I sat in an almost empty arena waiting for Beyonce. It was around 6:30PM. The show didn't start until 7:30PM which meant Negroes wouldn't be leaving their house until 9:45PM. That gave my mind a lot of time to wonder.
I thought about my first concept of what a concert was. It was being 6 years old and seeing Michael Jackson standing in front of a packed Romanian soccer stadium. 80,000 people screaming, hyperventilating, and fainting. I never had the occasion to see Michael Jackson live in the flesh, but I remember thinking I wanted to be there. I wanted to go to a show — any show — and see a performer so supremely mesmerizing that I would be moved to fall the fuck out.
2 hours later Beyonce stood less than 4 feet from me in all of her full-bodied Creole glory.
Feet — encased in sparkling stilettos — which never stopped moving, even during the ballads.
Thighs that could choke a grizzly bear.
Hips that will one day bear Jay-Z's demon spawn.
Titties pushed all the way up to her damn forehead.
10 pounds of somebody else's hair sewn lovingly into her scalp.
And a face which after 4 energetic shows in 4 days showed absolutely no sign of exhaustion.
She stood before me, and my legs started to shake.
Then horns to "Crazy In Love" started.
And the crowd went cuckoo banana crackers. The ladies were screaming. The gays were lisping, hissing, spraying, and snapping in all kinds of circles. The whole arena was on fire. My knees started to buckle. It was going to happen. "Oh my God, I'm about to faint at the Beyonce concert."
Then I thought about a piece of paper in my pocket with a number on it. It was my concert ticket. And on that ticket was a number: $200.75.
And then I thought. "Oh hell no."
See, when I pay 200 of my dollars, and 75 of my cents I'm not missing a damn second of a concert. If I pass out then Beyonce better get off stage do CPR and the Deja Vu rain dance on my chest to revive me. And if by chance the ambulance has to carry me away, she better pack all her shit up and set it up at Howard University Hospital.
Looking back on that moment is proof that there will never be another Michael Jackson, not now, not ever. Not many people can provoke the same type of hysteria he did. But I'd like to think that night was the closet I'll ever get to being at a Michael Jackson concert. Great performers transcend race, genre, and generation, but the ethic is the same. It's the thought that a performer could give so much of themselves to the point where they have no more to give.
I won't go into vivid detail about her concert because you don't care.
Beyonce sang and danced (at the same damn time) for 2 hours.
But you don't care.
She actually floated over the crowd.
But you don't care.
She laid hands on somebody in a wheelchair and he stood up, walked, then did the Ricky Bobby.
But you don't care.
You probably wouldn't even care if Marvin Gaye came back from the grave and sang "Halo" with her.
There's only one thing you want to know about the concert. Only one question you want me to answer. The only thing that truly matters.
Was the concert sold out?
It looked sold out. It appeared to me that every available seat had been sold. I asked Julius if I could stand on stage and do a head count but he said no. I also asked if I could take a shower with Beyonce's back-up dancers and he said no to that too (Juilus is damn hater!) But as I stood directly in front of Beyonce the only number I cared about was that $200.75.
I realized that we are so obsessed with numbers because there is such a talent deficiency, such a lack of that "Great Performer Ethic" that we need some way to prove greatness. Beyonce is the #1 diva in the game but so what? #2, #4 through #11 are all tone deaf with no rhythm, so there has to be some other way to measure greatness in 2009.
If I wanted to "shut somebody down" I would run to Wikipedia and throw some numbers at them.
She has 10 Grammys. That's more than most legends. 2 more than Miss Houston, Miss Turner, and Miss Streisand. 5 more than Miss Jackson. 10 more than Miss Ross.
She has a bunch of #1 singles.
She has sold millions of albums. The exact number I don't know, cause niggasbelyingonwikipedia.
And the tour is performing to packed houses around the world.
But the Grammys get it wrong sometimes. And record labels can grossly exaggerate record sales. And I could always give away tickets to make an arena appear sold out. So when sales figures lie, how exactly do you measure the greatness of a performer?
Simple. It's by the number of followers they have on Twitter.
I realized this back in April. When Beyonce was doing an interview promoting "Obsessed" and the there was a comment on YouTube. The comment basically said "I would like Beyonce more if she were on Twitter, she acts like she's not a real person." The comment was so simple yet so powerful and so representative of the times our future legends must thrive in. If I were signed to record deal today, the sad reality is that they would have me spend more time Twittering my fans to appear approachable than in a studio taking vocal and dance lessons so that I could give my fans a decent show.
But I don't blame them. A good personality gets you far in this industry. Almost as far as actually singing on key and dancing on beat. But when you are private, like Beyonce, and would rather sing than give an interview and authenticity is measured by the number of followers you have on Twitter, it can be a little rough.
1. Beyonce is a good performer...but she's so stuck up.
Here's a scenario for you.
The "Sweet Dreams" video is about to air. Matthew Knowles sends a letter to BET. In the letter it says, that if they want to air Beyonce's new video they must refer to Beyonce as the "Queen of Pop and R&B", and they must do it on air for at least two weeks, otherwise they will not get the video.
This has happened before. But of course no artist could get away with this kind of thing today, and certainly not Beyonce. She can barely crack a joke in concert without it turning into a Supreme Court case. I remember the video I posted when the dude said that there was something about Beyonce which rubbed him the wrong way. Something about her made her seem so full of herself.
She always wants attention.
She wants attention?
She's a celebrity and she wants attention? As opposed to wanting to fade into a life of obscurity and Dancing With the Stars, she wants to keep her name and her brand alive?
Shame on her!
2. Beyonce is a good performer...but I wish she would sit down and give somebody else a chance.
Another scenario for you.
It's 2004. Beyonce wins Best R&B Female Vocal Performance for Dangerously In Love 2" And she wins the same award again in 2005. And again in 2006. And 2007, and she wins the same award every year until 2011.
This has happened before, but it couldn't happen today. Not because there aren't talented female vocalists that could do this, (Alicia Keys has won twice in row) but because by 2006 somebody would have started a petition to NARAS asking them to give the award to somebody else to make it fair. That artist would be accused of "monopolizing" the industry. Such is the hypocrisy of the music industry in 2009. We want new legends but we don't live in a world supportive of the same things past legends have done.
We complain that artists aren't like they used to be "back in the day", nobody is raising the bar, but when an artist starts killing the game, and raising the bar we do everything we can to get them to go away so we can lower the bar again. When someone says "I wish Beyonce would sit down and give someone else a chance." I often wonder "Who sat down for Beyonce?" Really. Which artist said "Well Beyonce I'm tired now, you can have my career. Deuces!" The answer is no one. No one gave her anything so I don't understand why it's her responsibility to try to save other artists or sit down so that moderately relevant artists can flop.
When Aretha was in her prime the industry was a kingdom and she was the undisputed Queen. I'm sure not everybody liked it. I'm sure Gladys Knight wanted to take her out to the parking lot, and perhaps Patti Labelle wanted pull something out of her purse. But they didn't, they just came harder -- musically and vocally -- and became legends in their own right. Their stans never wrote a petition asking Aretha to sit down. That kind of bitchassedness didn't exist in that time. Legends were great, simply because they were allowed to be great. We allowed them to kill the game as hard as for as long as they wanted to.
2009 stans, particularly the pressed ones, treat the industry like the monkey bars at recess, they expect everybody to get a turn regardless of actual talent or competence.
Wouldn't you rather win knowing you beat "the best" as opposed to winning only because "the best" had to sit down?
3. Beyonce is a good performer...but she seems so fake.
Fake is defined as "something that is a counterfeit; not what it seems to be"
"A person who makes deceitful pretenses".
Hold on to that thought and turn with me to the book of Rihanna, Chapter 4 Verse 2. And
"I'm breaking dishes,
Up in here
All Night (uh-huh)
I ain't gon' stop until I see police and lights
Imma fight a man tonight
Imma fight a man tonight
Imma fight a man tonight"
The idea presented in this song-- and the whole damn album-- is that Rihanna is a bad girl. She takes no shit from any body. She's strong, free-thinking, fierce, and independent. She can handle herself in any situation.
Meanwhile, in real life, she fought a man and lost. But she's supposed to be a "bad girl" right? She declared herself a bad girl and created a whole damn album around the concept that if provoked she could easily whoop your ass. Shouldn't a bad girl know how to defend herself, or at least take a some kind of stand against abuse? She presented herself as a bad girl, but as it turns out she wasn't so tough. Does that make her a fake?
Was that an extreme way to make my point? Perhaps. But no more extreme than creating a 5 minute video calling Beyonce a devil-worshipping whore to prove YOUR point. I believe what's good for the goose is good for the gander, and if you're going to call one fake, call all of these chicks fake.
I don't mind moral indignation, but most people are only indignant when it supports their cause or the artist they love. Or the artists they hate.
I could boycott Chris Brown. I could crush his CDs, erase him from my life and my hard drive. Or I could give some of my time or at least some money to a battered women's shelter. Or I could, at the very least, spend time with my little sisters, nieces, or cousins to make sure they have the self-esteem and the common sense to leave a man who knocks them upside the head. Lots of us could do lots of things within our own lives and communities to combat the same "fake" images we condemn. But we won't. Most people's self-righteous sense of good and bad goes no further than message boards, blogs, and YouTube. People rarely feel strong enough about a cause to stop bitching about it online and actually do something about it in their real lives.
The day after I sat waiting for Beyonce, Michael Jackson died. I knew what was coming next.
"Michael Jakson was a great performer, but....his face..."
"Michael Jakson was a great performer, but....his skin..."
"Michael Jakson was a great performer, but....the drugs..."
"Michael Jakson was a great performer, but....he was... just strange."
And so on.
To let them tell the story Michael released "Thriller", bleached himself, went crazy, and died. The End.
Message boards and YouTube weren't much kinder.
And those were the nice words.
If I got caught up in name calling then technically my iPod is full of songs from freaks, perverts, molesters, and a wide assortment of crazy people. I have songs from more than a few former and current drug addicts, more than a few PROUD drug dealers, homewreckers, woman beaters, drunk drivers, accused child pornograpghers, and a bunch of convicted felons including a convicted rapist. But the music lover in me can't look at them in that way. It taints the feelings and the memories I have attached to the songs, regardless of the tortured souls behind them. And if I only listened to the music of people who always did and said the right things and followed every word of the Bible, then my iPod would empty.
Which brings me back to Washington, DC. June 24, 2009. Walking out of the concert I wondered how history will treat Beyonce. History has under-appreciated a lot of artists, and over-appreciated others. I'm not sure how "they" will tell her story. And you never really know what "they" actually think of us until one of us dies... or gets arrested.
Maybe in 20 or 30 years at some hall of fame induction ceremony Beyonce's kids will be sitting with Alicia Keys' kids, who will be sitting next to Justin Timberlake's kids, who will be sitting next to Usher's kids. And their parents will be sitting through a half-assed musical tribute done by whoever the hottest chick in the game is in 2039.
I'll be at home watching with my
But I won't.
There's really only one thing I could say. The only thing that should matter. The only part of their lives that had any direct effect on my life. Regardless of anything else they were all great performers. Period.