Beyonce, Trina, Lil Kim and now Mrs. Obama

So I watched the “Video Phone” video yesterday. I don’t quite yet know what a “videophone” is, but maybe that’s just a sign of me aging my way out of pop culture. I’m fine with that.

And I’m not going into the Gaga vs. Beyonce debate because I think it’s clear to anyone with eyes that Gaga didn’t bring it. And while the video was a good look exposure-wise for her, artistically it was a fail.

Here’s what I do wonder though: what exactly is the difference between Bey, Lil Kim, and say, Trina? Yes, Bey sings, they rap. She can dance too and does her own beats and production whereas it’s still a big question mark if Trina and Kim even write their own lyrics. I fully acknowledge all of Bey’s talents. But content-wise, where’s the difference? Bey’s lyrics are just as materialistic, her video and stage outfits are just as scanty, and she spreads and P-pops it just as good as (if not more and better) than both Kim and Trina in their heyday.

So I’m confused. Is it that Bey cleans up nice for awards shows? That she comes from a two-parent home? That she’s from the ‘burbs? That she manages to be raunchy without cursing? That she’s light-brite and generally assessed as pretty? (just throwing ideas out there.) That she mixes her catalogue of raunch in with empowerment anthems? That she hides her raunchiest side behind an alter-ego, Sasha Fierce so it seems like it’s not really her? (Pause. You have no idea how disturbing I find it that a alleged 28 year old woman feels compelled to express her sexuality solely as a stage persona or an alter ego of said stage persona.) I’m really, really curious where the distinction lies.

And so we’re clear, this isn’t me trying to diss Bey. I’m not a hardcore Bey Bey fan, but I’ve got enough on my iPod to do a train ride to work and a three-mile run without doubling up. And though I don’t like all the content she puts out (frankly her film career is mediocre at best), I do respect a woman’s hustle and grind. I am, however, a hardcore Lil Kim fan (no pun) and can recite her debut album line for line. This is not me trying to bring Bey down, more like bringing Kim up, and Trina too, by extension.

I threw the question out on Twitter last night and expected to be stoned got the following thoughtful responses:

[Bey’s] no bird, but she is their patron saint! The next tour should be called “Beyonce Live: Where Chickenheads Come Home To Roost”

She has better marketing, and a good team behind her

She has a “voice” that will always get her a pass

I think Bey is a little more subtle in her lyrics than Kim/Trina. No vulgarity. But she is def suggestive.

think bc Bey has other stuff goin on, she’s got fierce mgmt & she works that ‘shy & so blessed’ routine well in interviews. plus every1 knows the whole fam she comes from whereas kim and trina come off as hood chicks.

Actually, she does more poppin than all combined, but she also doesn’t talk about f’ing “while her period on” (Trina) or blowjobs

Ok. But like how do you get away with lyrics like:

you like it when i shake it

shawty on a mission

wat yo name is

what you want me naked

if you liking this position

you can tape it

on yo video phone

and not be called a bird. Trina and Kim would be torn to bits for rapping about sex on tape, and they were hardly held up as role models. Let’s also keep in mind that 9/10 of Bey songs about men are for “soliders” ie, dudes with their pants sagging low and in white tees. Picture Wayne (who was in the “Solider”video), or better, Jay… but in his dealing days, ‘cause 9/10 when you see him now he’s in thong sandals on the beach or grown man sweaters around New York or Londontown. What kind of occupations to dudes you know have if they still wear white tees and sagging pants post-college?


And Bey’s just as materialistic as Kim and Trina as we can see from the “Upgrade You Lyrics”

Audemars Piguet watch

Dimples in ya necktie

Hermes briefcase

Cartier top clips

Silk lined blazers

Diamond creamed facials

VVS cuff links

6 star pent suites

And while she may not curse, she’s just as raunchy. Recite any double entendre on “Ego” and get back to me.

Maybe it’s because she started out pretty wholesome—despite the barely-there bedazzled “costumes.” I mean there was “Independent Women,” “Survivor,” “Me Myself and I” (I’m just gonna overlook “Bills, Bills, Bills,” an entire song about a man picking up the tab, for the sake of my argument.) There was also that song that I can’t remember the title to, but with lyrics, “girl, go put some clothes on, you nasty…” (Oh, the irony!)

But that’s evolved, into every other single being say… “ Freakum Dress” where women are encouraged to “spin it all around and then take it to the ground.” Or maybe we can refer to, “Ring the Alarm,” where instead of leaving a cheating lover, Bey decides to stay, referencing and recounting all the expensive and name-brand gifts she’ll be missing out on if she bounces. If that doesn’t sound like a bird anthem or the blueprint to a Kim or Trina verse or two, I don’t know what does.

Maybe it’s that she caters to the fellas. Let’s face it, a lot of backlash to Kim and Trina was because they cared too much about getting theirs. And they did it with a bravado that mirrored a man’s. Trina’s openeing verse on “Da Baddest Bitch” lays it all out:

All eyes on your riches

No time for the little dicks

You see the bigger the dick

The bigger the bank, the bigger the Benz

The better the chance to get close to his rich friends

Same goes for Kim’s explicit expectation on “Big Momma”:

that’s how many times I wanna cum, twenty-one

and another one, and another one, and another one

24 karats nigga, that’s when I’m fuckin wit’ the average nigga

Both of these women have a high expectation in exchange for their services— money, an orgasm, something. Neither of these women have a “do your business and be done” situation like Mister and Ceilie in The Color Purple, or say Beyonce in “Cater to You” when she croons:

When you come home late tap me on my shoulder, I’ll roll over

Baby I heard you, I’m here to serve you

If it’s love you need to give it is my joy

All I want to do, is cater to you boy

Bar after bar she goes on and on about what she’s willing to do for her man (“because what she won’t “another woman is willing…”) and never, not once, asks for anything in return.

Is that it? Men are on board with her, so women fall in line?

I really don’t get it. I mean Kim wore next to nothing on stage, and was damn near stoned. Like Amber Rose, Trina got called all manner of “sluts” and “whores” for her all –Spandex, all the time get ups. But Bey shows up to sing Ava Maria, the “Hail Mary” of Catholic songs, in a leotard and veil and it’s like *crickets” from everyone, including the Catholic church. She shows up at the European Music Awards wearing red lingerie and matching garters on stage and no one bats an eye. A few years back, she gave Terrance Howard a lap dance on the stage for the BET Awards and barely a peep from anyone.

Is Bey benefitting from our relatively high shock-value, a bar raised by the antics of Lil Kim and Trina, so that she can do exactly what they did and not inspire the same level of outrage? Or is there something more to it than that?

I’m honestly confused.

Now…..maybe you’ve heard about the ongoing love fest between Michelle Obama and pop star Beyoncé Knowles. Their public girl crush stems back to at least April 11, when Beyoncé posted an image on her blog of a handwritten note, fawning all over the first lady. “Michelle, is the ultimate example of a truly strong African American woman,” Beyoncé wrote. “I am proud to have my daughter grow up in a world where she has people like you, to look up to.”

Mrs. Obama responded in kind via Twitter: “Thank you for the beautiful letter and for being a role model who kids everywhere can look up to. –mo”

Really? That raised my arched brows, but I assumed FLOTUS was being extraordinarily gracious after Beyoncé’s flattering open letter. I mean, Bey did lend celeb power to Mrs. O’s Let’s Move! initiative; she belted out Etta James’ “At Last” for the Obamas’ inaugural dance; and she and her husband, Jay-Z, have been fundraising for President Obama’s re-election campaign.

FLOTUS and Bey’s latest round of gushing began when Mrs. Obama told People magazine last week that if there was anyone in the world she would trade places with, it would be Beyoncé. On Tuesday she was at it again. While promoting her new book, American Grown, on Good Morning America, she fawned over Bey once more. “I love her to death,” said Mrs. Obama, a bona fide role model.

This love fest has gone too far for my liking. I’m no one (and neither are you) to police the first lady’s musical tastes, but this continued public endorsement of Houston’s Finest rubs me the wrong way. I am not a Bey hater, but I am an observant onlooker.

By all accounts Bey is humble and hardworking, and I know firsthand that she puts on one helluva stage show. She sings well. She’s rich and beautiful, and her jet-set lifestyle seems fabulous from the outside looking in. Beyoncé is undeniably talented. But … she is also several things I would never want a young girl to aspire to or emulate.

She is only slightly more role model-esque than three of the four reality stars ironically gracing the current cover of Vibe. Let’s keep it funky, folks: Beyoncé’s talent — the one that’s made her a multimillionaire and a household name — is the ability to habitually line-step on the Madonna-whore dichotomy. That is to say, she has mastered the art of moving her tush like a stripper and her hips like a porn star, and she still manages to be perceived as a lady and some sort of feminist. Women who have done the same or less have faced more criticism.

Her lyrics fluctuate between empowerment lite and sending women nearly back to the June Cleaver dark ages. For every “Me, Myself and I,” “Irreplaceable” or “Love on Top,” there are songs like “Cater 2 U,” where Bey (during her Destiny’s Child days) does everything for her man, from untying his shoestrings to offering a manicure.

There’s also “Run the World (Girls),” which sounds pro-woman at first, but the lyrics, combined with the video, seem to say that a woman’s real power lies in her ability to persuade a man to action by enticing him with what lies between her thick thighs. (She undercuts the come-on slightly by saying, “F–k you, pay me.”) And then there’s “Ring the Alarm,” which is pure Birdism 101. Bey sing-shouts in her special way about not leaving a cheating man because she doesn’t want to lose (or have another woman gain) access to expensive material goods purchased by her significant other.

Consider a few of Beyoncé’s performances/publicity stunts (and I’m scratching the surface here), like the time she sang “Ave Maria” at the 2009 BET Awards while scantily clad in an outfit from Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” days. Or the entire year she didn’t wear pants while promoting B’Day. Or how she showed up to the Met Ball (aka the East Coast Oscars) in May wearing a dress that literally showed her ass.

This is the person with whom the first lady wants to trade places?!

For a woman of Michelle Obama’s caliber to uplift Beyoncé as a role model, and to speak of swapping lives with her, sends a damaging, demeaning and dangerous message to women and girls. It says that despite education and intellect, grace and power, what really matters is our looks, our willingness to submit and our ability to swivel our hips to sexually satisfy the opposite sex. We hear that message loud and clear every time a reality show airs. We don’t need to hear it from our first lady, too.


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