File this under #GuiltyPleasures.
I became totally enamored of Destiny’s Child back when Wyclef was closer to relevance and I halfway believed a singing career a la Mariah Carey or Lauryn Hill was in my future. I could sing a little bit, despite awful stage fright, so the yearning, sticky-sweet ballads of my generation were right up my alley. I was as likely to jam to Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin as I was to try to reach all of the high notes of Whitney Houston or Rachelle Ferrell.
As much as I love soul, R&B and gospel, there’s something about pop music from the 1990s, particularly, that inspires a deep nostalgia that I’m not yet comfortable with entirely. I don’t want to say that Beyoncé is the Diana Ross of my generation, but the glamour, the talent and the iconography are all there. It’s likely that “Single Ladies” tipped her into the pop artist stratosphere, but maybe she was going to be that famous anyway because she’s just that talented.
Why is she always so naked? Why is she telling girls that we run the world when, clearly, there’s still so much misogyny in the world? What kind of message does our love for Beyoncé send to little girls who can’t live up to the standard of beauty that Beyoncé seems to set?
I don’t have answers for any of those questions. And I have written defenses of Beyoncé in the past, so I won’t go back into it. But the reason she’s become so popular is that there aren’t many singular black female figures in popular culture (not just those who are unmarried, since Mr. Carter put a ring on it a while ago) who seem to “have it all” – beauty, brains, a loving partnership and a sense of self outside of that partnership. For me, Beyoncé’s confidence and self-possession counterbalances the hypersexual sultry stuff.
There isn’t anywhere in our culture where women don’t get mixed messages about women, independence and relationships. I don’t think it’s fair that Beyoncé is the symbol of our angst about not committed to chastity or promiscuity. I love that she uses what she has to get what she wants; that’s what I aspire to do.
Here are some of my favorites.
Upgrade U: I know the feminists among us will pretend that we didn’t like this song, but I’ll just come out and admit that I loved it. I love it still.
Diva: I was inspired to write an essay about my short, failed attempt at being a rapper for an anthology when I heard this one.
Independent Women Part 1: Wow, it makes me feel old that this was 12 years ago. But whatever. I like the remix better, though.
Irreplaceable: Every woman who has had to, um, put someone out loves this song. It’s just a given.
Best Thing I Never Had: Honestly, I hated this song when I first heard it. But it resonated with me for a dozen reasons when I started listening to Beyonce 4 again recently.
What’s your favorite Single Lady music? I’m a Keri Hilson fan, too. We’ll get to her in a minute.