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Jul 15

DESTINY’S CHILD – “Independent Women, Part 1”

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#883, 2nd December 2000

destinyswomen It’s hard not to let what Beyoncé Knowles was become swamped by what she is. A veteran, an icon, a woman enjoying a remarkable critical peak, an earner, second only to headphone mogul Dr Dre on current musical money lists – Beyoncé, as she is happy to tell us, works astonishingly hard, but one of the things she works at is controlling her narrative, shaping her career so that each step seems higher than the last, and her success appears pre-ordained. It was there in the name of her own group. “Child of destiny… independent me…”. But that’s only a story. Nothing is really inevitable, and Beyoncé enters Popular running, working, managing her options, using her group’s remarkable success as a springboard, while trying to win a PR battle over the palace coup that finished a multi-platinum line-up and cut a quartet to a reshuffled trio.

The stakes were very high. The Writings On The Wall sold millions and helped reinvent its genre. In sound and attitude, the singles from it were astonishing, particularly “Bills Bills Bills” and “Say My Name”, which would glide, jab, purr, stutter, break down into precise micro-maps of beatwork and then be reconstituted in time for their earworm choruses. The group themselves were a match for their production, just as happy to change modes mid-song. Or even mid chorus – take the way “Bills Bills Bills” jumps from the sweeping repetition of “bills….bills…bills…” to the sudden, sprightly kiss-off of “I don’t think you do / So you and me are through”. On “Say My Name” the angry stacatto of the verses, and their rushes of paranoid realisation, complement the keening, screw-turning chorus: it’s a masterpiece of suspicion and wrath, playing off the great history of those emotions in soul music while sounding like nothing before.

But the group who made those songs was gone. LaTavia Roberson and LaToya Luckett complained about the management and found themselves discarded mid-video. By “Independent Women”, one of their replacements had already quit. Destiny’s Child was now a trio. That would be its final and platonic form, its megastar incarnation, one that still reforms now and then. Luckett and Roberson became the Sutcliffe and Best of the group, banished from Destiny’s Child before things really got big – or so the new story framed it, and never mind that no subsequent album actually sold as much as The Writings On The Wall:

Big was certainly the plan. Survivor – the album – is a soggy thing in parts, but it announced itself with unparalleled clarity and determination: three singles, three manifestos. “Independent Women, Part 1” was the first, with the most to prove. Right away, it’s clear something has changed. The switches and feints of “Bills Bills Bills” or “Say My Name” are replaced by a far more direct approach, a straight-to-the-point funk loop that bumps away all through the song, a framework to showcase its three singers. The aftershock of the new lingers – this record may streamline and back off from earlier advances, but it still sounds thrilling and self-possessed, confidently honing its approach while everyone else catches up. But there’s no question anymore of the production becoming the star. Whether or not ‘futurism’ was ever the point of Destiny’s Child, it isn’t here.

The group’s lyrical approach has also hardened. The 1998-9 singles were vignettes: little bullet-time panoramas circling a particular interpersonal crisis just at the moment of collapse. “Independent Women” throws out that approach and again prefers something that pulls your focus onto the singer: a song built around a rhetorical device, the snapped “Question” at the start of every line. It’s remorselessly direct: economic and sexual independence were always in the music, the subtext of “Bills Bills Bills” or “Jumpin’ Jumpin’”, but there’s zero room for subtext here. The new Destinys’ Child is ruthlessly on the nose.

So whether we want to be anachronistic or not, there’s no escaping it: everything’s pointing in the same directon. The music toned down, more a framework for its singers. The lyrics turned into a rhetorical barrage, keeping the focus squarely on who’s delivering them, not their situation. And the basic mathematics of the new group. There’s no centre to four (or at most – this was Roberson and Luckett’s complaint – a double centre), but three resolves into a natural shape on stage and on film, a V formation. Just ask Mary Wilson and Flo Ballard. While the spotlight in Destinys Child sometimes rotates – and Kelly Rowland’s glorious, camera-pleasing repertoire of smirks, side-eyes and reaction shots is the group’s secret video weapon – this incarnation of the band is a machine built to make a singer famous.

Before it can do that, there was a film to promote. “Independent Women” tackles its job as a soundtrack single for Charlie’s Angels as directly as it tackles everything else. Beyoncé isn’t just sharing the spotlight with her co-Childs, but with three other women – Lucy Liu, Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz – who get individual shout-outs alongside constant lyrical nods to the film. This is a hostage to fortune, you might think – Charlie’s Angels was a sharp, fun movie, one I remember with only fondness, but “Independent Women Part 1” is a landmark record by one of the major 00s pop groups. There’s certainly a risk the constant product placement might diminish it now.

I think it dodges that risk. Partly it’s that within the economic game the record uses to define independence, showing off your soundtrack deal is plainly a legit move. Partly it’s the thematic tie – Charlie’s Angels is a vision (or fantasy) of a Hollywood where women get to front action films, and the line between the record made to promote the movie and the record Destiny’s Child would be making anyway is almost invisible. (”Synergy”, as the memos no doubt put it.) Mostly it’s just that the record is so forceful a celebration that it brushes caveats aside.

Because while it’s easy to see Destiny’s Child’s new directness in terms of what’s been lost, this is pop, and there’s an advantage to making the obvious unavoidable, going all-out for the anthemic. The context the group operated in wasn’t just their earlier singles, it was a trend within R&B of probing power-games and inequalities in relationships: TLC’s flaying of impecunious suitors on “No Scrubs” just the most prominent example. By September 2000, when “Independent Women” came out, Billboard could refer offhanded to “a wave of male-bashing sweeping R&B”. If they didn’t have the no-nonsense stringency of Destiny’s Child’s ‘98-’99 singles in mind, others were happy to lump the group in. The concern was overstated: rock and pop songs had been about women, money and sex since forever. The only twist was now the women had – on record, at least – control of the money and the sex. But the trend was real enough. “Independent Women, Part 1” doubled down on it by presenting the underlying theme as starkly as possible.

That meant cash: if you’re going to do a song about independence, you aim for what keeps people dependent. “Independent Women, Part 1” is as clear sighted about the transactional side of relationships as any Gang Of Four song – the difference being that the critique is pragmatic not systemic. The solution to inequality is to earn enough to afford what you want yourself. Here’s where the song’s focus, its musical and lyrical bluntness, pays off – the successive “I bought it… I bought it… I bought it…” is a stirring application of force. And then the record plays its best trick, taking the latent churchiness within the preaching, rhetorical style and unleashing it for the chorus, turning individual autonomy into a communal celebration – “throw your hands up at me!”. It’s not solidarity, exactly – no room for those who can’t or won’t earn. But in that moment, “Independent Women, Part 1” – the anthem, the film promo, the comeback, the crest of a trend, the next step in a business plan – lives the dream of the virtuous market, where all interests perfectly align.

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Comments

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  1. 1

    might as well note early in the thread that i always heard the churchy “throw yr hands up at me” as a much more lovecraftian “on the wings of madness”

  2. 2
    Tom on 4 Jul 2015 #

    Throw your pseudopods up at me.

  3. 3
    DJP on 4 Jul 2015 #

    They saved all the futurism for “Independent Women, Part 2”: http://youtu.be/9f_YTbQzlik

  4. 4
    Doctor Casino on 4 Jul 2015 #

    Great analysis – you’ve hit the mark on what distinguishes this from those earlier hits in my mind, in a way I never would have been able to articulate. Would never mark it that high though – catchy as hell, but I never felt like I needed to hear it that many times. Not as grating and brassy in the ear as a certain upcoming bunny that could only hint at a big televisual cross-promotion (and to reality TV rather than blockbuster film, at that), but just not that much *there* in the song. The main funky thing is cool, and gives a new coat of paint to the stop-start Timbo shuffle that had become so dominant by this point… but it wears out its welcome and any song where the big a capella break is literally the singers proclaiming the title of the film faces certain limits. I mean, even if you feel a passionate kinship to the whole rest of the song, how do you belt THAT out in the shower?

  5. 5
    Tom on 4 Jul 2015 #

    I like the directness of all the first three singles from this album – but yeah as is often the case when I come off an enforced break the marking might be wayward! Re-reading the review it doesn’t really read like an 8, does it? Oh well.

  6. 6
    Ed on 4 Jul 2015 #

    “The dream of the virtuous market” gets it exactly right, I think: this is a record about economics, and it reflects the economy of its era in a way that places it very precisely in 1999-2000, dating it even more clearly than the Charlie’s Angels references.
    The late 1990s were the only period between the late 1970s and today when average income (technically median income) in the US rose significantly in real terms, allowing for inflation. The notorious top 1% of earners have done very well since 1980, but for most Americans real incomes, and hence living standards, have not risen at all. The one exception was what is sometimes called the “Clinton boom” of 1993-2000, and ‘Independent Women Part 1’ would have been written just as that wave was cresting.
    In that context, the dream of economic independence, and the practical ability to buy your own jewellery, car and house, seemed more attainable for the majority of Americans than they ever have since.
    IWP1 is the ultimate anthem for that time of rising economic confidence.
    (The story of the 2000s was that incomes stopped rising but people wanted to keep spending, and they did it by borrowing more. The anthem of what happened when that became unsustainable is ‘Umbrella’, but we will get to that another day.)

  7. 7
    Shiny Dave on 4 Jul 2015 #

    Knew this would be worth waiting for!

    The date is significant here – its US release was in the midst of the coinflip 2000 Presidential race, and by the time it made it here Bush and his lawyers had snatched the victory. There would be plenty of people – and, especially, plenty of black women – who would indeed be very much left out of the pursuit of economic independence, at least partly because that administration was essentially governed by (with a couple of high-profile tokenistic exceptions) and for white men. The other Destiny’s Child chart-topper – – yes, the other, they have the same number of bunnies as the Outhere Brothers –

    Anyway, this is one of the great pop manifestos, and it’s not exactly the fault of the band that many of the people who looked up to them were in no position to embrace it; it’s also one of the great soundtrack singles, and as Tom astutely points out, that’s because it’s essentially something Destiny’s Child would already have written and made brilliant, only with added product placement.

    The astonishingly-unbunnied “Hey Ya!” actually namechecks Beyoncé and Lucy Liu in the same line, but it does so in terms of ushering them to the dancefloor, and there’s more than the whiff of objectification about it, especially as it leads up to that other great – and even more rapidly dated – piece of product placement in 2000s R&B, “shake it like a Polaroid picture.” We will have plenty of opportunities to discuss the sexualisation of Beyoncé in particular, but the product placement link to “Hey Ya!” sprung to mind and invited me to note it now.

  8. 8
    Shiny Dave on 4 Jul 2015 #

    #5 Well, it reads a fair bit stronger than the “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” review, and you gave that a 7! If anything, I can say that you bumped it up for “making an obvious pitfall actually work,” which I’m choosing to interpret as the reason “Oops” got the Britney 10 rather than BOMT. (That, and allowing Sinead to stand as the undisputed Song of the 90s!)

  9. 9
    Ed on 4 Jul 2015 #

    @4 I agree about how slight the song is. Having loved the singles from TWOTW – ‘Bug-a-Boo’ and ‘Jumpin Jumpin’ are every bit as good as the two Tom mentions, IMO – I thought ‘Independent Women’ was the biggest let-down on first hearing since Prince’s ‘Kiss’. I have listened to ‘Kiss’ countless times since, and now love it for the work of genius that it is, but I still haven’t really warmed to IWP1. The verses are weak and the movie references are jarring. All there really is is a chorus. But on the other hand, it is such a storming, epoch-defining chorus that it redeems the song. Am I right in thinking this would send parties and clubs wild with the requested demonstrations of wealth? I am sure I have read about that, though I never saw it. Eight feels about right to me. There is better to come from DC.

  10. 10
    Jonathan on 4 Jul 2015 #

    This is my favorite era of Beyonce (that is, if we are kind enough to extend an era from Writing’s On the Wall to “Irreplaceable”). It’s when she felt surprising rather than inevitable. And she was always surprising, even though I found more awe in “Jumpin Jumpin,” which was better, and “Survivor,” which was not.

    In re #4, I think the economic analysis of #7 might have to do with why, as absurd as it should be, I don’t find the Charlie’s Angels insert to be distracting. It’s a song about a specific time, and that movie was part of that time. The song evokes a time when that movie was something people cared about, and, voila, here are three people caring about the movie.

  11. 11
    flahr on 4 Jul 2015 #

    I’m 7 (er, in 2000, not now) and still basically hate music (I still basically hate music, probably, that’s why I love it so much), but as legally mandated (well, rather, legally heavily suggested) I went to primary school, and no primary school student can possibly avoid pop music.

    I remember “Say My Name” from the school playground. I remember the subsequent bunny from the school playground. But I don’t remember this at all, and this is the one that I’ve actually consciously listened to post-2000. I suppose the subject matter is not very Year 3.

    (NB ‘from the school playground’ =/= ‘in crude parody form’ in this one (well, these two) specific instances)

  12. 12
    Ronnie on 4 Jul 2015 #

    “Charlie’s Angels was a sharp, fun movie, one I remember with only fondness”

    Do your memories a favor and don’t watch it again, because you are one of a vanishing minority to call it “fun” and maybe the only person in history to call it “sharp.”

  13. 13
    Tom on 4 Jul 2015 #

    Ha, well, there’s a reason I’m not a film writer. Unmentioned in the review is that I saw it recovering from one of the worst hangovers of my life, which may have led me to exaggerate its qualities. It wasn’t THAT bad though, was it?

  14. 14
    Izzy on 4 Jul 2015 #

    I thought this was incredible at the time, and easily DC’s peak. The directness and economy of the lyric, the subtle groove of the backing, the anthemic hook (not that I can call it to mind right now, exactly).

    But it’s seemed thinner and thinner on subsequent listens, to my puzzlement. I’m still not sure why, maybe it *is* that elusive hook – or maybe it’s because others have since picked up those qualities and made better records; whereas nobody’s come close to doing the same to The Writing’s On The Wall. (7)

  15. 15
    thefatgit on 4 Jul 2015 #

    Is this the confirmation that Donna Summer was looking for when she covered Jon & Vangelis’ “State Of Independence” in 1982? In the time it takes for a baby to become a woman, “Independent Women Part 1” confirms that so much has been gained…at least on the face of it. Here we have some sisters celebrating doing it for themselves, but I still feel there’s a hollow ring to the triumphalism at the heart of this single. Obviously, Destiny’s Child was a product to be marketed in the same way that The Supremes had been when I was a mere baby. If Donna was singing about personal liberty; DC were all about business and money, and the freedoms that came with that.

    The future as yet unwritten, would never suggest the power that Beyonce wields today, but there was a clear Diana Ross comparison, with Kelly and Michelle as Flo and Mary, as Tom states. It was intentional. The four-piece was compelling. The three-piece was intoxicating.

    The film? Not bad as I recall. Charlie’s Angels rubbed shoulders with Dude, Where’s My Car and Scream 3 for shifting popcorn by the tonne. Lucy Liu, Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz were charming enough, but someone as old as me would remember Farrah, Kate and Jaclyn with no shortage of fondness.

    IWp1 is just another piece in the 21st Century jigsaw puzzle of pop. Another example of the dominance of Stateside R&B. It works on its own terms, even more than a means to shift popcorn at mulitplexes. But one can’t help but think that there are other Destiny’s Child singles a tad more deserving of #1 than this. (7)

  16. 16
    mapman132 on 4 Jul 2015 #

    Good to see you back, Tom!

    I was expecting this might be a 10 to the point I skipped ahead to the mark before reading the review, but I must’ve misinterpreted previous comments by Tom. I seem to remember him saying there was another 10 before the end of the year (2000? or 2015?). Still trying to figure out what…

    IW1 was the third and biggest of DC’s four US#1’s – 11 weeks at the top. I know a lot of people consider it their signature hit, but the film references (which I had forgotten about) really grate on me today, and I agree with those that think it dates and diminishes the song a bit. You can get away with that if a film is truly iconic but CA, which I admit I’ve never seen, falls well short. So 6/10 is about as high as I can go here.

  17. 17
    Tommy Mack on 5 Jul 2015 #

    I’m a sucker for songs that namecheck the band at the start (“Marco, Merrick…”) so I’ve always liked this, around a 7 sort of level. I’d probably rate it a bit higher but I’ve always been uncomfortable with exhortations to conspicuous consumption: “declare your independence…by perpetuating the system that seeks to weaken you”.

    If you wanted, you could read Charlie’s Angels as a metaphor for the pop industry: high-kicking female empowerment upfront, shady blokes pulling the strings behind the scenes. I think that’s a lazy alt-rock-dude reading of pop but there’s still something uncomfortable about the idea independence=buy your own jewels. During my teacher training, a group of female fellow student teachers (seriously smart, well-educated women) were discussing whether Katie Price was a good role model for girls because she’s made her own money, not just married a footballer. I said it was pretty patronising to women that they’d even have to consider the question: no-one asks if, for example, Dean Gaffney is a good role model for boys. The conversation then took a left turn into a discussion of how disgusting Dean Gaffney is.

  18. 18
    Shiny Dave on 5 Jul 2015 #

    #17 One of my friends (who at this point has just watched – and come close to being in – the first season of Big Brother) has met Katie Price. “She’s smarter than you think. Also very likeable. She plays up being thick, but she’s clever, an astute businesswoman, and has a fine line in the smart comeback.”

    For me, she pretty much epitomises what becomes a fork in the road of feminism – how do feminists interpret a strong-willed woman who carves out a career autonomously, but does so as very much a player in a patriarchal game? That is a legitimate question to which there are legitimately feminist arguments in each direction.

    This takes on its own distinct turn as women of colour and/or trans women do the same, frequently exposing racism and/or transphobia amongst some mainstream feminist commentators. Beyoncé has long been a lightning rod for this, and the video for the latest Rhianna single (which I’m expecting to be bunnied, and if so, I’m expecting Tom to refer to “Independent Women Part 1” when he reviews it in about 2023!) turned out to be perfect bait there too.

    In fact, between that and the recent #GiveYourMoneyToWomen hashtag from a few influential Twitter feminists – which has itself sparked debate within feminist Twitter, as I understand it – it strikes me that Tom managed to get to this record at the perfect time.

  19. 19
    mrdiscopop on 5 Jul 2015 #

    “Beyoncé, as she is happy to tell us, works astonishingly hard, but one of the things she works at is controlling her narrative.”

    So true. She’s the master of her own mythology (not that it’s uncommon – U2 and Prince are equally guilty).

    What I remember about the promotional campaign for the Survivor album was how much the band pushed the idea that Beyoncé was an incredible songwriter. She never said it herself, of course, she just smiled beatifically while Michelle and Kelly sang her praises.

    It was so effective that, until recently, I believed she had sole writing credits on this run of singles.

    Interesting side note: The tour to promote this record suffered a lengthy postponement after September 11, when many U.S. acts couldn’t get insurance to fly to Europe. Several acts scrapped entire tours, but DC made sure they came back – which shows that, however ruthless Beyoncė’s business persona can seem, she has an instinctive empathy with her audience.

  20. 20
    AMZ1981 on 5 Jul 2015 #

    Prior to this Destiny’s Child’s chart trajectory had been 5, 19, 15, 6, 9, 3, 5 so they were already seven singles in and not, by the standards of many chart acts of the time, overnight sensations. So when a connection to a much hyped film pushed this all the way I didn’t think anything of it at the time. Obviously with fifteen years hindsight this is arguably the most significant chart topper of the year.

    If I was marking this it would be a 6; I’ve got nothing against it but it’s not really my thing. I’ve always found Beyonce’s stuff a bit samey but then again I possibly wasn’t paying attention at the time.

    Going back to the early Destiny’s Child hits I’ve discovered something I’d completely forgotten. They also scored a minor (24) chart placing by guesting on She’s Gone by Matthew Marsden; at the time a former Emmerdale/ Coronation Street actor trying to carve out a pop career. Today the idea of Beyonce duetting with an actor from Coronation Street is only marginally less probable than the Queen and Prince Philip releasing a cover of Something Stupid for their platinum wedding anniversary in a couple of years time!

  21. 21
    Tom on 5 Jul 2015 #

    #18 not seen the video but I’d be astonished if BBHMM was bunnied – mainly because it’s been kicking around the charts and playlists for most of this year without risking becoming a massive hit. I really like the record and it would have more character than most of this year’s bunnies but I just can’t see it.

  22. 22
    lonepilgrim on 5 Jul 2015 #

    had my early 80s self been transported Marty McFly style to the year 2000 I would have needed no convincing that this was the sound of the new millennium. Ultra-precise beats and synthesised tones fronted by hyper-confident women of colour asserting their independence suggest a glossy utopia – but with their independence evidenced by their ability to buy things there was the suggestion that this was not a sustainable future.
    It’s a measure of how much I like this that I have disappeared down a Youtube rabbit hole over the last week or so and while it may not be their best (or at least my favourite) its still pretty good.

  23. 23
    Mark M on 5 Jul 2015 #

    I had been totally thrilled by the Writing On The Walls singles – to go beyond Ed (#9), I think Jumpin’ Jumpin’ and Bug-a-Boo were possible my favourites, although I love them all. This felt somewhat less astonishing, although I still like it – especially the ‘Question:’ device. I’m definitely keener on it than the singles immediately after.

    Charlie’s Angels I remember as being not particularly good. I don’t think the Barrymore/Diaz/Liu trio was particularly good combination and the balance between comedy and action wasn’t quite right. The main excitement in the critical circles I moved in was a mainstream outing for Crispin Glover. But at least as movie adaptations of Aaron Spelling glamorous-detective shows go, it was a hell of a lot better than The Mod Squad.

  24. 24
    Chelovek na lune on 5 Jul 2015 #

    “Jumpin’ Jumpin’ would have been a breathtaking number 1.

    This is merely pretty damn good – sassy, confident, assertive – the message and the performance really puts the Spice Girls in the shade when it comes to promoting realistic notions of “girl power” (something that the recent somewhat poor and final Spicers no 1, which seemed to have been cast in a pale and obvious imitation of “The Writing’s On The Wall” style, makes all the more clear).

    Possibly the greater willingness in US culture to talk about material realities, rather than the embarrassed class-ridden preference that leads one often to avoid mentioning money or even hinting at the topic in England is one reason for the difference (I think there are other reasons for DC’s greater solidity and confidence, some of which are touched on explicitly in their future bunny) – but the list of “achievements” and “purchasers” and “earnings” on IW, well, is a rather more substantive and to my mind admirable manifesto than “if you wanna be my lover, you’ve gotta get with my friends” – although perhaps DC had already covered than in “Say My Name”. Women of colour, too, note, without the immensely questionable need for any of them to be labelled as “scary, either”. And the film tie-in references in the lyrics….well, allow DC to get away with being both DC themselves and the characters alluded to, again backing up the message of the song.

    It’s not quite a 10 – it’s not epoch-defining (but maybe if the film had been….), the song does not quite catch fire (Jumpin’ Jumpin’ certainly did that, over and over again, Bills Bills Bills managed to do so too,at its “I don’t think you do” payoff), but IW is powerful, convincing, and plausible, solid, chunky, and, for all that, it seemed like an enormous step forward from the quite brilliant previous album (one step that the forthcoming album didn’t quite fulfil – but we have a later chance to discuss that too).

    But yeah, hell yeah, this is a fine thing. 9

  25. 25
    Inanimate Carbon God on 5 Jul 2015 #

    I’m surprised any wily old sage hasn’t piped up and said “This [cover] was the most interesting thing Elbow ever did….” :)

  26. 26
    Ed on 5 Jul 2015 #

    Another data point that may be relevant to economically focused R&B: the gap between men’s and women’s earnings was then – and still is – smaller among African-Americans than for any other group in the US.

    In 2013 African-American women earned on average 91% of African-American men’s earnings, while non-Hispanic white women earned just 78% of white men’s earnings.

    (Source: http://www.aauw.org/2014/09/18/gender-pay-gap/)

    In other words, there is much greater equality in earnings between men and women for African-Americans than for white people.

    You can’t take this idea too far. Black women on average still earn less than two-thirds (64%) as much as white men.

    But I still wonder if that economic reality helped inspire the wave of financially assertive songs sung by women. As Tom has mentioned, No Scrubs and Bills Bills Bills were the anecdotal, observational reflections of the trend. Independent Women turns them into a manifesto.

  27. 27
    Phil on 5 Jul 2015 #

    I hated this so much. And still do, apparently – I tried playing the video, but only got as far as the first “All the women” before I had to close the window.

    Explaining why would probably involve a long disquisition on 1970s feminism (with & to some extent in which I grew up) and I’m not really up to that right now. Let’s just say that when other people are oppressing you and treating you as a thing, treating yourself as a thing and then defying the oppression is problematic – and that, in terms of power dynamics, there’s a big difference between woman/man and star/fan. Women telling men to piss off is, more often than not, a good thing – but Beyonce looking like, well, Beyonce, and telling men in general to piss off, is something other than radical or empowering. (‘Spectacular’ would be one word.)

    No score, because I can’t get away from the feeling that – however well they do it – what they’re doing here is a bad thing.

  28. 28
    Tommy Mack on 5 Jul 2015 #

    But Beyonce saying to girls ‘I’m cool because I don’t need a man to buy me these things’ is better than saying ‘I’m cool because I’m pretty so I can get a man’, no? I’m dubious about any celebration of consumerism as empowerment* cos I think it’s one step away from a Nike commercial but I don’t think Beyonce’s being antifeminist in saying Independent Women buy their own jewels, just very American.

    *mind you, I’d reckon a lot of DC’s audience were teenagers and when you’re young, it DOES feel empowering when you first get a job and can buy your own stuff so there’s a degree of empathy going on here.

  29. 29
    JoeWiz on 5 Jul 2015 #

    Ah, Miss Knowles. Welcome.
    I’d been completely unaware of Writings on the Wall,
    the singles weren’t quite big enough hits to register, so this was my first exposure to Destiny’s Child. I hated it then and quite like it now. With hindsight, it’s far inferior to much of WOTW, but the opening is sleek and smooth enough to draw you in, and sounds pretty contemporary. Obviously the film references lose that contemporary nature, and the chorus is a bit of an empty mish mash of call and response, but this sounds pretty good still to me. Rowland really was the secret weapon, her voice would’ve been good enough to lead most other groups, but her presence in the videos is oddly mesmeric, you can’t quite take your eyes off her sharp poses and attitude smiles. Maybe it’s just me.
    I think Beyoncé turned out to be one of our most precious popstars, there’s a few clues why in here.
    Oh, and Lucy Liu is excellent in ‘Elementary’.

  30. 30
    Phil on 5 Jul 2015 #

    #28 – the moment you get a job (particularly your first job, particularly as a teenager) you’re making yourself dependent on other people’s approval & surrendering any control over most of your waking hours. You can repress that knowledge and take a defiant pride in suppressing your own independence and managing your own disempowerment – and God knows lots of people do – but that attitude doesn’t really make sense, and it certainly isn’t radical or progressive in any way.

    I think the message of this song & video is precisely anti-feminist, inasmuch as it celebrates the self-discipline of sexual display & the elitism of bling. If DC looked remotely like their audience it’d be a very different statement – and wouldn’t have worked in the same way. (Although it could still have worked in a different way, as we’ll see in a 2002 bunny.)

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