The last three weeks have had social media stung by the Bey-hive bug. Everyone from the hair stylist down at the Salon to the most followed blogger have had their fingers glued to their phone buttons amid this swarm.
Hashtag – 73,000 copies sold in UK, 20,499 in Australia.
Anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account – whether a Beyonce fan or not – is well aware of Lemonade’s trending glory. The entire album debuted on Hot 100 and crowned queen Bey the first woman to chart 12 songs on the Hot 100 all at once. That’s not all – Lemonade was first live-streamed on Jay Z’s Tidal service, which grossed at 115.5 million live streams in the first week of the album’s release.
Seeing that Lemonade also ranks number 3 on I-Tunes South Africa’s 100 best-selling Albums, which is grandiose when looking at it from South African music sales terms. One wonders what could Beyonce be saying to South Africans which has not been said by Brenda Fassie, Simphiwe Dana and Lebo Mathosa.
So – what is it about Lemonade, huh? Tons of things I suppose, but let us focus on a few.
Its narrative is premised on infidelity and what comes after. Healing being the ‘after’. In between these two extremes are strong emotions unpacked, like anger, apathy, and denial with body-paint by Nigerian artist, Laolu Senbanjo. Finally, the character played by Bey reconciles with husband, Jay Z in full view of their daughter, Blue Ivy .
The spectacle has had many concluding that there is trouble in the Carter paradise – an expected assumption be the myth obsessed bubble of social media – and that Beyonce has had enough of Jay Z’s cheating.
But, SA actress and musician, Masello Motana, is not buying this sentimental analysis. She took to Facebook to write, “I am wary of narratives that portray receiving crap in relationships as strength. What is for sure is the dollars counted by Jay Z‘s Tidal. Clever coupe shame. I can just imagine the team brainstorm; “nah Bey, we have to tap into civilian insecurities. People will get tired of the glam stuff.“”
Are these PR somersaults by Bey and co. to bump the cheese up for the Carter empire? Where is the line drawn?
Writer, Andrew Miller puts it bluntly, “the algorithm will always feed you more of what you already like/think/believe,” he explained. We reinforce self conceived myths with every like, share and hashtag.
Video created by Africa Is A Country; Shot & edited by Tseliso Monaheng, interview conducted by Kagiso Mnisi
Matt Walsh also puts it succinctly, “Beyonce is more a brand than a person. The lady herself is a person, but what’s presented to the world is a carefully constructed and marketed product. It’s a narrative, a story, a walking and talking fantasy novel for girls. I don’t know how much of the final manuscript is Beyonce’s brainchild and how much comes from the team of people around her, but rest assured that everything we see is manufactured.”
With Motana, Miller and Walsh in mind – a business woman would ask, ‘So what? – Isn’t art a business? Doesn’t everyone carefully curate any content they put out there for fiscal gain?’
These are valid questions, because firstly, Beyonce never made an announcement that the stories in the songs are factual or fictitious. Secondly, at the heart of an outcry about how art is trivialised, isn’t her business approach progressive? Thirdly, where do we draw the line between art and business?
On the one hand, our response to pop-culture is always predictable. For instance, the harsh criticism that is all negative and views the lyricism of Beyonce as all negative misses objectivity too. The song, “Daddy’s Lessons” sees Beyonce celebrate the role of a black father figure. Furthermore, there are incalculable collaborations she makes with strong black women, which makes for good aesthetic imagery for blackness.
Tidal is a black-owned company in USA owned by a black man from the “projects”, so the dollars they must be counting are not an awful thing. They are a result of hard work.
On the other hand, this sensational era often subjects the consumer to mediocrity, whereby art vs fame dynamic gets sticky. More often than not, the intent of it all is to feed egos and generally insults the intelligence of the receiver.
The same can be said about the Beyhive; Art is not your claim to escapism. Were we not inspired by Shire in our own poems before Lemonade?
Society generally battles to make sense of the stories behind the story. That we don’t give equal currency to a Somali poet and some visuals by a Nigerian artist behind Lemonade as we do the main star is sad. And, frankly, the fact that it takes American figures such as Beyonce to remind us of these long standing stories, indicates the worrying willingness to be duped by any kind of PR work.