If you’re reading this, you have an Internet connection. And because you have said connection, then you are undoubtedly aware that Beyoncé Knowles released an album out of nowhere last week on Friday. For the better part of the last 96 hours, the Internet has been going HAM about Beyoncé, the person and super-secret album of the same name.
Leading this discussion has been an intense (and circular) conversation about whether Beyoncé is or is not a feminist and whether bona fide black feminists should support her. This conversation happens every single time Beyoncé drops an album, an empowering (or male-ego-stroking) song or performs at any televised awards show. It’s perhaps more intense this round because Beyoncé featured the TED talk “We Should All Be Feminists” by Nigerian-born author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the single “Flawless.”
I remain unclear on why it matters if Beyoncé is a feminist or not. Admittedly, it would be nice to have a new visual of a feminist woman that replaces the inaccurate and widely held stereotype that feminists are unattractive, old, bitter and manless. But otherwise, I don’t get it.
There are at least six more things that I find entirely more interesting about Beyoncé’s Beyoncé. In no particular order they are:
1. The Gamble
Beyoncé the album was exclusively posted on iTunes in the wee hours of Friday morning. With no promotion whatsoever it was a gutsy move, one that has proven to be purely brilliant at three days hindsight. From Friday till close of business Sunday night, Beyoncé sold “an unprecedented 828,773 albums,” according to Billboard, and broke iTunes' first-week sales record in the United States. When speaking highly of Beyoncé, it’s usually her beauty and her work ethic that get the mentions. Add brains to that list.
2. Anna Mae
The first single from Beyoncé, “Drunk in Love,” features a verse by Beyoncé’s husband, Jay Z. He raps, “I'm Ike Turner, turn up/Baby know I don't play/Now eat the cake, Anna Mae.” The allusion to the infamous line spoken by Laurence Fishburne as Ike Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It? has come under fire, although in context, it’s a reference to Jay Z’s sexual prowess, not condoning domestic violence.
Still, I’m amazed at the number of writers who either missed the reference entirely—Vice writer Kitty Pryde, who live-blogged the album, swore Jay Z said “anime” instead of Anna Mae. In a follow-up apology, she admitted she had never seen the film to know the reference, but at the time of her second writing she knew where the line came from and still called “Anna Mae” Annie Mae. A HuffPo article dressing down Beyoncé for going from “extraordinary to common” on her latest single gets it wrong, too, and the author saw the movie.
For nearly 14 years, D’Angelo’s “How Does It Feel?” has topped my list of favorite sexy-time songs. And now, with the help of Miguel, who penned the lyrics for “Rocket,” Beyoncé has crafted an equally seductive tune that speaks for how the ladies feel. (I’ve had this on repeat for four days.)
Days after Jay Z and Beyoncé had their child, Jay penned “Glory,” an ode to his daughter that just so happened to inform the world that Beyoncé had a miscarriage. She addressed losing a child in her HBO documentary, Life Is But a Dream and offered a clip of what she called “the saddest song I’ve ever written.” That song is not “Heaven,” nor is it on the album, but with haunting lyrics such as “heaven couldn't wait for you/No, heaven couldn't wait for you,” "Heaven," I'm convinced, is about her miscarriage, and it is the saddest Beyoncé song I’ve ever heard.
On “Drunk in Love,” Bey sings, “I fill the tub up halfway then I ride it with my surfboard, surfboard/Grinding on that wood, grinding, grinding on that wood."
Surfboarding? Huh? That line left a bunch of people scratching their heads. It’s—how do I put this in a P.C. way? The “tub” is his gentleman-parts, and the “surfboard” is her lady-parts. They grind them against each other, but not in. (Consenting adults might want to try this at home, if they have not already.)
I couldn’t get into Beyoncé’s “Sasha Fierce” alter ego, the one she let out when she was feeling womanish. But Yoncé, the gully Southern rapper with Erykah Badu’s flow who's been hiding inside Beyoncé all this time, is kinda fierce: “I sneezed on the beat/and the beat got sicker.” Who knew Bey had it in her?
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of the upcoming book Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love.