When musicians like Miley and Rihanna parade themselves around to provide fans with the message, “we love our bodies, and we’re going to publicly flaunt them all the time in the most explicit ways allowed by our agents because we’re risqué and edgy,” it’s normal to become suspicious of other artists who also turn to sexuality to express themselves. Beyoncé’s self-titled album, which dropped two weeks before New Year’s and exploded on every Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook account, is blatantly sexual, too. Unlike Miley and Rihanna though, Beyoncé’s celebration of her sexuality isn’t a branding gimmick. Beyoncé is an album that praises the female body and its power and it positively illuminates hyper-sexuality between a husband and wife.
Songs like “Partition” and “Drunk in Love” exemplify Beyoncé’s unapologetic erotic relationship with Jay-Z, and she’s received a surprising amount of criticism for it. Some fans have deemed the tracks as too vulgar, with lyrics like, “He popped all my buttons and he ripped my blouse / He Monica Lewinski’d all on my gown” in “Partition.” In the song that is specifically about oral sex in a limousine, the imbedded French sample states, “Men think that feminists hate sex, / But it’s a very stimulating and natural activity that women love” and this acts as Beyoncé’s “justification” for her acts, although I don’t think she needs one.
“Partition” definitely started a conversation, but “Drunk in Love” made headlines. Even before the Grammy performance, the word “Surfboard” scattered and spread all over the Internet like drunk confetti. It even served as inspiration for this “Drunk in Love” emoji music video, which is totally amazing.
We all love “Surfbordt.” We sing it in our cars, showers, and cubicles with that same Yoncé swagger with no shame because “Surfbordt” is a 21st century mantra that no person should scrutinize or be ashamed of. The lyrics, “Boy I’m drinking, I’m singing on the mic to boy’s toys / Then I fill up the tub halfway then ride with my surfboard / Surfboard, surfboard / Graining on that wood, graining-graining on that wood” figuratively suggest Yoncé is having sex with Jay-Z in a bathtub, and she’s the one on top.
“Surfbordt” is not only a metaphor for sex, but it’s a metaphor for a woman taking charge in the bedroom. She’s the one “riding” the “surfboard” which is her partner. She’s in control, and she’s enjoying the experience. “Surfbordt” is a super important movement, because it shows women that sex (with the right partner) should be a positive, fun act. The song also empowers women to take initiative; sex based on communication (rather than “duty”) is a paramount element in any (sexually active) relationship.
I don’t see why overt sexuality in “Drunk in Love” is a bad thing. I could make the argument that male musicians explicitly sing or rap about their sex life, but that counterargument has been beaten to death, right?
However, Fox’s Bill O’Reilly (and he’s not the only one) chastised Beyoncé’s choice to publically and musically share that kind of personal information. He said, “I believe an entertainer like Beyoncé…[has] an obligation to protect children. Not put out exploitative garbage that you know harm[s] impressionable children.” Furthermore, many parents voiced their concerns about Bey and Jay’s sultry Grammy performance and deemed it “inappropriate given the time of night.”
I’m not a parent, and I’m sure I’ll get sh*t for what I’m about to say, but whatever. If I were a parent who thought my child would try to mimic a 32 year-old’s dance routine and lyrics, I just wouldn’t allow them to watch the Grammy’s. However, Beyoncé is everywhere (TV, Internet, Instagram) and ultimately, if your kid wants to listen and watch Beyoncé, there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it. But so what? Beyoncé’s lyrics to “Drunk in Love” are explicit (and the album cover states this fact), but they describe her and her husband’s healthy, sexual relationship. A relationship which seems to be extremely balanced, and based on trust and communication.
Bill O’Reilly, in the same rant, goes on to ask, “Why would she do it when she knows the devastation that unwanted pregnancies…and fractured families –why would Beyoncé do that?”
The last time I checked, teenagers were getting pregnant due to a lack of sex education and access to birth control, not because they listened to “Drunk in Love.” Beyoncé is a powerful woman, but she is not responsible for teaching teenagers how to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
Furthermore, this issue between parents and musicians’ influence on their kids has existed since the dawn of time. Whether it was The Spice Girls, Britney Spears, or is now Beyoncé, the fact of the matter is that musicians are going to sing about sex. At least Beyoncé does it an empowering way that also encourages young women to take ownership of their bodies, lives, and careers.
My only problem with “Drunk in Love” is that Jay-Z compares himself to Ike Turner, who beat Tina Turner (she’s referenced as “Anna Mae” in the song) during their marriage. That I just don’t get, because I really don’t believe Jay-Z and Beyoncé are in an abusive relationship, and even if he’s just being hyperbolic, it’s really out of place and inappropriate. Like I said, I think their relationship is consensual and healthy.
I just watched the video for “Drunk in Love” for the fiftieth time. It’s fun, it emphasizes a woman’s love for her body and her confidence. It also shows how comfortable she is with her partner, which I am all for. I love Beyoncé. And I’m drunk (not actually) in love with “Surfbordt.”