Beyoncé - A profile of the colossus of popular culture
There are some great acts at 2011's music festivals, but there’s only one icon
There are some great acts performing at T in the Park, but there’s only one icon. With Beyoncé set to be the highlight for many, Nicola Meighan examines a colossus of popular culture
When The List first set eyes on Beyoncé in the flesh, it is fair to say that there were fireworks. You might well call them pyrotechnics – this was the Brit Awards, 2001, and she was onstage with Destiny’s Child – but as flames engulfed the rostrum and three gold bikini clad visions marched forth, we could swear Beyoncé winked at us.
Destiny’s Child performed their self-sufficient call-to-arms ‘Independent Women Part 1’ that night, all fire and Charlie’s Angels homages, with Texas-born Beyoncé Giselle Knowles centre-stage: owning it.
Beyoncé – the mononymic brand is vital – has since become one of our best-loved pop stars, actors, models, designers, dancers and perfumiers. She’s the third most-honoured woman in the history of the Grammy Awards (having bagged a cool 16 thus far); she has formally augmented our lexicon (the erogenous portmanteau ‘bootylicious’ – from the Destiny’s Child hit of the same name – entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004). She has made Barack Obama dance.
She has also issued some excellent pop songs. When faced with the challenge of outshining the dazzling R&B canon of Destiny’s Child – from the hyper-slick balladry of ‘Say My Name’ (2000) to the brawny swing-bop of ‘Survivor’ (2001) – Beyoncé saw it off with the brassy pop delirium of ‘Crazy in Love’ (2003): a debut solo single that gatecrashed the charts and shook up popular culture.
‘Crazy in Love’ (and by extension Beyoncé) was swiftly saluted by avant-garde idols, indie-rock stalwarts and post-punk gods alike. Antony and the Johnsons re-read ‘Crazy in Love’ as a gossamer dirge; Snow Patrol rendered it a dirty-rock hoedown; David Byrne rewired it as an afro-pop carnival. But Beyoncé did it first; and Beyoncé did it best. (Albeit with her equally lauded ‘him indoors’ Jay-Z in tow).
There’s been little letting up since. The success of 2003’s debut solo album Dangerously in Love was followed by B’Day and I Am Sasha… Fierce, which set out to consolidate Beyonce’s dual personas – the girl-next-door charm of Beyoncé; the onstage braggadocio of Sasha – and her fourth album, quizzically entitled 4, has just landed.
From time to time, Beyoncé has veered off the well-meaning pop-feminist path and ventured into mothering, come-hither territory (most notably on the pipe-and-slippers bump ‘n’ croon of 2005’s ‘Cater 2 U’ – released as part of DC’s short-lived reunion). But she’s best at female-power rallying cries (even if they’re undermined by underwear-garlanded videos): recent single ‘Run the World (Girls)’, is a case in point.
Like any self-respecting pop icon, from Madonna (‘Vogue’) to Michael Jackson (‘Thriller’), Beyoncé has also spawned a dance craze, thanks to her megahit ‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)’. Justin Timberlake’s tried the dance; Tom Hanks has tried it. Even Barack Obama’s tried it. (The List believed it had mastered it well, until it clocked itself in the mirror, at which point it openly wept).
We cannot wait for Beyoncé to bust those celebrated moves all over T in the Park. It’ll be like the Brits all over again: independent; bootylicious; coruscating. Better than that.