The motor of perception is a conciliator. Its natural object is to make connections and impose order. A viewer will infer a connection between the content in a sequence of film and a tape of randomly selected music when the two are played together. He or she will construe a resonance of meaning where none was intended. Our brains often look for shortcuts in order to process the world around us. After someone accumulates enough information about someone else, the natural tendency is to continue to perceive that person in a way that is consistent with the accumulated information, often overlooking anything that doesn’t comport with the preconception. Teachers, for example, tend to grade more generously those students that they have already identified as smart.
When perception and reality diverge too widely, the subject reaches the tipping point, where biased perception can no longer overcome reality. This is the situation faced by Beyoncé Knowles.
On January 20, 2013, the world thrilled to the appearance of the mega-star songstress and husband Jay Z who sat in front row seats, swaddled in Christian Dior and Tom Ford, at the second inauguration of the forty-fourth President of the United States. Beyoncé was given the honor of singing “The Star Spangled Banner” shortly after Barack H. Obama, his hand resting on a bible once owned by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was sworn in for a second term.
Unlike any singer at any previous Presidential Inauguration, Beyoncé lip-synched the national anthem. It was absolutely convincing. When she approached the finale, she dramatically pulled loose her earpiece before nailing the crescendo. The performance was universally applauded and lauded as a highpoint of the event. Liberal web-rag BuzzFeed wrote something, I don’t think you’d call it an article. It was a list of Beyoncé fanboy OMG comments and movable GIF’s of Beyoncé at the inauguration titled “The Twenty Most Fabulous Beyoncé Moments From The Inauguration” (January 21, 2013). The text for the GIFs of Beyoncé at the song’s earpiece moment reads: “When she TOOK HER FREAKING EAR PIECE OUT because she’s Beyoncé and doesn’t even need it… and then she was like “Look at me, I AM QUEEN B.” This noxious fanboy tripe deserves credit for articulating the type of media coverage sought and frequently received by the self-congratulatory Queen B.
Word about the fakery got out after a surprising breach of protocol by Kristin DuBois, Public Affairs Chief for the U.S. Marine Band, who gave a catty exclusive to Hollywood.com the next day: “We don’t know why she decided to go with a prerecorded track” said DuBois, who revealed that the band had only been informed at the last minute that it would be a mimed performance. DuBois differentiated Beyonce’s lip-synching from the only previous example of artistic mimicry at a Presidential Inauguration, when 25 degree weather made it literally impossible for the instruments played by Yo Yo Ma and his colleagues to produce sound in 2009. “It’s not because she couldn’t sing, something had to have happened that prevented her from doing that.”
“Kelly Clarkson did sing live and the band accompanied her,” the Public Affairs Chief added.
The story went national that day. No comment from Beyoncé.
Another Marine Corps spokesman quickly stepped up to retract the statement and offer the not-quite-ameliorating: “No one in the Marine Band is in a position to assess whether it was live or prerecorded.” Then the Marine Band’s representative, a Master Sergeant, confirmed the lip-synching to the NY Post’s Page Six and repeated that the band had only been told about the change of plan at the last minute. Finally, a Marine Corps spokesman made the official pronouncement that a live performance was called off because there had been no “opportunity” for a rehearsal.
Beyoncé Knowles had added another first to her record of accomplishments: first singer to lip-synch at a Presidential inauguration. Something else was clear: the U.S. Marine Band was launching an operation. After the initial deluge, U.S.M.B. went radio dark.
James Taylor and Kelly Clarkson quickly confirmed that they had sung live, but no clarification emerged from the Beyoncé camp. As days passed, the question turned from whether to why. Aretha Franklin, who sang “My Country Tis Of Thee” at the same event four years earlier (at sixty-seven years of age), recalled laughing about it when asked for comment and said it would have never occurred to her to lip-synch at such an important event, but faux-diplomatically allowed: “She did a great job with the pre-record.” This dis by the Queen of Soul went largely unacknowledged as defenders in the media eagerly explained that lip-synching is a common practice in the music industry. A sound engineer in England, likely a plant, came out of nowhere to announce that based on his analysis Beyoncé did sing live and this was all a misunderstanding. But the line didn’t get any traction. The absence of any statement from the often tweeting singer herself seemed odd to supporters.
Eleven days passed between the inauguration fake-singing and Beyoncé’s press event for her Super Bowl Half Time show, the latest mega-event in her increasingly uninteresting career. No comment on anything from the Beyoncé camp during that time, thus building hype for a performance that was a much bigger deal than the previous engagement. How shrewd! When the star confidently faced the rabid media throng at the invitation-only event (all of the “reporters” in the room were pre-selected and all of the questions were pre-approved), she was dressed to impress. She wore a snug cream-colored mini-dress that showed off her bronzed legs and was impeccably made-up. She stood behind a podium, like she was about to give a speech.
“Would you guys mind standing?” she asked.
The members of the fourth estate quickly had their iPhones aloft, holding them above each other’s heads.
She sang “The Star Spangled Banner,” throwing in some gaudy runs, but her unadorned voice was thin and lacked range, nowhere near as good as its digitalized counterpart. It gets especially pitchy near the end.
“Its not because she couldn’t sing,” the Public Affairs Chief had said.
“Any questions?” Beyoncé confidently asked afterward and chuckled, as if some decisive, triumphant moment had just taken place. What does a live performance of the national anthem at the Super Bowl Press Event have to do with lip-synching it at the Presidential Inauguration?
When it came to the obvious question, the singer confirmed that she had, in fact, lip-synched at the inauguration; mouthing the words to a prerecorded track she cut in the studio. The reason she had lip-synched, she explained, was because she was a perfectionist. She knew how important the event was and wanted her rendition to be perfect. The singer went into typical self-congratulatory mode, elaborating that she is such a perfectionist that she practices until her feet bleed. Unfortunately, she continued, she did not have time to rehearse with the Marine Marching Band. Therefore, she chose to use a prerecorded track (a common practice in the music industry, she reminded) but was very proud of her “performance.”
That was enough for the reporters at the junket (“Beyoncé Nails the National Anthem, graciously answers questions,” the headlines faithfully blared) and they moved on, occasionally shouting encouragements like “We love you, B!” For others, however, it was clear that Beyoncé’s statement could only make sense to someone as language-challenged as the singer herself. Beyoncé’s description of herself as a “perfectionist” is offered as justification for not delivering the goods. But the task of a perfectionist would be to rehearse the song with the band until it was as near perfect as possible. The blithe assertion that she “did not have time” to rehearse prior to the important performance invites the obvious but unasked question: “What else did you have to do?”
Certainly, carrying the Beyoncé brand, preparing for the Super Bowl Half Time show and directing nannies and assistants has got to be time consuming. But this is one song, a (presumably) familiar one, albeit a challenge for any non-professional singer. Beyoncé is a professional singer, just like the other invited performers, who found time to rehearse. Did Beyonce actually cite “Black People Time” as the reason she didn’t sing at the first African-American President’s swearing-in? Does Beyoncé want us to understand that not making time to rehearse is a good excuse for not singing live?
The answer to both questions is yes.
Such conceited, graceless comments do not comport with the strong, elegant image that has been shoved down the public’s throat, but neither did this message from Beyoncé to the 47% who voted for the other guy.
This unmodulated gesture reeks of a young, adolescent mind. It reminds us that despite all the classy and graceful branding, Beyoncé is always publicly pretending to be someone she is not. During a 2003 interview with Barbara Waters, the singer talked about creating 2001’s hit single “Bootylicious.” Rob Fusari of New Jersey was surprised to hear this because he was the producer who had provided the sample, produced the track and written the lyrics. In an interview with Billboard magazine, he recounted his subsequent emotional conversation with father/manager Matthew Knowles, where the patriarch acknowledged the falsity and gently admonished the young producer with the mission statement of Beyoncé Inc.: “What sells records is people believing the artist is everything.”
This unattainable imperative inevitably results in lawsuits when the singer asserts claims of authorship of songs like “Survivor,” “Baby Boy,” “Independent Women,” “Kissing You,” and “If I Were a Boy.” Beyoncé claimed to have written “Crazy In Love” (by Rich Harrison) and “Irreplaceable” (by Ne-Yo) only to suffer the indignity of correction when the actual creators spoke up in response. “Run the World (Girls)” was a rip-off of a pop single by an Italian singer. The celebrated dancing in the “Single Ladies” video is outright theft of Bob Fosse’s “Mexican Breakfast” and the staging and choreography of the “Countdown” video were blatant larceny of an original piece by Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaker.
Beyoncé and her mother Tina Knowles launched the House of Dereon fashion label in 2004 and began mass-producing unappealing clothing for adults and children. It has grown into a tremendous drain of capital. The movie career stalled out. The last two albums and tours tanked. Rhianna moved in. There was something wretched about Beyonce’s new music, like the vapid, bombastic “Love On Top,” which she debuted on August 28th at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards . The classy and graceful singer announced her pregnancy during the song’s tense rock intro. “Tonight I want you to stand up on your feet,” she exhorted. “I want you to feel the love that’s growing inside of me!” and afterward proudly rubbed her baby bump to the world.
Then this happened.
In October 2011, Beyoncé’s pregnant belly collapses into a frisbee-fold as she forward-crouches into a chair in a manner unlike any six-month pregnant woman on Earth. No photo of the camera-happy star’s bare pregnant belly ever emerged, except one where she looked slightly bloated at the beach. At different public events, the belly ebbed and receded, buried under layers of dress. Security at the delivery hospital was so tight that she and her husband passed through unseen. Security was so tight that security cameras were disabled. TMZ reported that Jay Z and Beyoncé waited in another room while the surrogate gave birth.
She produced Blue Ivy on January 7, 2012. A month later, she had snapped back into shape. What the fuck was going on?
Because so many public things about Beyoncé make little sense, the Illuminati theory gained increasing notice to the point where it has crowded into the mainstream discourse. It offers strange but compelling explanations for the weirdness and finds a convincing amount of gruesome Masonic props and themes in the presentation of Beyoncé and other pop stars. Basically, there’s a weird sex/violence cult of super-elite who use celebrities to spread symbols and exert control. Who’s to say it isn’t true?
Beyoncé’s misrepresentations and vacuity are a matter of record. It doesn’t seem far-fetched to believe there’s something twisted and pitiable about her existence. Who would fake a pregnancy and why? Even with all the tumult and failed projects, the fortunes of Beyoncé Inc. were co-joined with those of Roc-A-Fela and well leveraged in New York and L.A. to hold power. A line into the Executive Branch was opened when the First Couple and the President and Mrs. Obama developed a public friendship. The star-struck Obamas gushed about their new friends to the press. In September, 2012, their new friends hosted a $4 million fundraiser at Jay Z’s 20/20 club in New York City, where the President toasted the couple near a tower of 350 Champagne bottles of Armand de Brignac. The President said Beyoncé was a perfect role model for his daughters. Beyoncé memorialized her reverent feelings toward Michelle Obama in a childish letter that she read aloud for a campaign promo, lauding Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign to fight the alarming epidemic of childhood obesity as one of her many inspirational qualities.
Shortly after the election, but before the inauguration, the First Lady’s favorite performer signed a $50 million dollar contract to promote Pepsi, a leading inflicter of childhood obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Fourteen days after fake-singing “The Star Spangled Banner,” Beyoncé performed her Superbowl half-time show. She did a lot of stripper air-humping and made a lot of fierce facial expressions. The voice was thin, often whooping. It mustered some bravado on “Halo,” but it wasn’t better than anything you might hear on “American Idol.” A lot of pyrotechnics, special effects, and choreographed stompy dancing. The hyped Destiny’s Child reunion smacked of mean-spiritedness. Kelly and Michelle, consigned to the sufferings of Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, sprung out of the stage like pop tarts for an abbreviated reunion before they scattered to the wings mid-song. As a final insult, their microphones were turned so low it was hard to even hear their voices during their brief turns. After Beyoncé finished and the crowd roared, Beyoncé thanked us for giving her this moment.
Then the power went out, forcing the teams, staff, 60,000 fans and millions viewing worldwide to wait for thirty-four minutes. The media blared the performance a triumph. The First Lady tweeted her congratulations. A new regal-themed “Mrs. Carter” tour was announced with promo photos of Beyoncé costumed like the wealthiest of 18th Century French Royalty, her complexion bleached to its lightest tone.
A couple days later, CBS Sports commentator Boomer Esiason revealed that Beyoncé’s stage production had blown the Superdome’s electrical system twice during rehearsals in the week before the game. That’s two high-profile events in two weeks that she screwed up. Beyoncé bored and delayed the Super Bowl and fucked up a lot of expensive advertising money.
She would have gotten away with the inaugural fakery if not for the U.S. Marine Band. While Marines in general have a high respect for the traditions and ceremonies of the Republic, the 160 members of the U.S. Marine Band (known as “the President’s Own”) are the premier guardians of those traditions and ceremonies. The prestigious U.S.M.B. was started in 1796 and is a cornerstone of Marine culture. These disciplined, expert musicians would be acutely aware of a narcissist’s disrespect to their highest ceremonial duty. Like Illuminati theorists, they respect the power of symbols and ritual to inspire and honor. They also have a unique, personal fidelity to the material. For a scheduled singer to expend all of her effort recording a back-up track, not show up for any rehearsals, call off a live performance at the last minute, and then try to pass her mimicry off as the real thing is intolerable bullshit to the U.S. Marine Band and the Corps. Such blasé superficiality at the inauguration is insulting to the dead and wounded that “The Star Spangled Banner” commemorates. Aretha Franklin understands this.
How much longer can media-driven acclaim keep pace when the Beyoncé brand ambassador so plainly displays her dull, vacuous conceit?