The Obama Marriage in the Tune of Beyoncé

In Vogue, the POTUS admits his wife "upgrades" him, but scoffs at the idea he's "catered" to.

The Obamas dance at the first inaugural ball, Jan. 20, 2009, as Beyoncé sings “At Last.”
The Obamas dance at the first inaugural ball, Jan. 20, 2009, as Beyoncé sings “At Last.” Win McNamee/Getty Images

(The Root) — The Obamas and Beyoncé are practically BFFs — or, at the very least, mutual fans. Since 2009 the first couple seem to have borrowed from the pop star’s musical catalog for the soundtrack of their public lives. In a recent interview with Vogue magazine, the Obamas offered proof that their relationship can be summed up with one Beyoncé song (“Upgrade U”) while eschewing another featuring the singer (“Cater 2 U”).

“Michelle’s like Beyoncé in that song,” the president said in the April 2013 Vogue cover story. ” ‘Let me upgrade ya!’ She upgraded me,” he continued, referring to the singer’s 2006 hit featuring her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Jay-Z. In it, Beyoncé sings, “Partner, let me upgrade you. Flip a new page. Introduce you to some new things and upgrade you.”

In the article, Mrs. Obama recounts how her husband used to brag about owning a pair of khaki pants for more than two decades. “You don’t want to brag about that,” she’s quoted as joking while young White House staff members laugh in the background.

“There’s no doubt I’m a better man having spent time with Michelle,” said the president, who claims to now own more than a dozen suits, up from two.  

“Upgrade U” is an obvious choice for the first couple’s Beyoncé playlist. The president’s genuine affection and consistent admiration for the first lady is well-documented. He’s spent plenty of airtime in interviews talking about how she brings the “wow factor” to their relationship.

What’s less obvious, as debate has mounted in recent months about whether or not Mrs. Obama is doing enough “work” as mom-in-chief, is the sentiment — espoused in the Destiny’s Child song “Cater 2 U” — that the president gave the thumbs-down to.

When asked by Vogue how life at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has affected the Obamas’ marriage, White House senior adviser and longtime friend of the couple Valerie Jarrett made it clear that the first lady’s job managing the Obamas’ home is essential to the president’s ability to do his job. Jarrett cited “the fact that his partner in this journey has been so steadfastly in his corner and never wavered” as the key to their success.

To some, especially critics of Michelle Obama’s decision not to “work,” that statement could be construed as a romanticized take on 1950s values.