Beyoncé has sold 120 million albums worldwide, gets to call Jay-Z “Shawn” every single day, is at the White House so often she probably has a Secret Service codename and somehow convinced 2 million people to watch her talk to her MacBook Pro. But aside from all that, she’s just like you.
At least that’s the message she’s pushing on “Bow Down/I Been On,” the Chopped-and-Screwy new song (songs?) she premiered Sunday. Produced by Hit-Boy, and packed with more odes to Houston than the Astros’ 50th Anniversary celebration, it continues down the path she began exploring on the aforementioned “Life Is but a Dream” doc … namely, that despite all evidence to the contrary, Beyoncé is incredibly, incredulously normal.
Just like the rest of us, she is capable of reminiscing — “I Been On” is essentially her cracking open the old high-school yearbook, remembering long-gone times when she used to bump UGK in parking lots and make cameos in Geto Boys videos (there’s even the obligatory nod to how ridiculous her hair used to look) — and, even though she seemingly has a bazillion better things to do, she makes time to address her detractors: witness lines like “I took some time to live my life/But don’t think I’m just his little wife,” or the omnipresent “Bow Down, Bitches” hook. This is essentially how you and I spend large portions of our days, battling it out with other anonymous commenters on blogs and firing off missives on Twitter … the only difference is, we don’t get the dude who made “N—as In Paris” to lay down a backing track for us.
Needless to say, it’s an interesting strategy, one Lady Gaga tried to pull off a few years back. It may not necessarily work — Do we really want our stars to be normal? Can they ever actually be like the rest of us? — but you’ve got to give Bey credit for trying … after all, much like her documentary (which she not only starred in, but directed and produced too), she is attempting to re-shape not just our perception of her, but reality as we know it.
Does Beyoncé really know the lyrics to UGK’s “Something Good” by heart? Is she actually “Texas Trill?” Does she spend hours trawling through comments on Media Takeout? According to “Bow Down/I Been On,” the answer to all three of these questions is “Yes,” and, as such, we are forced to believe her … no matter how impossible it may be. Within the span of three minutes and forty-four seconds, Beyoncé has created a brand-new backstory and, in essence, re-written history. And for a star who, until very recently, kept her personal life a closely-guarded secret, it begs the question: Why now?
Perhaps this openness is part of her continued growth as an artist, and maybe this reinvention will make more sense in the context of her much-discussed new album (reportedly due later this year), but when taken on its own, Beyoncé’s newfound fascination with normalcy is jarring, to say the very least. Like all stars of her caliber, there seems to be a permanent veil between her and the rest of the world … one we’re guilty of putting in place, mostly because we don’t want the super famous to be like us. We need them to be something more.
Is Beyoncé a regular girl? Does she spend nights in with Netflix, or fidget with Facebook on an hourly basis? Does she do Seamless? The mind boggles, and the truth certainly lies somewhere in-between. Like Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience, Beyoncé’s recent work seems to indicate she is very interested in directing her life, creating a story that, for all we know, may be entirely fictional. No one is denying that it’s within her right to do so, but this desire for transparency only leads to more questions … and, as fans, it requires us to suspend our disbelief and take everything at face value. It’s a bold move, to be sure. After all, she is the Queen, and to see her in anything less than her royal robes just doesn’t seem right. Reality is almost beneath her.
What do you think of Beyoncé’s new music? Let us know in the comments below!