Let me just come out and state the obvious: Beyoncé is a talented superstar, but she is also a trashy performer and contributes to the crudity and vulgarity that permeates today’s cultural scene. In spite of an appearance at President Obama’s second inaugural, which lamentably gave her a respectable aura and a “sort-of-official” stamp of approval, her performance at the Super Bowl is far more typical of her “appeal.” A quick perusal of pictures that have gone viral from her Super Bowl performance show the anger, crudity, and vulgarity of her performance.
I realize we live in different times, but think back to Lena Horn and Ella Fitzgerald to provide evidence of how far today’s performers have fallen from the class that used to be an essential characteristic of singing stars. Beyoncé missed a wonderful opportunity at the Super Bowl to elevate popular culture, that she is capable of showing some of the class, and bring some family-friendly entertainment to the Super Bowl, instead of continuing the downward spiral that is so destructive in popular culture.
Beyoncé has always mixed glamour with her trashy look and her music, which has led to confusion about who exactly she is. On the one hand, she claims to be a Christian, and on the other she is intentionally vulgar in her language and dress. She is praised for her traditional values about sex, relationships, and family; she is a hard worker and is multi-talented. Her defenders claim that she is sexy in a classy, tasteful way. I would argue that they haven’t looked at the pictures very closely.
Obviously, sexy is here to stay, but there is healthy sexuality — that which is naturally exuded — and unhealthy sexuality that is exploitative, flaunting, and deliberately and vulgarly provocative. Case in point: Beyoncé is on the cover of a recent GQ magazine in a provocative pose, wearing the skimpiest of bikini panties and a cut-off t-shirt that exposes as much as it covers.
Beyoncé is beautiful, talented, and blessed with tremendous influence, but like so many others, she is using the excuse of “artistry” as she takes herself and her fans down instead of lifting them up. In her Fall-Winter ad campaign for the House of Deréon, the pop star goes for the “biker chick” look with lots of tattoos, partial nudity, and crude poses. In addition, she joined her mother to launch a kid’s fashion line that spreads the “hooker style” clothing down to toddlers (some reports claim the line was quietly discontinued in December 2012). In some of her videos, Beyoncé uses gutter language and some critics claim that she is too willing to “go with the flow” to seem “with it” and “cool.”
Her sister, Solange Knowles, who is the designer behind many of the styles that made Destiny’s Child singers (Beyoncé’s original singing group and the back-up singers at her Super Bowl performance) so fashionable, is said to be worried about Beyoncé’s descent into the world of “tacky,” “flashy,” and “lowbrow.” So, it is not prudish (to anticipate all the criticism bound to come from this article) to hold higher standards for today’s divas; they owe the public at least a facade of decency.