Over the past couple of years, Beyoncé has done things that normal Americans can’t do. She went to Cuba legally, lip-synced at President Obama’s inauguration, created a new standard for Super Bowl halftime performances, and received MTV’s Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 2014 Video Music Awards, where she had, by far, the most astounding performance.
But the key to Beyoncé’s success is that she keeps figuring out a way to surprise us and subvert the rules of being a celebrity and maintaining a music career.
Beyoncé released her most recent album, BEYONCÉ, on December 13, 2013, to everyone’s surprise. Music releases today are built on leaks and perfectly scheduled publicity tours. This made Beyoncé’s album even more astonishing — we didn’t know it was coming, nothing leaked, and the songs were accompanied by 18 music videos. BEYONCÉ was something we had never seen before.
Unlike her previous albums, BEYONCÉ is a lot more sexually explicit. “I can’t wait till I get home, so you can tear that cherry out,” she sings on a track called “Blow.” “He popped all my buttons and he ripped my blouse / He Monica Lewinsky’d all on my gown,” she purrs on the song “Partition.”
When artists have a major hit like Beyoncé did with BEYONCÉ, they usually go on tour to promote the album. Beyoncé didn’t really perform the new songs on her Mrs. Carter tour (the album was released while she was wrapping up the tour’s second North American leg). And while she is currently performing with her husband, Jay Z, on their On the Run tour, the concert is built on promoting the couple’s history and their relationship, rather than functioning as a typical solo promotional tour.
Beyoncé has made a career of adapting to and dominating the pop music scene. She’s one of the two or maybe three performers who can sing and dance at a top level. But what’s interesting is that there’s a current push for more relatable, less perfect celebrities and pop acts.
Jennifer Lawrence trips, falls, and says awkward things a lot. Katy Perry hasn’t learned how to dance. Rihanna’s pop career directly references her messy relationship with Chris Brown. Jennifer Lopez, who is having a mild resurgence, has never been a strong singer. And Taylor Swift released a music video that highlights her lack of dancing ability.
Can Beyoncé, whose image is built on being perfect, survive in a pop culture climate in which being relatable is rapidly becoming a road to stardom? Well, let’s just say I would never bet against Beyoncé.