2016 has not been my favourite year.
Aren't you over this obsession with nationalism and populism? Being herded into simplified positions or towards activism. Where everything gets reduced to us being for or against something. With us or not with us.
We don't seem to have any patience for things that are complicated or nuanced anymore. We're all so angry.
Culturally, 2016 has also been Beyonce's year. Again.
Once upon a time she was the prom haired child of destiny. On the cover of every magazine, beauty personified. Great voice, great look, great mover.
Then she reinvented herself and the game in 2013 with Beyonce.
It's not an easy task to reinvent yourself after so long in the public eye. People are only too ready to remind you of how frumpy you were or how much of a nerd you were before you made yourself over.
I think it was a good move on Bey's part. Musically she really needed to step it up a few gears. And her 2016 release Lemonade has consistently been the year's most acclaimed recording.
In case you haven't noticed, with Beyonce and Lemonade Bey has morphed into a serious artiste. One who doesn't want to pay lip service to issues anymore. Someone who's no longer content to be the L'Oreal gal in pop. Girl's got other things on her mind.
And where in the past her albums featured hubby Jay Z, Lemonade [thankfully] lacked his vocal presence. Even if the idea of him is still all over it.
The takeaway from all of this, and Beyonce's continuation as a serious artist was that Beyonce somehow got 'blacker' [and angrier] this year. Realer thanks to the elevator scene, Superbowl, the baseball bat. The corn rows. Pretty much any moment and any thing in the long play video.
Queen Bey transitioned her sound with Beyonce, but she's solidified her position on things with Lemonade. She's done it by doing what commercial artists have long done. By working with the best and by tapping into social movements that artists strive to claim as their own.
But these feel like ridiculous times.
Times when we suddenly have to be reminded that Black Lives Matter. Times when people are identifying with the old, white guard. When many are not even willing to acknowledge the existence of 'minorities' anymore.
Times when parts of the world are looking to repeal rights so hard fought for.
So when Bey appeared at the Superbowl and paid tribute to the Black Panther movement back in February, the press had a heart attack. If she hadn't already killed off her old L'Oreal persona with Lemonade, she certainly finished the job at the Superbowl.
Beyonce's numbers are impressive. Her album has performed solidly, but not even she is Adele. Adele's not here to ruffle your feathers. But Beyonce suddenly is and that has pissed a lot of people off.
But any backlash to Beyonce's activist position in 2016 isn't really about her suddenly thinking she's black. It's a sign of how the usual suspects [and now parts of the disenchanted society] feel like we're in a rickety boat. A boat whose position is so precarious that any sign of rocking will force us all to capsize.
The real take out? Beyonce has slayed this year because mainstream artists have been playing it safe for years. And for all the activism, Beyonce's album was solid musically, and breathtaking at a visual level. Beyond that, well her fans are more likely to be caught up in who Becky with the good hair is to worry too much about the message Beyonce is trying to send.
It's 2016. They need a simple, clear position and not much more, after all.
Is it just me or did Rudy Giuliani have a lobotomy at some undisclosed time in the past?
I remember back in the nineties (?) when he was the mayor of New York and kind of like the international template for what a mayor could be. No? Well I tried.
But thank God for the Fox channels so that he can magically appear on it and remind us of how important he is and make sweeping statements.
Hello! How dare you even put yourself in the same sentence of BEYONCE!
Her transformation from prom haired poppet to reigning queen of the world was made complete this weekend when she toppled Madge's record at the VMA awards. They're more important than the Nobel prizes people. And now she's got two more than Veronica.
While I'm at it, I also want to thank God for the Youtube pastors seeing as Beyonce forgot to do so.
They're like the street prophets of the new age but like, so digital.
This one is one of my favourites and not a closet case at all! How dare you!
His credentials for guiding us through his clearly long and complicated life of experiences are unquestionable. And he doesn't even need a cross on his walls. He has Alaskan malamutes instead! I wonder if he has one of those full moon wolf t-shirts too. Forget his incorrect citations of song titles and poor contextual references to the glory that is Beyonce. The facts are not what he's about. He's about getting Sasha fierce with everybody that is blocking the truth and the light.
So in addition to saying thanks to Fox news, I want to thank God for Youtube, because without it, we wouldn't be reminded that Beyonce is not only the newly crowned VMA queen, but she has also eclipsed Madge as the illuminati's queen and of course, Satan's favourite Messiah.
Thank you Vigilant Christian!
You've proved to me that the world just keeps getting better and that information is power even if I have the urge to watch a Joanne the Scammer video after seeing you.
In the space of 72 hours, Queen B has reconquered the lands.
But she's no Khaleesi you guys. She's no queen of nothing.
Two years ago her hush hush album/video package took the world by storm. She didn't need any trumpeting, any fan fare, or a militia to bring everybody to attention. By the time she quietly popped it into the Itunes store and made herself a cuppa, it was already world news and a must have.
This is a viral age. Cultural offerings spread faster than you can say Ebola or Zika these days.
And few people know how to keep a lid on what they're doing until the very last moment like Queen Bey does. (I'm looking at you Madge.)
On her last major outing, Queen B tried to take on her past.
Her beauty queen past. Or as an amazingly talented friend of mine once said - her pageant pop past.
Problem is, there's usually not that much novelty or grit on offer when a good girl goes bad when the drama is all based on being upset about being, you know, beautiful, talented, rich, successful and wanting to do something artsy and, serious to make up for it. To do it well, you need to add something else into the mix. And the best, most proven way to do this is to bring sex into the mix. That blueprint has proven almost fool proof (I'm looking at you again Madge).
So, some of the best moments that came out of Beyonce were when that pageant hair really got messed up, QB got down and started riding surfborts and messing up Warhols with Jay Z.
Drunk In Love in my books was the best artifact that from that period, along with the Martha Graeme inspired Mine which, not coincidentally, didn't make anywhere near the same kind of impact as DIL despite it being a Drake collab.
Beyonce was a leap by her standards. An attempt to lend some artistry to a career that was already going great guns, but that was all highlights and foils. In a way it was a reinvention of sorts: the perfection of her past and the first step towards trying to bring the worlds of credibility and commerce together again.
If you've any doubt that Queen B is on a mission, we need look no further into the past than this last weekend, in which the duality of her current state of mind as reigning pop queen have been put back on show for everyone to see.
On Saturday, and out of the blue, Beyonce dropped the video for Formation. A dark, angry and empowering anti anthem- anti in the sense that it's not so much a sing a long as it as a war call. She came to slay, bitches.
What she has delivered is a kind of Beyonce-ised, blistering take on the outrage that is palpable in America: on being a woman, on being black, on being marginalised in an already fractured, wounded society. She has essentially dived into a pool that is swirling with tensions powered by the Black Lives Matter movement and the growing sense of frustration that is ever more palpable.
She has copped some flak for allegedly appropriating documentary imagery (the official line is that the footage wasn't owned by the film makers, and had been licensed for use by a third party which did own the rights) but beyond the rally call, she has also gotten people all hot and bothered again because of references to being, um, jammed hard and taking her man to Red Lobster as a thank you.
References like the Red Lobster and the sassy take on Hot Sauce work on the same level as what made Drunk In Love so powerful. That is the idea of America's good girl not just getting nasty, but real nasty.
But what makes Formation so interesting is that its get down and get nasty element isn't it's be all and end all like it was in Drunk In Love. It works better than any of QB's other forays into pop activism because it's more layered than anything else she has done before. She has essentially thrown down the gauntlet to those who don't see her as being layered and complex enough to have an opinion about what's going on around her, and what she's being subjected to. And that's an idea that took almost a decade to enter into her work, that she really only began fighting for with her fifth studio album.
The other surprising aspect to this past weekend is that, in performing at the Superbowl, she took Formation to the masses.
Usually, the Superbowl half time show is all about safety, familiarity and a showbiz excess. It had all that in the names it attracted - Bruno Mars and B have delivered it some of its highest ever ratings in the past - and the ensemble additions of Lady Gaga and Coldplay meant that every conceivable base was being covered. But rather than go in with a hits mentality, she brought her new, just dropped conversation starter to the stadiums and to television screens the world over. In doing that, she guaranteed that we'd be talking about her new song, the fact that she's finally building on her previous work rather than chasing the easy hits, and, oh, yes, conveniently announcing to the world that she's going back on the road.
All in the lightning time span of six albums and three minutes.
That is called bringing it home.
Dave Di Vito
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Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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