Crossing the culture from Rachel Thorpe: Girl on top?


Crossing the Culture

Billboard magazine recently named the R&B singer Beyoncé and her rapper husband Jay-Z the most powerful people in the music industry.

Beyoncé first rose to fame as the centrepiece of the best-selling group Destiny’s Child, before launching her multi-platinum solo career in 2003. She quickly became known as a diva with a soulful voice and a powerful persona.

I am…

Both her first album, Dangerously in Love and her second, B’day (2006), were hugely successful. Her third, I Am… Sasha Fierce (2008), was inspired by her marriage to Jay-Z and revealed a more sensual and aggressive side to her personality. She also began to show a strong feminist streak, singing controversially confused songs about gender ideology and female empowerment. After a hiatus she released (2011) and announced that she was pregnant; Blue Ivy Carter was born in January 2012.

Yet Beyoncé shows no signs of slowing down. On December 13, 2013 she launched her much anticipated fifth album on iTunes, along with 17 music videos, unannounced. There was no media fanfare, no advanced radio airplay and – according to the accompanying press release – definitely no ‘gimmicks, teasers and marketing campaigns’. Her risk paid off and excited American fans purchased 430,000 copies of the self-titled Beyoncé in a single day. Perhaps only the most powerful person in the music industry could have pulled it off.

I am… about faith

Beyoncé has always described herself as a devout Methodist and often speaks about her Christian upbringing. In one interview with a Christian newspaper she claimed: ‘I am about faith and spirituality more so than religion. Doing right by others and not judging. The thing that keeps me grounded is knowing that I’m always protected and that God is in control of things’. In her autobiographical film Life Is But a Dream she speaks about listening to God and following his plan for her life. ‘God is real’, she claims, ‘and God lives inside of me. It doesn’t matter where I am, I know that and I feel it.’ She also thanks Jesus for the beautiful moments in life.

Reflecting on her influential position, she quotes Luke 12.48: ‘to whom much is given, much is required’. ‘I guess I can handle that’, she muses. Some of her fans are less convinced. Her skimpy outfits and suggestive dance routines seem to contradict her stated Christian convictions. Yet she claims: ‘I honestly believe [God] wants people to celebrate their bodies so long as you don’t compromise your Christianity in the process’. Back in 2001 she belted out the lyrics to ‘Survivor’, claiming the same thing: ‘I’m not gonna compromise my Christianity’. But many would ask whether, in the process of becoming a global celebrity and one half of the music industry’s first billionaire couple, Beyoncé has already compromised her faith?

I am … Sasha Fierce

A number of bloggers have described the seeming contradictions between the star’s faith and her image in terms of two distinct personalities: Beyoncé and Sasha Fierce. While filming the video for her debut solo single, Crazy in Love (2003), Beyoncé came up with the idea of creating an alter-ego for herself. She claims: ‘Sasha Fierce is the fun, more sensual, more aggressive, more outspoken and more glamorous side that comes out when I’m working and when I’m on the stage’. She assures interviewers: ‘I’m not like her in real life at all’.

The singers Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga have made strikingly similar statements about their own stage personas. Katy Perry and Jennifer Lopez have also created alter-egos for themselves. Why do all of these female stars feel a need to create alternative personalities? Beyoncé suggests a disturbing answer – she wants to escape herself: ‘I do when performing what I would never do normally. I reveal things about myself that I wouldn’t do in an interview. I have out-ofbody experiences. If I cut my leg, if I fall, I don’t even feel it. I’m so fearless, I’m not aware of my face or my body’. Should we allow our celebrities to distance themselves from their actions in this way? Should they be able to shirk responsibility for what they do and say, blaming it on some other self?

Put off your old self

The Bible is clear that as Christians we must not find ourselves living as two selves. ‘Put off your old self’, Paul writes in Ephesians 4, ‘to put on the new self.’ For believers, there is no excuse for blaming things on our ‘old selves’. Instead, we must leave them behind and embrace our new identities, proclaiming: ‘I am… created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness’. Perhaps such people are particularly needed in a culture where even the most powerful figures are undergoing a deep identity crisis.

 

Rachel Thorpe writes the ‘Crossing the culture’ column for EN and works as an events planner and freelance writer in Cambridge. More of her articles can be found at www.rachelthorpe.com

This article was first published in the March 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
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