Beyoncé Redefines Perfection, Sex, and Flawlessness

17 Jan

Beyoncé has been constantly working toward perfection her entire life. She reminds the listener of this frequently over the course of her newest album, BEYONCÉ, with audio clips from her youth, when she competed in pageants and talent shows. She uses this device best as the prelude to “Flawless,” a reworked and expanded version of a song she released earlier this year as “Bow Down/I Been On.” In just four minutes, “Flawless” shifts from a Hit-Boy produced banger celebrating her competitive drive, to an excerpt from a TED Talk by Nigerian feminist writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie about how society places limits on the ambitions of women, to a final sequence in which Bey both mocks the idea of effortless beauty and exhorts her female fans to love the way they look.

“I woke up like this, I woke up like this,” she sings with a wink just before delivering the line, “We flawless, ladies tell ‘em!” with zero irony whatsoever. There are a lot of ideas packed into this relatively brief song, and they don’t all add up, but the conflicts in “Flawless” inform everything else on the album.

BEYONCÉ is the work of an artist who is doing her best to make sense of her role as a feminist pop icon, and working out a way to have a positive influence on culture without apologizing for or disowning anything she’s ever done. She’s putting the idea of flawlessness in scare quotes, and attempting to demystify herself so fans can recalibrate their expectations for themselves and envision a form of perfection that’s within their reach.

She’s asking women to be beautiful on their terms, and for themselves. She’s framing ambition and the will to succeed as a greater virtue than simply seeking the attention of men. She’s declaring that women should not be ashamed of loving sex, and asserting that they should be as open about their desires as men. These ideas have always been big part of Beyoncé’s music, but “Flawless” revises and clarifies those thoughts. BEYONCÉ at large is a manifesto in the form of a stylish, creatively adventurous, and resolutely adult R&B record.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: