Beyonce in Montreal - Photo courtesy Nat Ch Villa via Wikimedia Commons (http://bit.ly/1bLtbNL)

Beyonce in Montreal – Photo courtesy Nat Ch Villa via Wikimedia Commons (http://bit.ly/1bLtbNL)

Because she is the most amazing human specimen ever to walk the earth, Beyoncé dropped an entire album yesterday with no warning, marketing, or pre-sale hype. “Beyoncé” is her fifth solo LP, including collaborations with Drake, Michelle Williams, and Frank Ocean, among others. Bey being Bey, this isn’t just any old album. “Beyoncè” is a “visual album:”  for each song, there is an accompanying video released simultaneously.

The album doesn’t bring much new in terms of Bey’s sound–electro-synth R&B dominates, and it is (mostly) eminently danceable. The videos are lavish in detail, celebrating the globetrotting lifestyle for which she and her husband, who I hear is also a singer, have become famous. The real coup here is the surprise of the album’s quick drop, though it remains to be seen how the lack of marketing will treat Queen Bey.

But one of the songs is especially worth listening to/watching. “Pretty Hurts” is a powerful ballad and an even better video, with Beyoncé acting as a beauty pageant competitor: getting her (already tiny) waist measured, getting snide glances from other women, plastering a wide smile onto her face as she is judged relentlessly. The hook addresses the critical way women are treated in the entertainment industry, an especially grievous state of affairs when faiths of all kinds tell us that people have inherent dignity, of the kind that cannot be made stronger or weaker by the color of our skin or the size of our jeans:

Pretty hurts
Shine the light on whatever’s worse
Perfection is the disease of a nation
Pretty hurts
Shine the light on whatever’s worse
Tryna fix something
But you can’t fix what you can’t see
It’s the soul that needs the surgery

The question is, of course, how much irony there is in Beyoncé, an internationally known superstar (and beautiful to boot, with her own team of stylists and trainers) singing about the pains of being beautiful. On the one hand, she would know better than most other women the harrowing demands of the entertainment industry and the general public. On the other, by existing as a women who is regularly glammed-up for her shows and album, a woman whose image is more tightly controlled than Fort Knox, is she just contributing to the problem of valuing how things look rather than the state of the soul? Those of us who love her will have to make up our minds–but we’ll be listening.

 

 

Categories: Beliefs

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Laura Turner

Laura Turner

Laura Turner is a writer and editor living in San Francisco. In addition to being a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s “Her.meneutics” blog, she has also written for publications such as Books & Culture and The Bold Italic. She is interested in the intersection of church and culture.

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