Advertisement

KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Pop Culture

‘Drunk in Love’ with Beyoncé

by Julia Tulloh , January 22, 20144 Comments

In December last year, Beyoncé gave her fans the best Christmas present imaginable: a surprise new album with seventeen tracks, each with their own music video. There was no forewarning, no single pre-released – the entire album became available on iTunes at midnight on December 13 through a single tweet from Columbia Records. The internet exploded. During the first month of its release, Beyoncé outsold the number of copies her previous album, 4, has sold since its release in 2011 (over 1.4 million records).

The album is basically a feminist onslaught, celebrating the sexuality, bodies, success and potential of women. I use the term ‘feminist’ not just because I find the album empowering (which I do), but because Beyoncé uses it. In ‘***Flawless,’ she plays an excerpt from Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, ‘We Should All Be Feminists’, including lines like:

‘We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller… We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist. A person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.’

‘Pretty Hurts’ explores the pressure women feel to look beautiful (the video shows girls at a beauty pageant, competitive and jealous of each other, bulimic, and swallowing cotton wool to feel full), and ‘Grown Woman’ playfully declares how Beyoncé is free to make what choices she likes.

The feminist ethic of the album is affirmed by Beyoncé’s command and enjoyment of her own sexuality. She positively radiates sexual satisfaction in songs like ‘Drunk in Love’, ‘Blow’. ‘Rocket’, and ‘Partition’, and appears in control of her desires and their expression. In ‘Partition’ Beyoncé performs an exotic dance for her husband, Jay Z, based on the choreography of the Crazy Horse cabaret. The entire performance is framed as Beyoncé’s personal fantasy: at the beginning of the clip, she begins daydreaming, suggesting that the dance takes place in her own mind, rather than her husband’s.

One could argue that Beyoncé’s sexual focus is simply the result of the pressure placed on women in the pop music industry to objectify themselves in order to succeed. While this is perhaps true to an extent – we can’t separate Beyoncé from the system she works in – there is a major difference between Beyoncé’s work and other pop music: it’s clear that her erotic life takes place within a strong, monogamous marriage. Rather than singing about an abstract ‘he’, Beyoncé sings explicitly about Jay Z, who himself appears in many of the videos. You get the impression she’s not just showing her body for the sake of it, but because she derives so much pleasure from sharing it with her long-term partner.

The album is not just about sex, though. Beyoncé also sings about grief (‘Heaven’), the joys and anxieties of motherhood (‘Blue’ and ‘Mine’ respectively) and relationship issues more generally (‘No Angel’ and ‘Jealous’). It’s a well-rounded album that foregrounds female experience across a range of situations.

Notwithstanding a disturbing lyric in ‘Drunk in Love’, sung by Jay Z, which appears to advocate domestic abuse, Beyoncé is an album which will hopefully help pop music fans to engage with ideas about feminism and will encourage pop stars to embrace the term ‘feminist’. Whether or not you agree with the way she presents feminism, no one can deny that Beyoncé is advocating for gender equality in a way that will reach millions of people – her fans. Truly, listening to her songs makes me feel just like a ‘grown woman, who can do whatever she wants.’

Julia Tulloh is a Melbourne-based writer working on a PhD in Literature at the University of Melbourne. 

ACO logo




  • Elizabeth Culhane

    I also really like that she’s trying to create a body of work; a narrative theme that grows and develops across an album, in contrast to 30 second soundbites. As she says in the video above: ‘I miss that immersive experience. People only listen to a few seconds of a song on their iPods. They don’t really invest in the whole album’.

    • Julia Tulloh

      Thanks, Elizabeth! I like this about the album too. In listening to the album as a whole, you get a much better idea of what she’s trying to say about her relationship and her experiences, than if you listened to just a single track.

  • Louise Heinrich

    This is an awesome wrap-up of Beyonce’s feminism! I’ve been reading a lot about it in the past few weeks, and have been a little confused. But her hugeness in light of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s quote makes perfect sense. She is unapologetic.

    I don’t think that feminism can be defined or restricted, and I especially don’t think anyone can say ‘She isn’t a feminism because of…’

    Having said this, I want to point out something I find problematic that I haven’t seen written about Beyonce yet: her brand of sexuality, her gorgeous body that fits into beauty norms, her sexual autonomy, is all sold to make millions of dollars.

    Her identity is manufactured; she’s a pop star. In the end, as much as I think it’s great that Beyonce is sexually voracious in an openly committed and monogamous relationship, how can this sexuality be authentic if it’s a performance to the gazillions of fans who will buy her albums?

    • Julia Tulloh

      Hi Louise, thanks so much for your comments, I totally agree… Beyonce is a barrel of contradictions in that way! One the one hand, she sings a song (‘Pretty Hurts’) about how American society puts pressure on women to look a certain way, and how damaging that pressure can be… but on the other hand, she doesn’t acknowledge that she may contribute to that pressure. And while she performs for Jay Z in ‘Partition’, she also performs for the millions of people who watch the video. I suppose it’s a case of understanding Beyonce as part self-determined individual, part product of the system in which she works … and recognising the way she empowers many women despite the fact that her mode of feminism is complex (and sometimes contradictory). Even if she’s manufactured, I still feel totally inspired by her – by her hard work, her business-savvy approach to music distribution, her ability to bring feminist ideas to the mass-market. But yes I agree… no-one is ever a ‘perfect’ feminist (whatever that means) – so thanks for bringing this complexity into the discussion!

Frances Abbott

David Donaldson

Why #whitehousegate matters

A few days after the release of the budget, in which the Coalition government announced it was spreading the burden by increasing university fees, cutting school funding, and cutting welfare for young people comes a story that confirms what many already suspect to be the nature of opportunity: it’s much easier to come by if you’re born into privilege. Read more »

money

David Donaldson

When does lobbying become corruption?

Whether it’s Clive Palmer buying his way into parliament, the recent, varied ICAC revelations of dodgy fundraising in the NSW Liberal party, or the refusal or inability of successive governments to effectively tackle powerful corporate interests in industries like gambling, mining, media, and junk food, there is a feeling among many Australians that democracy is up for sale. Read more »

cluster munition

David Donaldson

How to make treaties and influence people

In an era when Russia can annex Ukrainian territory, when the Refugee Convention is regularly flouted, and when nobody seems to be able to do anything to stop the carnage in Syria, it can be tempting to ask: what can international law actually achieve? Read more »

1560682_10153899026420591_499501666_n

Eli Glasman

Just a number: The literary world’s obsession with age

I used to be obsessed about what age I would be when I had my first novel published. I’d go on the Wikipedia pages of every famous writer I could think of to check how old they were when their first book came out. Read more »

winterson

Carody Culver

Jeanette Winterson’s sacred and secular space

It seems that people either love her or hate Jeanette Winterson, and sometimes that has less to do with her writing and more to do with the occasional controversies she’s regularly sparked since 1985. Read more »

Untitled

Veronica Sullivan

Adventures in reality with Oliver Mol

One of Mol’s recent pieces contains the line: ‘I want to put my bare ass on the cover of my book because not only will it make good promo but it speaks honestly about who I am.’ Read more »

The Tunnel TV review

Julia Tulloh

The Tunnel vs The Bridge: The ethics of TV remakes

A body is found in the Eurotunnel, neatly laid across the border between France and England. When police attempt to move the body, it splits in two with the top half in France and lower half in England. Read more »

1398878478_lea-michele-brunette-ambition-zoom

Julia Tulloh

How to be beautiful, according to Lea Michele

Lea Michele’s new book, Brunette Ambition, is what you might expect from a fairly young television and musical theatre star. Read more »

Mariah Carey

Julia Tulloh

Is she Mariah, the ‘elusive’ chanteuse?

Two weeks ago, Mariah Carey launched her fourteenth studio album, Me. I am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse. Yes, that’s the real name, and it’s hilarious not only because the title is so long and happily shameless but because Mariah has long styled herself as one of the least elusive pop stars in the pop music galaxy. Read more »

lead_large

Rochelle Siemienowicz

On Boyhood, parenting and the passing of time

Since its premiere in January at the Sundance Film Festival, film critics have been falling over themselves to lavish love upon Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. Read more »

wetlands_poster

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Lucky Dip Diving: an approach to film festivals

I wanted to let go of the grasping desire to watch everything and be part of every conversation. But with the Melbourne International Film Festival in full swing, anxieties arise again. Read more »

Happy Christmas

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Joe Swanberg’s Real Women

In Happy Christmas, the female characters are a pleasure to watch, largely because they’re so familiar in life and so rarely depicted on screen. Read more »

hbo-silicon-valley

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Silicon Valley will eat itself

At a certain point in the lifespan of any subculture, fiction and reality start to blur. Members of the subculture begin to model their character and appearance on the idealised representations of themselves they read about or see on screen. Read more »

inbox

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Death to the Inbox

The primary source of our ‘email problem’ seems to lie in our belief that email is a vastly richer and more capable medium than it is. Read more »

5881861191_90de8b5bc9

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Making trolls eat their words

If we’re not conscious of a troll’s desired response, we risk inadvertently encouraging further trolling by allowing ourselves to be played. Read more »

detail

Danielle Binks

Fan-Girling Over Super Heroines

The testosterone-fuelled BIFF! BANG! KAPOW! of classic comics can seem uninviting, filled with spandex-clad men and swooning damsels who hold limited appeal outside the stereotypical 18-35 year-old male demographic. But things are changing in the world of comics. Read more »

9780143305323

Danielle Binks

Australia Needs Diverse Books

The ‘We Need Diverse Books’ team is made up of authors, editors and publishers from North America, but the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag and campaign has reverberated in youth literature communities worldwide. Read more »

tumblr_inline_n6wz16ohb91r8e10g

Danielle Binks

YA is the New Black

Apparently those of us who do read and enjoy youth literature should be ‘embarrassed’. At least that’s what Ruth Graham said in her recent clickbait article for Slate, ‘Against YA’. Read more »

Jabberwocky1

Chad Parkhill

The carnival is over

Jabberwocky, scheduled to take place last weekend, was the kind of festival that wasn’t supposed to fail. Read more »

Robin Thicke

Chad Parkhill

Why has Robin Thicke’s Paula flopped?

What, exactly, has caused Paula to sell so poorly that it has already positioned itself as this year’s most memorable flop? Read more »

splash

Chad Parkhill

Queering the Power: The Soft Pink Truth’s Why Do the Heathen Rage?

The Soft Pink Truth’s new album ‘Why Do the Heathen Rage’ demonstrates that despite their superficial differences, dance music and black metal have a lot in common. Read more »

2014-07-03-theleftovers

Stephanie Van Schilt

TV pilots: The good, the bad and The Leftovers

With the wealth of shows on offer, committing to a new TV series can feel like a big deal. It’s often during a pilot episode that audiences determine whether the program is appealing enough to stick with for the long haul. Read more »

Alg-90210-jpg

Stephanie Van Schilt

Sick-Person TV

The only upside to getting sick was the many afternoons I spent curled up on the couch at home, watching daytime TV. I inhaled the drama of pre-recorded episodes of Beverley Hills 90210 while playing with my Brandon and Dylan sticker collection (interspersed with sporadic vomiting). Read more »

The_Million_Dollar_Drop_logo

Nicholas J Johnson

Highbrow vs Lowbrow: Nicholas J Johnson defends Lowbrow TV

I can’t stop looking at Eddie McGuire’s smug, stupid face. It’s not my fault. It’s just I’ve never been this close to the man before, and it’s not until now that I’ve realised how oddly smooth and tanned his skin is. As if someone has stretched the orange bladder from a football over a slab of marble. Read more »