Saturday 31 January 2015

Blood and sweat from a black icon

Published 17/09/2006 | 00:11

IPAY my own fun, I pay my own bills, Always 50/50 in relationships, The shoes on my feet, I've bought it, The clothes I'm wearing, I've bought it, The rock I'm rockin', 'Cause I depend on me . . .

Those words - from her old band Destiny's Child's modern classic Independent Woman - still resonate now. And with them, Beyonce became a modern icon of black power and black feminism.

Feminists, black, white or green, weren't too pleased with the sexual objectifation of the young r'n'b chanteuse however. Q magazine put Beyonce on a 2003 cover with the bold-type proclamation: 'Sex. Power. Booty! Beyonce - The Ass That Shook The World.'

'Beyonce's behind is more famous worldwide than J-Lo' was a more recent tabloid yelp headline. It was all possibly fuelled by the vaingloriously tongue-in-cheek and somewhat OTT video for Crazy in Love that year - which she told me, was an yet another example of people missing the humour.

"It is supposed to be funny. I am walking down the street with these designer pumps. Then I am in a back alley in LA with a glamorous Versace dress on. Even when the car blows up you'd think I blow myself up. It's supposed to be funny!"

Three years on, the 25-year-old is older and wiser - and Beyonce returns with a more grown-up album B'Day. 'Baby, what you want me to buy? My accountant's waiting on the phone,' she drawls camply on Suga Mama.

The sound is heavier, clubbier, courtesy of her boyfriend Jay-Z. Bootyylicious tracks like new single Deja Vu and Get Me Bodied are hypersexy and created for both the bedroom and the dancefloor. On the ferocious post-feminism of Ring the Alarm Beyonce shouting the refrain through a thick burr of cool club distortion: 'Ring the alarm, I've been doin' this too long, But I'll be damned if I see another chick on your arm!' There is a more soulful feel to songs like Resentment and Suga Mama. 'I'm-a be like a Jolly Rancher that you get from the corner store, I'm-a be like a cone that's drippin' down to the floor' (a Jolly Rancher being a suckable sweet), she sings on the splendid Suga Mama. Some critics have argued that Beyonce is a modern musical chameleon changing her style rather than offering her fans the same thing; and on B'Day that much is obvious. There isn't - almost perfect but overstylisted in hindsight - Crazy In Love. But the record, her second solo record, is better for it. There is plenty of blood, sweat and mascara-stained tears instead.

You go girl.

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