I admit it; I don’t like Beyoncé. I don’t like that when I see her in Vogue none of the clothes they put her in seem to work to her body or present any form of personality. I don’t like her exhausting need for perfection, and I especially don’t like that I have to get a special keyboard out just to get that pesky accent at the end of her name right.
When I get pulled into bad thoughts of Beyonce, I think about her most in the context of a student and a guidance counselor sitting down in a meeting neither one of them wanted to have. The counselor asking, “So what would you like to do when you grow up, B!?” (she would call her B to keep the tone light), and Beyoncé would respond, “I don’t know . . . I like dancing, and . . . I like singing . . . and I like acting! Can I do that?” The counselor, thrilled, would say: “Great! Of course you can! Why don’t you pursue one of those interests and see what you like, or how it goes.”
So Beyoncé would… All of them. She would grow up to have a singing career, acting career, and dancing career, and even a (not so great, and a little bit too posey) modeling career. Living the dream (girls)! And everyone would be happy.
The problem lies, however, in Beyoncé’s inability to focus herself. When that counselor said to Beyoncé to “pursue one” career, she didn’t. She went and did it all, to varying effectiveness. Enough at least to win 17 Grammys, 118 million records, and be included as one of Time magazine’s 100 Influential People this year.
There’s nothing wrong with being good at everything, which we can definitely admit is the case for Beyoncé. That takes work, and to be mad at Beyoncé for “doing it all” (beyond the obvious jealousy factor) would be just plain dumb.
But you have to give extra credit to people who show vulnerability; knowledge that they’ve learned something because they’ve struggled, regrets, or some form of difficult life lessons. When Katy Perry reveals to Vogue that her marriage with Russell Brand was difficult, or when we follow the struggles of Rihanna and Chris Brown, we get excited what their next work will be, because we know difficult situations usually stem great, or at least interesting, art and music.
But when we have an artist who never seems to have a form of progression that doesn’t feel superficial or forced, how are we supposed to be excited for what they do next? Or rather, what can they do when nothing is a struggle for them? How can they feel a connection to what they’re singing if we don’t even know how to connect it back to them as an individual? The singer works 24/8 to keep up a 24/7 image that everything is perfect.
When you hear a statement from Ne-Yo, who happens to be working on Beyoncé’s fifth studio album, telling the media that B and her team are stuck in the recording process, and saying that her team is “still trying to figure out what they want [the album] to be,” how can you not be a bit worried for Beyoncé?
A 31-year-old woman who has a legendary husband, is friends with the President and the First Lady, and just gave birth to the most important celebrity baby since Suri Cruise (sorry North West) unable to decide where she wants to go with her art. A woman with everything having an identity crisis that we should’ve seen years ago, but got too distracted by the matchy-matchy Destiny’s Child Grammy outfits (glue gun much, Tina?) to notice.
As someone who admits to not liking Beyoncé, I’m not opposed to helping the troubled soul figure out what she should do next. Just a few guidelines to make her new album easier to make. I mean, you got to be having a form of mental crisis when you embark on a world tour about nothing (Seinfeld would even ask “What is this about?”). So here is a few things Beyoncé needs to do to make her next album a success.
First, avoid any form of alter egos (Mrs. Carter, WTF?). Sasha Fierce was fine, but also, so boring! If you’ve read anything above, the last thing Beyoncé needs is another cloak to hide under. She needs to be more vulnerable, more out there! Undo her weave for a second just to remember the sweet sensation of sunlight on her natural hair! You get it. Don’t hide B, we’re right here.
Second, don’t over think it, girl! Don’t think at all, if you can! I once read that her second album, B’Day, was recorded in 2 weeks, right after she did Dreamgirls, and I think that was her most cohesive album. Every song was strong, and the collection worked together. I then read that for 4, she recorded over 400 songs, with only 12 making the final record. That’s a lot of music no one heard. Someone on her team needs to get her to record only one take of something. When she stops having an anxiety attack on the record studio floor, you can tell her you didn’t really mean it, but at least incept the idea into her, let her know it’ll be okay. I think she can take it.
And third, and most important, don’t record something just because you think it’s pretty, or it’ll be a hit. Record something you like. When I watched the recording process for 4 on YouTube, she let her team rank some of the final cuts to narrow down what would be on the record. That’s fine, but sometimes, you need to just take a risk.
Collaborate with new people, put your foot down when you do like something. Give yourself the chance to say in the interviews promoting the record that “we recorded a lot of songs, but I chose everyone that made the final version.” A statement like that makes people listen, and a statement like that means we can form some form of connection to you, Beyoncé. And if it flops, it only “Beyoncé flops.” If it only sells only a cool million, so what?
Make it happen, B. We’re waiting.
–Aristotle Eliopoulos is a writer who lives in Toronto, Canada. When Aristotle isn’t dissecting the Marxist Feminist tones of Tara Reid’s new moombahton song (released exclusively for Jamba Juice in the Philippines), he’s working hard to get the Church of Marissa Cooper off the ground — which is going well so far, but you know how Josh Schwartz can be.