Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beyonce 101: How to navigate the Pop World

Today is another entry. I have been thinking of this for a while, ever since someone from Bwboard.net was thinking of making thread with this topic. So with the new era coming upon, complete with The Queen potentially doing a Movie(http://www.deadline.com/2011/01/exclusive-clint-eastwood-to-direct-beyonce-in-musical-version-of-a-star-is-born/), I feel inspired to do another entry with this topic in mind.

It seems to me that there are so many new artists coming into the industry who want to have the kind of impact that Bey has had on the industry, yet they aren't really gaining any traction. You have artists(influenced by her) who aren't selling, getting their albums pushed back and even leaving the industry(http://www.missinfo.tv/index.php/jazmine-sullivan-leaving-the-music-industry-releases-im-not-a-robot/), I feel that this is an entry that is timely appropriate and I am going to do this in 3 parts and it will be long so bear with me. So with this thread, here are 3 things that I feel that every entertainer should learn from her and therefore see why she is the phenom that she is.

1. How to balance your art and brand:

This is the most important thing when it comes to mainstream entertainment because when an artist is mainstream, with some critics there is already a strike against a mainstream artist simply because anything that is commercial makes skeptical and even jaded. It's not like back in the day, when people were looking for something to believe in and were rooting for them. With all the media access, it's hard to keep a mystery and if an artist don't control their image and brand, they will get swallowed up and be another disposable entertainer that will be dropped from their label, working at a fast food joint or on one of those, "Where are they now?" Hollywood Stories Episodes. So for Bey to achieve the longevity that she has in this era, is absolutely incredible. Some think that 14 years isn't long, but in the genre that she is in, an artist/entertainer is today and gone tomorrow. One of the things that Bey does well, is keep a mystery while giving glimspes of her mindset as an artist. There is always a message behind what she sings about, her performances and even her endorsements. It's always about female empowerment. To paraphrase Dream Hampton said once of her, she's not neccessary a feminist, but she is a womanist. Not to mention, as I said, even as commercial as she is, she's still an artist and she has control of her brand. You don't win 16 grammys with glitz, glamour lacking in substance. People try to pigeonhole her into that, but it has no foundation. Look at this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWIO3Wn1enE Listen to the passion in which she talks about her music, especially when describing her harmonic arrangements on Swizz Beats' tracks. You can't fake that and this is one of the many reasons why she endures to this day. Plus, she geniunely loves her fans and her work. Glitz and image only cares you for so long, you have to balance that with honest to God talent and passion for what you do. Bey does this and that's why Bey's legacy is secure as one of the great entertainers of all time.

2. Work ethic...work ethic and more work ethic....

The woman works like the stereotypical image of a Jamaican. It's like Dave Pensado said, I don't think I have ever seen anyone work harder than Beyonce (maybe Mya). I've seen her fly in from Europe, come to the studio, do vocals for 4 hours, fly to NY for concert, go directly to airport for 2 shows in Japan, and on and on. No sleep for days, and just keep going and loving every minute of it. Mya is like that also. I get tired just TYPING about it! I know that other entertainers work hard and don't have the commercial success that she has, but...that don't take away from it. It's legendary and you can tell that when the next album era comes along, she has improved in some way or another. Last era vocally, transitions from Head to Chest Voice improving her modal voice passagio(voice bridge between chest voice to head voice). Improving her scatting and improvisation skills. The difference from this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dur71QRV36M to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fknmVOTb31M speaks for itself. It just seems to me that so many entertainers don't want to go beyond their comfort zone or at the least improve in it. They think that once they get into the industry, they're set. No, that's just the beginning. It's what separates those who will last and who will be working at a fast food restaurant. Never take it for granted. Also, she has people around her who won't let her settle for less. They're in the trenches with her, they will critique her and she wants this from them. When these things are in place, it's shows that Bey was destined to what she does and how can anyone(even if you don't like her music and performing style) hate on this kind of work ethic?

3. Build on a foundation and then expand....

This to me, is the most important thing to do. An artist/entertainer has to find their niche, build as well as improve on it if needed, and then expand to allow your fan base to grow with you. You have to be willing to also grow with the times also but even in that, never ever lose your foundation. It's funny because with Bey, you have two school of thought when people debate her music. She's either too trendy, meaning that she only follow the trends and never set them(LOL!!!!) or...she's too electic and you don't know what is truly her sound because she wants to get so many audiences. Now, I do this blog and anyone who reads this blog has seen spoke many times on what she brings to the table sonically. She's this generation premier "rhythmic" vocalist of this generation. No matter what genre she experiments with and it looks like she going to go even further with the producers that she has lined up, everything she does has that rhythmic signature sound that only she can do. You also know that when you hear a Bey song, you're going to get killer harmonies, and even her dancing style is rhythmic in nature. She's truly a daughter of Tina Turner in that way. Not only does she not abandon her foundation, she also a student of her craft. She always not only "daps" the legends, but incorporates what they do and brings them to her contemporary generation unapologetically. This video explains it better than I ever could: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M43ChtLzarI The videos that I posted came from Beaweavus, one of the best poster of Bwboard, so I want to give that poster "daps" for making videos like this. People need to know these things of her so that they will understand what makes Beyoncé, Beyoncé.

Okay, I know this was a long post and as exhaustive as this post is, there are even more things that make her the phenom that she is and is a great example for entertainers who actually want to make an impact in their craft. Now let me make this clear, they won't be able to do like she does and that's the point. But like all the greats have done, they learn from the greats before them and then craft their own lane. I hope you all enjoyed this long entry and have a great week.