The FT’s pop music critic opines that “…among the ranks of opinionated entertainers, none is held to be as influential as Beyoncé. Leonardo DiCaprio’s warnings about climate change or Lady Gaga’s advocacy for LGBTQ+ communities never command the same degree of attention as Beyoncé’s interventions about racial politics and societal unrest. Kanye West attracts attention — but the rapper’s libertarian edgelordery is usually met with outrage rather than the reverence that Queen Bey’s words inspire.”
That prompts the inevitable question ‘Why does Beyonce command this sort attention and respect”?”
“There are two explanations for why this is. One is Beyoncé’s medium of expression. Pop singers are recorded with incredible attention to detail and listened to very closely by their public. We hear them with an intimacy that we don’t experience with the other amplified voices of mass entertainment. And Beyoncé heightens her impact by mainly communicating through music rather than interviews, keeping an almost Garbo-like silence outside of her songs.
The other factor relates to race and gender. The Houston-born singer belongs to an African-American singing tradition that fuses religion, pop and politics. Its roots lie in gospel music, which became secularised into soul in the 1950s and 1960s, a transition that took place alongside the civil rights struggle in the US. Soul’s philosophy of emancipation found its most significant star in Aretha Franklin, who rose to national prominence in the 1960s. “It was neither my intention nor my plan,” she said in her memoir, “but some were saying that in my voice . . . they heard the proud history of a people who had been struggling for centuries.”…
There is now a minute attentiveness to overlapping degrees of difference between the activisms of Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, LGBTQ+ inclusion, and so on. The ultimate logic of this intersectionality is recognition of every person’s uniqueness. “Looking for something that lives inside me,” as Beyoncé sings on “Break My Soul”.
This is why her words resonate: the greatest black American pop singer of our time is also the supreme voice of identity politics, the individualistic credo that shapes today’s civil rights struggles.”
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