I write about culture from a pro-Black perspective

On Beyoncé’s HBO Documentary, ‘Life Is But A Dream’


I just finished watching Beyoncé’s documentary, Life Is But A Dream, and I think what I was most struck by is an overwhelming sense that vulnerability is hard for this young woman because she’s trying to live up to an impossible ideal.

I didn’t get the sense that she wasn’t interested in being truly vulnerable so much as unpracticed at  it. I have this profound sense that this is a 31-year old woman who has never allowed herself, or been allowed, to feel deeply.

So this film is an exercise I think in watching Beyoncé learn to be vulnerable. There’s that moment where she says, almost surprising herself, that she can’t do it alone. Or the way she conveyed more deeply the hurt she feels that people would think she would fake a pregnancy than she does relating what it must have been like to have had a miscarriage. 

And then there’s that moment early on when she’s talking about how hard she worked for her father’s approval and how he withheld it, presumably to make her into the very thing she is: this hyper-poised star. This is the most revealing, honest and vulnerable moment in the entire film precisely because I think it cuts to the core, for me, of who Beyoncé is as a figure and a person.

And it helps me understand her vocal approach – the very thing that for me makes her such a frustratingly disappointing artist to listen to. So much talent, but such a profound inability to connect to the emotion of whatever it is she’s singing*. We see her singing “Listen” and “Resentment” and I know it’s supposed to be deep emotion, but it’s not. It’s Beyoncé trying to approximate what she thinks it must feel or sound like, or more accurately, willing herself to get there.

For the first time, I feel genuine empathy and sadness for what it must be like to be Beyoncé. It is just for reasons different than I expected.


*There are exceptions of course, “Speechless,” “Lay Up Under Me,” “Crazy Feelings” – and yes through sheer force of will, “Resentment” – chief among them.

Posted on February 18th, 2013 - Filed under Music,Television
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RichGirl: What Exactly Do We Need from a Girl Group?


I can’t decide what angers me more: that this song is written and produced by Dre and Vidal, who are capable of way better (like this, for instance), or that so much of this song is devoted to perennial rap cameo artist Fabolous and the completely devoid of talent Rick Ross.

It’s not clear to me what it is that RichGirl offers to the marketplace as a vocal group. Or rather, nothing that they have released so far requires four singers singing in harmony, or even bothers to take advantage of the fact that RichGirl is actually made up of four singers who, presumably, can sing in harmony.

It isn’t that they should do this*:



or this:



But there doesn’t seem to be even the pretense that we’re getting music that uses multiple voices in harmony to convey some emotion or idea that can’t be conveyed in the same way with one voice (or even one voice with background singers).  I think the artist, producer, or label that figures out how to do that in this historical moment when there’s an entire generation that venerates artists whose whole appeal is the absence of any musical ability whatsoever will be wildly wildly successful.

So I guess it is the former that bothers me more. I get that the marketplace is producer-driven, dance-floor focused, and completely uninterested in vocal ability. But then – why a girl group?  RichGirl exists solely to sell the idea of a girl group, without actually being a girl group.

I mean, I can’t even enjoy RichGirl as shamelessly derivative and unoriginal – Destiny’s Child taken to its most extreme end – anymore.



*Another post for another day: how Tiny was the best vocalist in Xscape, got the best leads on all the songs, and also how Tamika Scott’s greatness was unjustifiably overshadowed by her sister Latocha.  Both of which are on display on this, their single best work.

(H/T Soulbounce)

Posted on October 12th, 2010 - Filed under Hot Videos,Music
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RichGirl fills a void…sorta

The New Destiny’s Child, ladies and gentleman.

Nah seriously.  I’m sorta feelin this and not just because Rich Harrison has transplanted Dangerously in Love Beyonce vocals to 4 bangin ass chicks who can actually warble a bit , because I see all the elements that are being recycled rather plainly and still feel genuinely like this is a group that is exciting to watch.

Though I sorta dig this, let’s just be clear about some things so there’s no confusion:


  • The walking around each other posing thing from Bills Bills Bills is a nice touch (and just different enough for Beyonce stans to be cool wit it), but damn nostalgia for 1999 makes me feel old as hell.
    • To that point, there was always something charming about the original DC image and styling, so resurrecting that is sort of a repudiation of the DC3 Beyonce focused incarnation.  I’m wit that.
  • The Madonna Human Nature boxes are an inspired touch.  That video was dope!
  • I’m likin that all four girls can sing — and that they are sharing lead vocals (YAY!) — but was there any particular reason to choose 4 bangin ass women who have identical (in phrasing, tone and texture) voices.
    • Yes, I did notice that the light-skinneded one with the curly hair has a mite more heft to her voice, but that really don’t count.
    • The one with the ponytail shall henceforth be sentenced to a room with a vocal coach and other pop singers records to unlearn that blatant rip-off of Beyonce’s voice, phrasing, style, and vacant video persona.
      • Since she probably won’t, the kids will either love her or hate her.  This love/hate will be directly related to how much of a stan for Beyonce a person is.
  • Rich – you worked hard to find 4 bangin ass women who can sing but perhaps you could have spent some more time on making the music sound less like a Beyonce 2003/Amerie retread.  Retire the hi-hat and learn to read music, homie.  Thanks.


Via Soulbounce

UPDATE – The dark-skinneded one is mesmerizingly beautiful.  Do it mami!

Posted on May 28th, 2009 - Filed under Music
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T-Boz Speaks True about Destiny’s Child

T-Boz of TLC was recently interviewed on AOL Black Voices.  It’s an interesting interview because she seems to feel free to say what she really thinks.

The best part is when she drops the truth about Beyonce and Destiny’s Child:

They get mad when I say this, but I don’t give a damn. It was all about Beyonce anyway. She was my favorite, too, but come on. Her parents are over everything. Who do you think they were going for? It’s always Beyonce. It was supposed to be exactly the way it is now, Bey is on top…That would have been a hard group for me to be in, because I would have been like your mommy and daddy are running things and they’re gonna have you at heart the most. That’s just how I feel. (my emphasis added)

Bout damn time someone in the industry spoke true about DC.

Posted on April 9th, 2009 - Filed under Music
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Business as Usual for Mrs. Carter


You know – I actually am sitting here thinking that writing about this issue again is pointless.

I’ve actually tried to write something about this here a bunch of times.  I can’t seem to really articulate anything here that I haven’t already said, again and again.

At this point, the arrogance of the Knowles to think that they can do this without incident has everything to do with the fact that we Black folks haven’t been sufficiently angry about images of Beyonce throughout her entire career.  And because it has been explained away without any understanding of why it matters so much to (some of) us.

This kind of thing should outrage black people.

If her paper were threatened.  If we stopped buying her records (which are increasingly banal and worthless anyway)….

…who knows?  The Knowles arrogance seems to know no bounds.

Posted on August 6th, 2008 - Filed under Culture,Current Affairs,Music,Sexuality
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