Why Kanye Is Right

Today's entry is about a young lady. She had supermodel looks and a couple of hits under her belt, but she had reached the point in her career where she had something to prove. She was in need of a new image and a sound strong enough to prove herself as a viable music superstar. So she worked with the best producers money could buy, cultivated a sexy image, and was ready to unleash her new album and new image on the world. When it was time to pick her first single she picked an infectious and catchy tune with a guest verse from Jay-Z.

It had a hard beat but didn't skimp on the melody. The song was undeniably modern yet undeniably timeless.

This is about Beyonce's "Crazy In Love"

No.

It's about Rihanna's "Umbrella"

Actually it's about both of those songs.

Two very different artists.

Two very similar, yet very different paths to superstardom.

Both Rihanna and Beyonce have long been touted as rivals, but it wasn't until Kanye West said that Rihanna was the best thing to happen to Beyonce that it became official. It was that thing you were thinking but didn't dare say out loud. And you know what... he might be right.

In terms of actual natural musical ability, they are not even on the same level. Beyonce is a world-class performer, with a powerhouse voice who has dominated charts and stages all over the world for the last decade. You can go to any hair salon, nail salon, church choir, or WIC office and round up about 40 girls who can outsing Rihanna on their worst day.

So because of this, I imagine that after years of hardwork, sacrifices, and proving herself as a dynamic performer and artist, it had to be a gigantic slap in the face for Beyonce to wake up one day and find that her biggest competition was a young tart with the vocal range of a dial tone and stage presence of a cardboard box. Beyonce probably thought "Umbrella" was a fluke. But once Rihanna-mania spread she may have chased Jay around the house with a skillet and cursed him for giving Rihanna the song. 6 millions records, and 6 hit singles later, Beyonce must have felt like this was all an awful nightmare. A nightmare where everybody is tone-deaf and blind, and Rihanna is the Queen of Pop.

Unfortunately, it's not a dream. Rihanna may or may not be the Queen of Pop, but if were going off popularity and worldwide success then Rihanna is the certainly the Queen of the Pop Charts. In the digital-download age of 2008 it doesn't take as much effort to have a big hit as it did 10 years ago. And we learned long ago that you don't need strong musical ability to sell records. Milli Vanilli scored 3 #1 hits on the Hot 100. There are a plethora of elements that go into making a hit record. A strong voice helps, but is not required. As a matter of fact the best vocalists in the world won't get the best productions, mainly because most producers don't want big voices drowining out their beats.

Beyonce is the exception to the rule because she can effortlessly switch her style up. Songs like "Speechless" and "Dangerously in Love" are what gets her praise from critics and legends, but songs like "Upgrade U" and "Get Me Bodied" show that she can ride a beat better than most rappers. That versatility is what helped her transition from Destiny's Child's frontwoman to worldwide megastar.

But being a megastar has its costs.

When you are an internationally known pop AND R&B star like Beyonce, there is an unfair expectation to please ALL of those fans. Millions of fans with millions of different tastes and life experiences, all of them wanting to be satisfied. There is always a huge chance that whatever music you put out will disappoint at least some of your fanbase. Beyonce seems to have found the solution. She has sawed herself in half. There's Beyonce, the person, the daughter, the friend, the wife, who loves hard and deep. Then there's Sasha Fierce, the hypersexual, hyperconfident glamazon who could give a fuck about what you think. Two different albums, two different styles, one artist. "If I Were a Boy" seems to be aimed at winning back those pop-inclined and/or overseas fans who left her "B'Day" party a little too early. "Single Ladies" seems to be saying "I have not left my R&B roots, I am not a sellout, please don't boo me at the BET awards."

Rihanna on the other hand didn't really need to hide behind an alter ego to be comfortable with her on-stage sexuality. Her videos and on-stage attire clearly say "My name is Rihanna, I'm not afraid. Look at my crotch."

If it seems as though Rihanna is more daring, bold, or experimental than Beyonce, it's because she didn't have as much to lose. When she released "Good Girl, Gone Bad" there wasn't a "Rihanna Sound" or "Rihanna Image" or anything she was known for. She didn't have a large fan base to appease or disappoint. She was in many ways a brand new artist at a time when people were searching for the Beyonce antidote. Beyonce had already slaughtered the careers of other R&B singers, so we all wondered who would be Beyonce's biggest competition.

Honestly we didn't think the antidote would be Rihanna even though "Umbrella", the video, was a very powerful statement. It was the type of groundbreaking imagery that MTV awards were originally designed for. It belongs in a music video time capsule, representing the best in female music video iconography. Alongside a number of Madonna and Janet videos, and just after "Crazy In Love". Timeless music videos which enhanced the song, re-introduced the artist, and changed the way in which music videos are made and viewed. On the other hand, Umbrella, the song, while also an undeniable classic, demands nothing vocally of Rihanna that could not be delivered by Beyonce, Brandy, Ciara, Ashanti, Christina Milian, or Cassie. And the same can be said of most, if not all of Rihanna's songs. So is it wrong to be a fan of imagery rather than artistry? No. Rihanna is not the first artist to get away with this. And won't be the last. Sometimes it's not at all about the talent. Sometimes it's simply about being the right person, at the right place, at the right time.

After Umbrella blew up MTV deemed Rihanna the "new" queen of R&B. The main problem with that is the fact that up until "Umbrella", Rihanna only had one significant hit on the R&B charts, and she didn't go #1 on the R&B charts until "Take A Bow" which was more or less "Irreplaceable (Part II)". Suddenly, from just one video, and one song, Rihanna becomes the new queen of R&B. It wasn't a fair assesmment. Not just because of Beyonce, but because the word "R&B" only comes into the equation because of the color of Rihanna's skin. "She's black, so she must be R&B. Right?" Rihanna was probably more dumbfounded by this than anyone. Appealing to R&B audiences was ever a top priority for her so she seemed genuinely shocked when won Best R&B Female artist (over Beyonce) at the American Music Awards last year for an album that was mostly dance-pop with a slight rock edge. When she performed at the BET Awards she seemed to be thinking "Ok...What am I doing here?"

She may have been confused, but she capitalized off this confusion. White fans may have felt hip for finally liking the R&B music Beyonce tried to sell them, even if it really wasn't R&B. Black fans who knew better may have felt eclectic and versatile for liking something other than Beyonce.

Which is not to say "Good Girl, Gone Bad" isn't good. Some people call Rihanna a singles artist, but the fact is those great singles had to have come off of a great album. With Good Girl, Gone Bad, Rihanna's hired help undoubtedly created a compelling record, some would say more compelling than any of Beyonce's records. They've definitely created an artist who can take on Beyonce on the charts. On stage however is a different story.

Beyonce does not perform onstage as much she does attack the stage. Her shows are futuristic funk/soul revues. Think Ike and Tina's old shows but with a larger budget and a Versace wardrobe. But if you take away the budget, the wardrobe, and the spectacle you still have a natural all-around entertainer who is eager to please and can sing and move at the same time.

All of Rihanna's performances are basically high fashion photoshoots with back-up dancers. Spontaniety and enthusiasm are not important. For most of her promo tour I thought she had the Umbrella on stage to prop her up because she was putting herself to sleep. Most times it looks as though being onstage is getting in the way of about 76 other things she'd rather be doing. My favorite performance of hers was her take on Madonna's "Vogue" at Fashion Rocks. But she didn't sing live, and for most of the performance she was either standing in one spot or being carried around by her dancers as if she couldn't be bothered to use her legs. I guess for a song named after such a high-energy movement I expected well... high energy and movement. Basically what you have is a dance artist, who has become hugely popular from dance music, but who can't really dance.

Does this make Beyonce a better entertainer?

Well, that depends on what your definition of a great performance is. There are quite a few people who think Britney Spears can outperform both Beyonce and Rihanna (we should devote a whole week to those people). Clearly these people have different opinions on what makes a good performance. Snatch a 13 year old girl out of a Hannah Montana concert, and send her to a Beyonce concert and see what happens. All of Sasha Fierce's soul shouting, gyrating, and gospel wailing may scare the shit out of them. But Rihanna's narcoleptic peformances have pyro, catchy songs, and funky outfits to distract you from her shortcomings and it may be the best thing in the world to a person with no real concept of the history of soul music, performance and instrumentation.

At the end of the day it's about personal taste. I can post reviews from Beyonce's concerts and compare them to Rihanna's and it really wouldn't matter. As Beyonce's husband (and Rihanna's mentor) said "Men Lie, Women Lie, Numbers Don't." And clearly live performances are not that important to a Rihanna fan, so I can post a million positive Beyonce reviews and it won't hold any weight. At the end of the day
numbers are what's always going to be true deciding factor, and Rihanna has strong numbers on her side.

Which is not to say that Beyonce doesn't care about numbers. It's just that Rihanna and Beyonce seem to have different philosophies on how to market themselves to the public.

Beyonce has let it known that she wants to be an icon, and she has certainly earned the title. Her success has come after years of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears under her belt, grinding it out with Destiny's Child for 15 years, losing Star Search, and working tirelessly by perfoming on any and every stage just to get a record deal.

Rihanna, on the other hand, appeared in one pageant/talent show pageant before getting a record deal.

So why does Rihanna at times seem more appealing?

To steal a quote from Family Guy, Beyonce "insists upon herself." She's GOING to be an icon whether you like or not. And you WILL like her and you WILL respect her and you WILL accept her greatness, and you WILL buy the deluxe DVD edition, and the 2 movies, and the world tour, and whatever products she's endorsing this week.

Rihanna, on the other hand could care less about being an icon. She just seems to breeze effortlessly from style to style like a little girl playing dress-up.

Beyonce is determined to go down in the history books.

Rihanna's attitude toward her career seems to be "Sure, why not?"

"So Rihanna, you wanna go to America and record an album?

"Sure, why not?"

"Hey I got this song called "Umbrella" Mary didn't want it and Britney didn't want it. You wanna record it?

"Sure, why not?"

You wanna cut all your hair off?

"Sure, why not?"

"You wanna wear this G-string on stage with 2 stickers on your nipples?

"Sure, why not?"

Another reason that Rhianna-mania has been able to spread is because of the level of information known about the two. We know everything about Beyonce, or we THINK we know everything about Beyonce. She has actually divulged very little about her personal life. We do know who her parents are, who her sister is, we know that Jay was the first person to sample her Creole Catfish, we even know her assistant's name (wassup Angie). This all amounts to over 50 million pages of gossip, rumors, and innuendo which can be overwhelming even for the strongest Beyonce stan.

We don't know a lot about Rihanna. All we know is that she's from Barbados and she likes Chris Brown's balls. There's not a lot of extra information distracting us from her music, so it's a little easier to enjoy it.

Everything Beyonce does and says is second-guessed, chopped, and screwed. And she IS heavily resented because she has made it very difficult for other R&B artists to sustain their careers. So some people may like Rihanna just because after all the artists who lost their battles with Beyonceitis, Rihanna was the first person to shake Beyonce up. Most of the negative attention Beyonce gets is not fair but I'm assuming that she has already learned that life isn't fair. If life were fair then it would be just about the talent and Rihanna would be Beyonce's stylist, not her musical competition. But sometimes life just isn't fair, and if it inspires Beyonce to be a better artist and entertainer then I say we should be grateful.

So, in many ways Rihanna has probably helped Beyonce. Was she the best thing to ever happen to Beyonce? Maybe. Do Beyonce stans hate Rihanna? No. Quite a number of us like her and the music she is apart of. Beyonce stans don't hate Rihanna, we just hate the fact that we live in a world that doesn't know the difference between a Beyonce and a Rihanna.


48 comments:

BeeOncé said...

I love you!
Thank you

Anonymous said...

I can tell that deep down Kanye pissed you off, boo....just as he did me and many other stans.

But I have to admit...you always find a way to clarify everything and allow everyone to see the truth...whether they want to believe you or not..they know you speak the gospel.

Dude, you are so great... *tear*

Don't Hate Me said...

If I said a duck could pull a truck, would you shut the fuck up and finish stranding the wigs, Kiz?

NeonNeon said...

"vocal range of a dial tone"

THANK YOU! I was trying to put a label on it. but the dying goat/cat references were overused.

Anonymous said...

This was a great, great post!

aulelia said...

lmao @ the part about CB's balls.

Kanye talks bare crap all day and every day.

I just dont see how Rihanna is competition for Beyonce. Rihanna on her own is okay and good to listen to for jogging. But comparing her to an individual who can sing, and dance her arse off on stage is so ridiculous for Kanye to do. LOL.

I hope u dont mind that i posted this to beyonce world.

Anonymous said...

I kinda agree.

But I think It's Rihanna's time to fade back into the darkness just like her pond de replay days.

Anonymous said...

This was a really amazing post. Very poignant and tackful. I love how even though you love Beyonce, you let it be known that Rihanna has her niche and her market and that us stans don't hate her, just the people who make up unnecessary comparisons.

lildrummerboi said...

Very well put! Because deep down inside I didn't wanna admit it. I had a bat and my keys ready to find Kanye and handle biznas for his statement...

But why? Because its the truth..?

I had to put it down...

I like Rihanna and I even stanned for her a little when "Unfaithful" came out but not enough to buy her album...

It is the truth tho and Kanye wasn't belittling Bey by saying it, just acknowledging that in a business where Beyonce outdid everybody in site effortlessly, Rihanna made her put in some work...

I dont know how she did it or when she did it, but dammit she did it!! (Calms down)

lol...Its room for them all tho. But plz believe Bey will show she's queen with NUMBERS come the week after Nov. 18th, on top of everything else she does it with..

Blu20 said...

1. I wish you got paid for this. Your commentary is insightful, witty, and down right hilarious!
2. I didn't too much care for Beyonce before this blog. (Don't stone me!!!) I enjoyed some of her songs, but other than that meh... I stumbled across this because someone listed it in their favorites and haven't been disappointed yet. Now I know I'll never reach the Platinum level of Beyonce Stan, but I'm at least at the Copper Level of closet Beyonce supporter.

Anonymous said...

I read Kanye's comment on a Beyonce fansite and I knew for a fact you would have written about it...and you did. Kudos to you for an AWESOME blog. You are bang on ALL the time. Def a good read. Keep it up. ;-)

suga said...

Wow. I can see myself removing inserting Beyonce's name wherever you put Rhianna...and this post would still ring true.

Rihanna said...

BEYONCE SUCKS ASS!!!

Amai said...

I swear that post was more true than the bible took every last word and thought right out of my mouth and made it sound 10 times better

Anonymous said...

^

Sandra Rose get your ugly ass off this blog and go back to your wack ass " I LIKE RIHANNA BECAUSE I HATE BEYONCE" Blog

Anyways
I love when you said.

"we just hate the fact that we live in a world that doesn't know the difference between a Beyonce and a Rihanna"

See Kanye I used to defend you when people said you could not rap and you sample all your music but now....... its war.

sashagirlwho said...

*stops reading right after "Two very similar, yet..." and scrolls down to see the length of the entry.*

girl, what in THE hell?! you know this post is too damn long for some of us hooked on phonics less folks to read! you got some people all scared up in here.

keep your (I'm sure, very insightful yet still very entertaining) analyses to the pithy variety, please and thanks.


I kid, of course.


Not really, though.






No, I really am kidding :P Here's to literacy! Yay! (*resumes reading.* relevant comment to follow, maybe).

Anonymous said...

Whew!!
How much were your fingers hurting after typing this long ass defence script?
Sad she is not going to give you some of her millions.
Like you rightly said, Rihanna is just having fun.
Beyonce however is trying tooo damn hard.
Poor chile. Hope she becomes an icon someday.....lol

Anonymous said...

Since when is working hard , trying to hard. SMDH.

Reading is Fundamental said...

defence = defense

Deon said...

So I know this isn't legal but come to California and marry me? You said EVERYTHING I wanted to say but better which now I know: YOU ARE A GAY MAN! With a college education. And you're just as funny as I am. I've been saying the EXACT same thing you've been saying and in nearly the same way too. I know that Rih(ject)hanna is here to stay. And though it pains me I do know why. But that just goes to show there is a lot wrong with our culture. Beyonce is like Mariah, Whitney, and Janet mixed together. There has been NO ONE like her before.

Glow said...

oh my,
you have preached!
every paragraph was eloquent!
and pure truth.

especially the last one...

let the choir say amen!!

Creole Boy said...

You're right....honestly I don't think Rhi is going anywhere anytime soon, she has too many producers behind her...she does sound like a dial tone...the best part was the "insists upon herself", I think if she didn't people wouldn't run to someone who's lack of talent is okay as long as they don't appear cocky. Just like the "wonder woman" and Inauguration thing....if you didn't insist upon it then people would just give it to you.

Anonymous said...

Perfection.

Anonymous said...

Whomever you are...you really need to be making money off of your writing. You're brilliant! And this post rocked.

sashagirlwho said...

What got your vickie secrets in a bind today? with all due respect, chica, I must ask why did you devote so much of your blog space to this nonsense? This almost reads like something from an extremely insecure (but very eloquent) stan, which I highly doubt you are (the insecure part, I mean).

Anybody who knows even a little about (real) music and entertainment knows that comparing RiRi and Bey is just foolishness.

RiRi will come out in the wash of musical time (a fact I honestly believe she knows and still could care less about). It's about longevity and real talent and Bey has it. bottom line.

I agree whole-heartedly with this bit:

Beyonce does not perform onstage as much she does attack the stage. Her shows are futuristic funk/soul revues. Think Ike and Tina's old shows but with a larger budget and a Versace wardrobe. But if you take away the budget, the wardrobe, and the spectacle you still have a natural all-around entertainer who is eager to please and can sing and move at the same time.

Yep, Bey is of a dying breed (imo) of old school black Amer singer/dancer/all around entertainers, "pot liquor" performers who have the flavor that packs just the right punch to appeal to the masses (in B's case millions across the planet) looking for some real, non-manufactured talent and entertainment to which they can connect. I'm one of those millions. However, not only am I attracted to the music and to the woman (no homo; and actually I'm not even a stan), but also in my case it's the tradition that I know she represents that I find equally appealing. Rihanna, a BAJAN young woman doing AMERICAN POP, can't hold a candle to that. sorry, nuh-uh.

That said, I do think our beloved should find a chair and sit in it for a minute. I'm not so sure if at this go around the Queen will be as fresh as she could be. A break would give us and her time to breathe and her a chance to chill and return refreshed, a bit more mature, full of new ideas and music, stronger, and dare I say "fiercer".

Anonymous said...

[Gives a 30-minute long standing ovation]

MELISSA said...

Wow, and I can't believe that the hater who commented on this actually st there and read this about someone they don't like.

THIS REALLY SPEAKS THE TRUTH. AND IT IS SAD BECAUSE SO MANY PEOPLE DON'T REALLY SEE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEE AND RIHANNA.

TO CREOLE BOY,IM HAVING A WHOLE COMMENTING WAR TO A PERSON ON www.lovebscott.com ABOUT BEYONCE WANTING TO PLAY WONDER WOMAN. I SWEAR IT'S AN ONGOING THING.

Anonymous said...

OMG!!! this was so on point. i wish this would get published on rolling stone or billboard. people need to be educated. i like disturbia as much as the next person but to say RiRI is as good as beyonce is an insult to beyonce and her fans.

Bohemian Bookworm said...

"...vocal range of a dial tone"

I can't. I won't. I shan't.

*dead and buried*

truth07 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
truth07 said...

rihanna is living proof that as long as you have a slim physique pretty face, mediocre singing voice, and limited dancing ability you can have a long successful career as a pop star. let's have a moment of silence for the ones who came before her.

brandy- 1995-1999
ashanti- 2002-2003
amerie- winter/spring 2005
christina milian- ?????????

gone but not forgotten

PrettyRikki said...

This was a greatly written!! I love you and uhhhhhh Im still waiting for the rest of my pop-up video's :}

Taj said...

came, saw and conquered. *slow claps and adds you to the blog roll*

Anonymous said...

brilliant post.

Kofi Bofah said...

Rihanna?

The Queen of R&B?

MTV?

The media is so quick to give somebody a crown. This is a 24-7 news cycle of hyperbole.

Kofi Bofah said...

Under my um-be-ralla - ella - ella- ella - ella

a, a, a, a, a, a, a, a, a, a, a

:)

sashagirlwho said...

to be real, there are some aspects at the core of Beyonce that I quite obviously admire and adore, but then there's just some shear fuckery that surrounds her that just kills me: the ambition to be recognized as an "iconic" and "legendary" multi-talented mega-star like no other the world has seen, when really she (and her daddy) should stop saying so damn much and let her body of work speak for itself (which will do plenty of talking, i believe). that's why she's always on the hustle, less because "i am so full of ideas, I can't find enough outlets through which to express them", but more like "I need to make sure I'm [my daughter is]out there and my [her] status is right, like i want it." when did the pursuit of fame and status in itself come to overshadow authentic artistic expression anyway (this ain't just bey, but applies across the board)?

homegirl needs to spend more time tapping into and honing what makes her uniquely who she is as a singer/performer/entertainer and less time considering what will make her glorious.

i love you bey, but c'mon now. hopefully in the near future you'll feel the need to strip down to the essentials and really be about you and your artistry and not the game.

(and this ain't a new criticism obviously, but I needed to put it out there for me).

SashaGirlBOO! said...

Wow...This is your 3rd comment...

What got YOUR vickie secrets in a bind today?

sashagirlwho said...

it's the economy, the fact that folks are losing their jobs left and right that's got my bloomers in a bunch nowadays; shoot, ford is even giving away their stock (at least around my way. buy a car, get 50 shares, a truck 100 shares). god be with us.

The reason why i posted here so abundantly is cos the spirit (of agnes dereon, perhaps?) moved me to and when the spirit moves I move.

thanks for checking.

Aera C. said...

If my teacher told me to write a thesis on the difference between beyonce and rihanna... i would have to copy and paste this.


"For most of her promo tour I thought she had the Umbrella on stage to prop her up because she was putting herself to sleep."

i thought the exact same thing lol.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

What you said!!

LOVES IT!!

-OG

Sexcess1 said...

I love you whoever you are- You really should write for Rolling Stone or Vibe, I'm actually gonna send this to them on your behalf. Exceptionally written- point for point. (Especially the dial tone reference) You get a Pulitzer for Blogger of 2008.

Anonymous said...

i loved ur speech!
u are a really skilled writer :)
there were so many times i was like "preach' and even more times when i was like 'rotfl'

Anonymous said...

fvcking priceless
"Beyonce probably thought "Umbrella" was a fluke. But once Rihanna-mania spread she may have chased Jay around the house with a skillet and cursed him for giving Rihanna the song. 6 millions records, and 6 hit singles later, Beyonce must have felt like this was all an awful nightmare. A nightmare where everybody is tone-deaf and blind, and Rihanna is the Queen of Pop."

Chas said...

quite possibly the best thing i've ever read..

sowutH0 said...

you're doing too much

Anonymous said...

all yall crazy if you actually think that beyonce is always singing live, she lip syncs and sings live while dancing... personally I think it's a brilliant idea, but it is not live as she allows you all to think, and by the way, this is what I know

trung said...

great