The Meaning of Beyoncé

Daria Ibn-Tamas

Beyoncé Knowles

In a recent Tmagazine article, Jody Rosen argues that Beyoncé has risen to a prominence not seen in contemporary pop culture due to a professionalism and her ability to embody seemly opposing forces.  On top of her cultivated technical performance skills, there is also a perfectionism that stretches from her music to her business to her family that allow her to be many different things to all people.

Everything about Beyoncé seems to embody contradiction: explicit sexuality and married family life; romance and materialism; mean girl call outs and sisterhood. And yet it works to the point where no other pop-culture entity can even begin to compete.

So, Rosen wants to know, what does Beyoncé mean?

But perhaps she answers her own question. At one point Rosen declares, “She is Americana.” Beyoncé, more than any other pop star of recent memory, embodies a whole host of qualities that we, as Americans, attribute to our own identity. We place our communities right up on the same the pedestal that we put our individual achievements. Our focus on family values is placed right alongside our emphasis on personal liberty. If these are contradictions, then they are the contradictions of everyday American life.

Beyoncé, through the content of her art and the positioning of her branding, simply puts those American value judgements out and grand, unapologetic display. If cultural figures as diverse as Bill O’Reilly and bell hooks can find fault with Queen Bey, it may only be because they have chosen to focus on the points of contention that their ideologies have with American experience.

Beyoncé is Americana because in America, what Rosen describe as being contradictions are not treated as such. They are simply our values. We like people who work, produce and get rewarded for the labor. We also like mothers and families. We love the wholesome and the salacious in equal measure. The fact we can see and hear all of this from one person is remarkable, and a uniquely American success story.

To read more, visit Tmagazine.

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