Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Artist Vs. Entertainer

The Black Snob did an awesome post on Beyonce. She really touched on the reasons Beyonce's music leaves me cold. Sure she has some feel-good/dance-y jams but I don't prefer her music overall. For me, I like there to be an element of the personal in my music. When a musician really relates to, feels, or experienced the topic in a song, the song is so pure.

Beyonce has a carefully crafted image and she is like a vessel for catchy music. You don't know anything about Beyonce's life; and most of the time there is an absence of personality from her. A repeated theme you hear from Beyonce is that she wants to be an icon, a true entertainer. Most of the true soul icons are there because they struck a chord in fans through their essence, their pain. Beyonce doesn't share any pain to relate to so all of her songs are very superficial and when taken together create a plastic world of female empowerment skewed toward chicken-headville. It's like she tries too hard to be an entertainer and loses the artist part in the process. Also, whoever keeps sending her acting roles needs to be shot, kthnksbye. Anyhoo, here are some excerpts from Snob's post that I liked:

It's not that I don't think Beyonce has inner drama. Everyone does. Everyone has doubt and failings and pain. My argument is that Beyonce does not want you to know of this drama, any real drama, that is. She's closely guarded with an even more tightly guarded image. She is more about being the fantasy of what she thinks you want her to be (cue "Sasha Fierce!") rather than revealing anything of character.

The pain has to be real for the song to have meaning. And that's what separates someone with a wonderful voice who makes an outstanding pop artist from a true artist.

A true artist brings the pain. Some people say Beyonce wants greatness, hence why she chases those who already have it (see James, Etta). I can't blame her. A lot of us do. This would also explain why at the last few of Grammy Awards she sang with Tina Turner and Prince as if their true measure of pain and "fierce" would rub off by osmosis. She's obviously a hard worker, but no amount of hard work can fake pain. When Prince sang "When Doves Cry" you may not have known what the song was about in 1984. Maybe you still don't. But you know he's broken up over something. A woman. His parents. God. Himself. Ultimately, for me, the song is about obsession. But, sex, Jesus or obsession are good fallback explanations for nearly every Prince song. Turner is the same way. She didn't even write "What's Love Got to Do With It," yet the emotions, the sound, the pain were all Tina's. No amount of wonderful song writing can create that.

I'm not saying Beyonce needs to get in a dysfunctional relationship, be abandoned by her family, pick up a drug habit (or several drug habits), become completely disillusioned by fame and moved to the islands, become a conflicted Christian who went pop or go nutbar on me but the great ones give up some pain. There's really no way around it. Without the pain, you're just a more charming Mariah Carey who can actually dance. Or worse, Janet Jackson with better vocals. Both Mariah and Janet have outstanding pop careers. And if you want to be a wealthy, beloved, popular singer, you're on their heels of catching and surpassing them in sales and accolades. But Whitney, the trainwreck everyone roots for, you will not. Beyonce Knowles can't convince me she knows the blues. It's her only real flaw as a performer. Her kryptonite. But she shouldn't feel bad. It's a pretty common flaw among pop singers.

This makes me want to do a Songs That Make You Feel the Pain post. I think I will! Leave any nominations and thoughts in the comments!

6 jewels of thought:

ChocolateOrchid said...

I read that article. I do feel what they are saying about Beyonce. Don't get me wrong, I like her music for what it is, "booty-shakin' party music". With the exception of, "If I Were A Boy", I totally agree w/Black Snob. It's funny, after I read it I thought about posting on music too. Maybe I still will. Idk, I'm busy w/competition preparations.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's pretty much "substance" versus "shallowness". Sometimes I'm surprised, though, when something I had previously perceived as shallow actually has a lot of substance. And example is America's Next Top Model. I had judged it so harshly when it first came out, but now I'm a true follower of that show, rarely missing a cycle.

I'm not sure if Beyonce could ever surprise me in that way, unless she had some incredible breakthrough in her life and art. So many people lose their individuality and unique message to fame and fortune.

Gem said...

If I Were A Boy is ok lyrically, but it's just so bland. I feel like she is trying to hard to crossover...I feel a different singer could do that song better (apparently somebody has done that song before her anyway)

What competition? I need to stop by your blog for details.

Gem said...

VESPER! I feel the same way about ANTM; I can't stop watching either. Now I have a blog buddy when the new cycle comes back on. I think as long as Beyonce maintains this image and doesn't let her true life shine through at all, there will be no major (or believable) musical breakthroughs.

Desiree said...

I completely agree with you! The songs that really resonate with you, that touch your soul are the ones you remember. Beyonce is slick and superficial, albeit with an amazing voice. Now, Christina Aguilera has an amazing voice and really touches you with her work, and is a true artist in my humble opinion.

Gem said...

I agree about Christina Aguilera. I love her version of A Song For You with Herbie Hancock. Some people think it's overdone, but I really like it.

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