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Has Beyoncé lost her Halo?


NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 03:  Singer Beyonce performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 03: Singer Beyonce performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Getty Images

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 03: Singer Beyonce performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Rihanna got there first but if Beyoncé was looking for a title for her next album, the obvious option is surely 'Good Girl Gone Bad'. Once the perfect princess of stadium pop, lately Ms B seems to be on a mission to ruffle as many sensibilities as possible. She's dallied about in a figure-hugging, parent-worrying cat-suit, embarrassed one-time BFF President Obama by visiting communist Cuba and released snippets of a song stuffed with swear words.

On the eve of her first Irish dates in two years – she's at Dublin's O2 tomorrow and Sunday – the 100-million selling singer rolls into town on the wings of controversy. She has even banned non-approved photographers – thus while we are assured her Mrs Carter production is full of eye-popping set pieces, there is no way of telling for sure (unless, ahem, you look it up on YouTube).

One thing that is known about the show is that it features Beyoncé writhing in some of her most scandalous outfits yet. For veterans of the 'Be' live experience, that's quite a switch-up.

Though never exactly demure, contrasted with Rihanna and Lady Gaga, in concert Beyoncé has traditionally strived to keep it classy. Where RiRi has cavorted in a mocked-up sex dungeon and Lady Gaga simulated intimate relations with a man in full body armour, Beyoncé's 2009 world tour saw her cloyingly recreate her wedding day – complete with white dress and bridesmaids.

This time, however, she will be serenading her all-ages fanbase in a spray-on gold cat-suit that leaves little doubt as to how long she's spent toning her assets in the gym. Created by New York design duo Phillipe and David Blond, the garment is intended "to give the illusion of being covered in crystallised honey" and, upon its debut in Belgrade on April 18, prompted such headlines as "Crystal nipplegate".

'It is surprising and a little bit dismaying to see that Beyoncé seems to think she needs to position herself visually in the same way, as she has always been a shining example of how a woman can command attention and be sensual in a very classy way," author Ariane Sommer told Fox News as footage of the outfit went worldwide. "Beyoncé has always been known for her clean sex appeal, which is the reason why she is so successful with commercial endorsements for family- oriented brands such as Pepsi and L'Oréal. It would not surprise me if the telephone hotlines of these brands are running hot right now with enraged mothers."

Just as shocking, it can be argued, is new song 'Bow Down', premiered on Beyoncé's website and featuring the choice refrain. "I know when you were little girls/You dreamt of being in my world/ Don't forget it/ Respect that/ Bow down b–es/ Don't get it twisted this is my sh-t," she sings.

From any other pop star, such potty-mouthedness would elicit a shrug. But this was never Beyoncé's style.

"I think hearing her use that word in a song is less expected than, say, if Rihanna or Katy Perry or Lady Gaga used it," Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly magazine said.

Others were less sanguine. Singer Keyshia Cole was appalled at what she felt was an anti- feminist message in the 'bow down b****s' refrain and vented her ire in the age-old pop star fashion – a rant on Twitter.

"Women need to stick together," she said, before disapprovingly quoting Beyoncé's lyrics.

Though you probably have to speak fluent Twitter to accurately translate her tirade, you can understand where Cole is coming from.

A rarity in contemporary pop, Beyoncé has always pushed her feminist credentials. Where Rihanna deals in steamy single entendres and Gaga's lyrics can feel like random extracts from Fifty Shades of Grey, Beyoncé has encouraged her female fans to think of themselves as people rather than sexualised objects (for the music business that's pretty revolutionary).

It' s a sentiment she has pushed since Destiny's Child. In 2000's 'Independent Women', Beyoncé raged against the soft sexism of being 'looked after' by a rich lover. Her 2008 hit 'Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)', meanwhile, had the straightforward message that you shouldn't tolerate a man who takes you for granted. She performs with an all-female band, showing a 'girl' can grind out a killer guitar solo as efficiently as any dude.

Along with unease over her newly sexualised image, Beyoncé has attracted opprobrium over what are regarded as escalating diva tendencies. She came off like an egotistical ice-queen in a March interview with GQ magazine, in which she revealed that she has arranged for a documentary crew to shadow her 14 hours a day so that her every waking moment might be chronicled for posterity. The hoots of disdain that followed were deafening.

"How can so much f******* crazy be contained within a two-page interview?" wondered gossip blog Gawker, which seized on a quote which indicated Beyoncé had indeed left the world of rational thought behind. "I now know that, yes, I am powerful," she had told GQ. "I'm more powerful than my mind can even digest and understand."

There was derision, too, when a self-directed Beyoncé documentary, Life Is But A Dream, aired on HBO. Though containing moving moments – such as when she describes the pain of the miscarriage she suffered in early 2011 – overall the tone is that of a deity pulling back the veils on Mount Olympus in order to afford us mortals a brief, privileged glimpse.

"Why don't we ever see her – even in bed in the middle of the night – without beautiful, perfectly styled hair," wondered one American critic. "Another cog in the machinery of diva-hood," was the headline in the New York Times,

Fuelling perceptions of uncontrolled diva-hood are leaked details of Beyoncé's backstage demands. According to reports, Beyoncé has insisted on the use of $900 titanium straws along with a freshly installed toilet seat for her own use, red toilet paper and a hand- carved ice-ball to suck on after performances to cool her throat. It leaves J-Lo, with her white candles and iced Snapple, in the ha'penny place.

Beyoncé has also managed to alienate one of her firmest supporters, Barack Obama. Having performed at his second inauguration – a turn that was later revealed to be partially lip- synched due to technical hitches – she and husband Jay-Z celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary with a visit to Cuba, a country regarded as belligerent by the United States.

Jay-Z then recorded a rap song about the trip in which he stated he had received permission to visit Fidel Castro's socialist playground from Obama personally.

"Boy from the hood got White House clearance . . ." he rhymes. ". . . Obama said, 'Chill, you gonna get me impeached' / But you don't need this sh*t anyway / chill with me on the beach."

"The President's not communicating with Jay-Z over this trip," was the response of the official Oval Office spokesman when, bizarrely, Jay-Z's rap became a subject of debate at a Washington press briefing.

"I am absolutely saying that the White House and the President on down had nothing to do with anybody's travel to Cuba."

In the countdown to Beyoncé's largest ever tour, the biggest controversy of all may be its title. Though she has previously avoided publicising her relationship with Jay-Z, Beyoncé has christened her 65-date trek around the world The Mrs Carter Show, a choice that could be interpreted as a subtle affront to feminists.

"I'm calling it that because I feel I have grown and I am a married woman," she said last week. "It is my name, it is who I am and I am proud of it."

Of course, there might be another explanation for the choice of title.

In 2011 Beyoncé reportedly sacked her father Mathew Knowles from his position as manager. He had overseen her career since she was a teenager.

What better way of letting daddy know she's grown up than plastering her husband's name all over her new production?

Beyonce plays The O2 on Saturday and Sunday night. Both shows are sold out.

Irish Independent