LOS ANGELES, December 14, 2013 – Somehow, Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech excerpt got lost in the mêlée surrounding Beyoncé’s sudden helicopter drop of an audio-visual album—her latest—in the wee hours of Friday morning, December 13.
Entitled “BEYONCÉ,” the artist’s new release suddenly appeared in the iTunes Store without any pre-announcement or advance PR. Boasting 14 tracks, each with its own music video, the new album is an iTunes exclusive until December 20 when retailers will be able to get their collective hands on physical copies.
Meanwhile, word of the iTunes Store’s stealth release virtually blew up the Internet when it was discovered, and rightfully so. No stranger to controversy, Beyoncé has been hailed as the Queen by some, and as a fraud by others. The release of this album, and the way it was released, bring forth once again very polarizing opinions about the singer that are sure to play out well into the rest of 2013 and beyond.
As for today, the fact that the album itself received zero promotion yet is already being hailed as a prototype for future marketing strategies marks an undeniably bold and unique publicity coup for Beyoncé and her management team.
In addition to the album’s pathbreaking PR strategy, its content has raised a few eyebrows as well, along with question marks as to what direction Beyoncé is going in musically.
The artist has lived in the public eye since her early days in the girl group Destiny’s Child, and all the while, the highs and lows of her career have remained in full public view.
Keeping this in mind, when fans really dig into this album, they are sure to strike gold when listening to Track 11, “*** Flawless.”
While the first part of this track delivers a fun, gritty, and boastful Beyoncé commanding lesser mortals to “bow down b*tches,” while touting how she is, in fact, “Flawless” herself, the track ends with a surprise—an old audio clip of Beyoncé’s and Destiny’s Child and their heartbreaking 3-star loss to the reigning champ’s 4-star rating on “Star Search.” It shows us all just how bittersweet this story really is for her.
But exquisitely placed in the center of boastfulness and bittersweet comes that unexpected, spliced-in excerpt from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech, “We Should All Be Feminists.” It should be no surprise by now that this writer was pleasantly surprised to hear Adiche’s thick Nigerien accent come through her headphones:
We teach girls to shrink themselves
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls
“You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful
Otherwise you will threaten the man”
Because I am female
I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that
Marriage is the most important
Now marriage can be a source of
Joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to treat each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments
Which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
In the way that boys are
Feminist: the person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes
I was floored.
I was floored for two reasons: (1) I had no idea that Beyoncé even knew who Adichie was, and (2) I didn’t even see it coming (much like the album itself).
The sample, as unexpected as it was, is the real thesis of this album.
Yes, at the time of this article’s writing, Beyonce has reportedly sold over 80,000 copies of this album in just three hours. And yes, with a husband, toddler and tour currently under her belt, she has managed to crank out an entire album complete with 14 tracks and 17 music videos.
There is no doubt that this is amazing. But what might be getting overlooked on this album is the actual message that this artist is trying to send out to young women and girls everywhere.
Her Destiny’s Child days are done and she is no longer a wide-eyed little girl on “Star Search” aspiring to make it big. She has arrived. She is a mother, a wife, and she makes it clear that she is now a grown woman.
But Adichie’s words tell the rest of the story, bringing home a theme running throughout Beyonce’s new album: the sheer beauty and the stark cruelty of arriving at womanhood.
Of growing into sex, growing into love and growing into your own power.
“Feminist” is a strong word that many women (even some feminists) tend to avoid using too often. However, Beyoncé’s selective use of Adiche’s words from “We Should All Be Feminists” reflects not only this album’s complex concoction of sex, power, and love, but Beyoncé the Woman’s character as well.
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