So this new Beyonce track "Bow Down" has surfaced and the internet is buzzing with reviews, rants, and raves alike. Aside from the fact that Beyonce does very little actual singing on the track, there are a few reasons the track just doesn't work.
To begin with, there have been plenty of arguments bandied about in recent years regarding whether or not to consider Beyonce a firmly established feminist voice. If there was any doubt about her qualification as the voice of empowerment for a generation of
black women who so desperately need uplifting in the media, this track settles the whole matter. Absolutely not.
"I know when you were little girls
you dreamt of being in my world
Don't forget it, Don't forget it
Bow down bitches
I took some time to live my life
but don't think I'm just his little wife
Don't get it twisted, Get it Twisted
This my shit
Bow Down Bitches"
And there you have it. The moment Beyonce invokes the pejorative "Bitch," she undermines whatever work she previously has done to establish herself as the voice of women's empowerment. Perhaps she forgot that the very women she sings to/for have been engaged in discussions for years over whether or not "bitch," can ever qualify as a harmless term of endearment among women working to achieve gender solidarity. It was, is, and will always be reductive, insulting, and harmful.
Of course the case can be made that she is not necessarily referring to women as bitches, after all, men can be bitches too. But let's be honest ... she's NOT in competition with ANY male entertainers. And the cadre of critics who bash her most vehemently are NOT men. Moreover, even though she has attempted to gender-switch on us through her references to herself as "King" Bey, no one is ignorant of the fact that she is most readily compared to and pitted against other female R&B singers. The salient question raised here remains "Who's Beyonce's "bitch?" Wendy? Keri? Keyshia? Letoya? The news outlets who dogged her post-inauguration? Take your pick I guess.
We get it, she receives a tremendous amount of flack for being insanely successful (who else sells out concerts in 15 minutes?), talented, and wealthy. She also at times is reasonably frustrated by the fact that people regularly deny her humanity and attack her without consideration of the fact that she too is a woman who feels. But what happened to the notion that the best revenge is continued success. This kind of self-aware superiority is just what the doctor ordered to murk a fan base and add fuel to the already highly stoked fire where those who despise her await the opportunity to burn her at the stake.
She vaguely returns to her desire to be a feminist voice by asserting that she is not simply Jay-Z's "little wife," but I'm not sure that's enough to undo the damage already established by the hurling of the caustic "Bitch" lyric. I'm sure the video will be AMAZING ... as they usually are. But is it enough to compensate for her tossing humility to the wind?
There will likely be an immense amount of undaunted fans who will booty-pop all over the place to this track with no regard whatsoever for the lyrics. But for the critically thinking minority, "Bow Down" raises all kinds of red flags. Releasing this track on the heels of her Life is But a Dream HBO special—an effort to humanize herself in the public eye—was bad choice. All "Bow Down" does is make the brash statement that Beyonce has successfully reached a point in her career where she simply "DGAF." And that's fine. Reinvention is fine too. Art, creativity, and edginess, are all FINE. But why work so hard to build something, a legacy, only to tear it down with a track that's mediocre at best. I will assume this is a marketing strategy—after all, everyone HATED "Run the World" when it first hit radio—but the follow-up better be outstanding.
I'd like to give her a pass, but I'm forced to ask ... is this the same black-laced Beyonce we just saw lip-syncing the national anthem and pecking the President's cheek complete with wind machines, flair for the dramatic, and an invisible hip-hop royalty tiara? Is this Chelly O's "goodest" girlfriend and Sasha and Malia's mentor? Is this the voice of the same woman who works so hard at concerts to uplift women who are already beaten down by a misogynistic society that hates them? Me thinks not. The discursive cache this song finds itself situated in is so far to the left (to the left) from everything we thought her career was really about. (And it pains me to say this).
As an artist, freedom of expression is everything. But there are some things you create for your own catharsis and don't necessarily need or choose to share—they are yours.
My only hope is that this track is not a sign of things to come where the rest of the album is concerned. If so, we're in for bumpy ride down with Mrs. Carter.
With all that said, however, I know ... somehow she's gonna make you love it.