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What Can We Learn From Beyonce’s Bottom?
By Aaron Minsky a.k.a. Von Cello
(more articles from this author)
2005-02-14
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Last year, after that famous incident at the Super Bowl, I wrote an article titled, “What Can We Learn From Janet Jackson’s Breast?”. In that article I spoke about the sexual history of rock performance; how the sexual emphasis started with Elvis and then grew and grew as each generation pushed the envelope further and further, until finally Ms. Jackson opened the envelope: baring her breast on television during a day time, family entertainment event! While I did not take a position on the morality of her display, I did question this trend of mixing sex and music, and wondered when musicianship would again be admired.

It has been a year since then, and I am sorry to bring you this shocking news: sex still sells! Violence also sells. But now the trend seems to be the mixing of sex and violence. In fact, sex and violence are now so mixed up it is hard to tell the difference.

Of course, we have all seen the videos of gangster type guys in hot tubs surround by nameless girls in bikinis fawning all over them. We have also seen the scenes in clubs where young men and women, looking like updated characters out of “Guys and Dolls,” dance in a tough way. Yet the trend has gone further.

I just saw the video for the new song “Soldier” performed by Destiny’s Child, the group that features the young, talented, and sexually provocative Beyonce Knowles. In the video, Beyonce and her female band mates claim to be looking for a “soldier.” A soldier, by their definition, appears to be a gang member. They claim that they want to have sex with just such a person. Here are the lyrics of the chorus:

If his status ain't hood
I ain't checkin for him
Betta be street if he lookin' at me
I need a soldier
That ain't scared to stand up for me
Known to carry big things
If you know what I mean

Now, I don’t pretend to know what she means when she says that this man must “carry big things,” but she seems to be referring to weapons. When she says his status must be “hood,” that means he must be from a poor neighborhood, and when she says he “better be street,” that means that he must be one who spends a lot of time on the street. In other words, he couldn’t be a doctor or a lawyer, or anyone with an office job. He has to be someone who basically makes his living on “the street.” In other words, a criminal. This is further emphasized in the second part of the chorus:

If his status ain't hood
I ain't checkin' for him
Betta be street if he lookin' at me
I need a soldier
That ain't scared to stand up for me
Gotta get dough
And he betta be street

As you can see, one of the requirements that these sexy young girls have for a man is that he “Gotta get dough.” And they are not talking about someone in the bakery business. They want a guy who can bring them cold, hard, cash. And again, it cannot be from a legitimate business, because “he betta be street.”

Let’s also consider the language here. First of all, we must realize that the ladies of Destiny’s Child are all well educated and extremely wealthy. Beyonce came from a family that was anything but “street.” Her father had the intelligence and business acumen to become the manager of her extremely successful group. Her mother had the sophisticated fashion sense to be able to create the costumes for the girls. This is not your stereotypical “ghetto family,” yet look at the words sung by Ms. Knowles and company:

I know some soldiers in here (Where they at, where they at)
They wanna take care of me (Where they at)
I know some soldiers in here (Where they at, where they at)
Don't mind takin one for me (Where they at)
I know some soldiers in here (Where they at, where they at)
They wanna spend that on me (Where they at)
I know some soldiers in here (Where they at, where they at)
Wouldn't mind puttin' that on me (Where they at)

“Where they at”? Are we to believe that someone of Beyonce’s privileged background really says, “Where they at”? Are we to believe that she really wants a guy who will “take one” (ex. a bullet) for her? Are we to believe that she sees gangsters on the street and “wouldn’t mind puttin’ that” on her? In other words, she would like to have sex with some poor gang member she just eyed on the street?

Could you imagine the outcry if a wealthy, white woman came out with a song using these kind of phrases, “Homie in the Dickies, in my zone tonight”, “Oh he lookin' good, and he talkin' right”? Are we to believe that this is how Beyonce talks when she is on a photo shoot for a top fashion magazine, or when she is in the studio making recordings at $500 per hour, or when she is dining in Beverly Hills at the finest restaurants in town? What we are really seeing is a group of very rich people of color, pretending to be poor people from high crime neighborhoods, where a girl might actually need a tough guy to protect her from the other gangsters in the area. What we are seeing is a total fabrication! It is a new type of Hollywood image.

If you think about it, this is nothing new. In the 1940s there were wealthy actors who made a lot of money portraying gangsters; Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney, to name a few. There has always been a fascination with outlaw types in American culture going back to Jesse James, and Billy the Kid. The difference is Bogart and Cagney were actors, and everyone knew they were just acting. In the case of Beyonce, and many other music stars of today, they are often well-to-do kids pretending to be poor gang bangers, and many poor kids look up to them and buy into the image they are portraying.

If I were a poor boy from a tough neighborhood, and I wanted a sexy girl like Beyonce, I would think, “Wow, I guess I better join a gang, because Beyonce says her guy better be street.” I would think, “I have to be able to ‘get dough’, ‘take one’ for a girl, and ‘carry big things’.” Isn’t that the message here?

Isn’t the message also that I should speak in black slang, rather than try to speak in standard English, as Bill Cosby has been telling us to do? I should say, “Where they at,” instead of “Where are they.” I should say, “I aint checkin for him,” instead of, “I am not interested in him.” If I want to have sex with a girl like Beyonce, who walks around with her belly showing and shakes her round bottom in tight designer jeans while draped with fox furs, I had better become a tough gangster who steals money from people, gets into fights over turf, and carries big things (if you know what I mean).

At the end of the video, we see the three Destiny’s Child ladies holding evil looking Doberman Pinchers by tight leashes as the girls pose looking hard, like S&M dominatrixes. The message, once again, is that sex is violent and violence is sex. It is the ultimate merging of the two highest selling things in America. Now you don’t have to go to one place for your sexual imagery and another for your violent imagery, now you can have “two, two, two images in one”!

I hope I don’t sound like I am being judgmental about this new trend. I am merely trying to point out that far from the trend turning back to an interest in great musicians who really play their instruments and can improvise and create imaginative landscapes of sound, the trend of sexuality, and now sex mixed with violence, continues to grow in today’s American popular musical culture.

By now, you might be wondering, “What does any of this have to do with Beyonce’s bottom?” The answer is: NOTHING!

Why are you so interested in Beyonce’s bottom anyway?

For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.


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