Schooled by Beyoncé

There comes a time in every person’s life (yes even the boys) when you realise that you will never EVER be Beyoncé. It’s a difficult realisation, but you know, you just pick yourself up and keep on keeping on. But then, she releases ANOTHER album and you remember how clever and in control she is and it makes you sick.

I don’t love everything that she puts out, but I respect it. You know? Rhianna does it and it’s dirty and gross. Miley does it and it’s lame and try hard. Beyoncé does it and it somehow makes sense. Maybe because she’s older and wiser and she’s earned it? How does she do that? How does she have so much control over the way we consume her image?

Tell me your secrets woman!

We’re all so cynical about the celebrity machine, and so we should be, but I don’t know anyone who is cynical about Beyoncé. I’d venture to say she’d beat Oprah in a popularity contest. And Oprah gave people houses and cars and schools in Africa and stuff.

Is it talent? Is it be honesty? Is it privacy that allows for a bit of mystery? Is it self-respect?

Maybe maybe maybe. But a couple of weeks ago, as I watched her five part Youtube clips about the new visual album I was struck by the comment that she’d recorded 80 songs from which she chose 14 to put on the album.

EIGHTY songs. Respect girl. That’s someone who works her backside off for her craft. That’s someone who creates for the joy of it and who is willing to do it in secret until it’s ready. Someone who won’t stop until they have it right.

Beyonce is schooling us in creativity and the lesson is, your gift is very nice, but girl you gotta werk it. The more I learn about creativity through books and articles and practice, the more I am convinced it is far more about hard work than it is about talent. But when you’re passionate about what you do it doesn’t feel like effort. You want to educate yourself in your field, you want to explore the limits of your genre and those of other genres, you want to immerse yourself in the work, you could live in a dark cave for a while with no need for validation because you know that what you’re doing is right. It’s crazy, risky, consuming, but it’s right.

Pop music is one of those cultural expressions that is often sold as a cheap commodity. It takes work to use that medium to tell stories that matter, stories that we want to go back to, and Beyonce, I think you nailed it.

Comment from Minks - 20/02/2014 at

I understand you feel she is a great creative mind and has an amazing drive and work ethic, but have you noticed in her lyrics, particularly drunk in love?? The lyrics referring to domestic violence and abusive men have passed largely unchallenged so far. Personally as a mother of a beautiful young girl, I won’t be encouraging her to listen to her music any longer.
Her performances of late are becoming more racey and less and less about music and dance and more about sex. She is- just as everyone else is. A sell out.

Comment from Aziza - 20/02/2014 at

Hey Minks, I agree with what you’re saying here and like I said I don’t LOVE everything she does, nor do I think it’s great that she’s adding fodder to an already over sexualised society. What I’m impressed with is the way she can produce ANY kind of content and still maintain the impression of integrity and the image of herself as a wife and a mother.

These may just be the projections of herself that she wants us to consume, but then don’t we all strive to project the ideal image of ourselves?

In any case, for a mega celeb who is subject to intense scrutiny, I think she stands out as someone who’s in control and constantly evolving in more organic and interesting ways – rather than the standard “good-girl-goes-bad-turns-into-a-cowboy-turns-into-drug-addled-hobo-turns-into-tough-ball-breaker-turns-into-a-washed-out-hasbeen.”