robot. Her perfection borders on soullessness. The calculation of every single moment precludes the creation of any actual moments. My friends and I left the stadium knowing that we had fun, but not able to actually recall specific impressions.

Beyoncé's perfected choreography, manipulated facial tics and exacting vocals leave a huge part of pop culture spectacle to the wayside: the shining glimmer of persona. There are dozens of divas, past and present, that share the vocal chops or dancing abilities of Bey but also give their audience a little something more. Of Mrs. Carter's peers, Rihanna pops to mind as a performer who, though certainly lacking Beyoncé's voice, suddenly becomes likeable for her DGAF attitude. Even Britney is more likeable, if only for her occasional sloppiness -- and humanness.

Even legendary ladies like Mariah or Madonna, both of whom often suffer in our age-ist society when compared to Bey, offer a bit more of a connection with their audiences because they add a little bit of humor and subversion to their shows. Take Madonna's Super Bowl performance and compare it with Beyoncé's: Madge made hers memorable and spontaneous. She tripped while dancing and jumped on the shoulders of the weird guy from LMFAO -- two things that would never happen in a Beyoncé concert.

Anyway, I understand the inherent brattiness of complaining about a "perfect" concert. I paid money and she delivered a service exceptionally. I'm happy about that.

What bothers me more is that she inserts her robotic, hollow shell into the pop culture canon under the guise of soulful and meaningful music. When, towards the end of Friday night's show, Beyoncé covered "Ex-Factor" by Lauryn Hill (to a crowd of 14 year olds that mostly didn't get it), I was almost offended. The implicit message here is that Beyoncé can cover Lauryn because she fits in the same echelon as an artist. I take issue with this for the simple fact that, no matter how many albums Beyoncé puts out and how many songs she sings to how many millions of people, she can't match an artist like Lauryn Hill. Lauryn is pure emotion in a way that Beyoncé isn't. Lauryn is a narrative of humor and tragedy and subversion and strength because she can speak to the absence of perfection in a way that Beyoncé will never approach.

"Sasha Fierce" can never be "The Miseducation".

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