The “boss ass bitch” in 2017

First, read this.


Lemonade by Beyoncé is a loud profession of identity for black women. The lyrics and imagery are potent in their exclusivity of black women. It made white people uncomfortable, because it was the first time the black-pop-star became a black woman. It was unexpected, but necessary.

“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman”

Malcolm X

Lemonade is magical, because somehow Beyoncé deconstructed black stereotypes and neoliberal racism within the constraints of a pop album. Without talking ad nauseam about its brilliance, I’ll say this: Lemonade works so well because it’s Beyoncé’s capstone. While white people were tuned in, she went Black Panther at the Super Bowl.

The political weight of the Lemonade era isn’t always recognizable, at least to those salt of the Earth factory workers. “I’m not sorry” shirts fly off the shelves, fans not realizing how much a powerful black icon has permeated a culture saturated with colorblind commodification. If anything, it’s a huge brick thrown at the toppling one-sided media.

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 6.20.56 PM.png

Blackness, yes. But Lemonade does speak to all women. It isn’t for me, but the “boy, bye” sentiment certainly resonates with the communities I’m a part of. If we step into a vacuum, Beyoncé has always been a bad bitch, and this is another example of that. Seeing femme icons being powerful can empower anyone, despite who they empower most.

That’s where 2017 pop culture loses its way.


Many a pop icon has reinvented themselves, whether they needed to or not. Miley Cyrus went awol because she was 20 and no one was telling her not to. Katy Perry is currently doing literally anything she can to be relevant. Even Nicki Minaj has let her brand bleed through changing audiences.

Without getting into cultural appropriation and corporatization (right now), it’s really not a big deal when this happens. In the scheme of independent vs. mainstream media, a potent message will always be watered down before mass consumption. It’s changing, but Hamilton is still preaching to the choir. Everyone’s just doing what they have to, because that’s how it’s been done forever, and so on.

In 2017, there are few pop stars to even operate in that space. YouTubers and Sia-types are taking over. If One Direction taught us anything, it’s that the brand of fakeness donned by 2000s boybands isn’t wanted. If celebrities are figureheads of a bigger operation, we don’t want to know about it. We want honesty, even if it’s fake. Katy Perry doesn’t really fit in. Neither does Taylor Swift.

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 6.48.33 PM.png

“Look What You Made Me Do” is a long-awaited comeback. After the wildly successful 1989 era, Taylor Swift transcended her singer-status to become the Western pop star. People that thought she was annoying had to succumb to how good “Blank Space” is. In a way, Reputation is her sophomore album; the rebranding of 2014 was Swift’s final departure from any remaining Nashville roots.

In her 3 year absence from solo music, however, the public was unhinged. While the looming 2016 election left everyone on edge, a feud with the Wests reminded her new fans that they should be wary of her celebrity. When she failed to publicize her politics and endorse Hillary Clinton, people were outraged. It all added up, making the Taylor Swift brand of girl power and relatability seem stale.

In this time, Beyoncé released Lemonade. Fifth Harmony and Ariana Grande made anti-slut shaming a hallmark of their image. Hip hop and R&B became the most popular genres in America. Trump got elected.

WOKENESS seems to be happening fairly quickly. I think it is. Non-privileged Americans have been fighting for it forever. But the Titanic is hitting the iceberg, and the privileged and underprivileged have to identify what’s above and below the water before we all drown.

Piece-of-Me-britney-spears-14915173-720-544

The first thing I thought of when “Look What You Made Me Do” premiered was Britney Spears’ “Piece of Me.” Blackout was her comeback after an infamous and severe breakdown. Her illness and personal life were amplified and mocked, but she came back hard. “It’s Britney, bitch” has remained a party anthem for 10 years, and, in 2007, it poked holes in the norm of popularizing slut shaming and perpetuating the “crazy woman” stereotype.

We launched her into fame as a child and instantly expected her to be sexy, skinny, and subservient to the public. When she had a human reaction, we refused to legitimize it.

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 6.49.49 PM.png

The second thing I thought of was “Formation.” Controversy has eclipsed Swift’s comeback buzz because of this shot’s nod to Lemonade. At first, I rolled my eyes. It’s not copying, it’s an obvious homage. Then, last week, director Joseph Kahn said it had nothing to do with it “at all.”

“It’s not ‘Formation’ at all…They try to say she’s wearing a black crop top and Beyoncé wore a black crop top. But they don’t realize in 2015 in ‘Bad Blood,’ Taylor Swift was wearing a black crop top. I really do think, by the way, that Beyoncé copied ‘Bad Blood.'”

I have to write a blog post.

“Look What You Made Me Do” isn’t copying “Formation” in the way of crop tops, but in the way of “Piece of Me.” Taylor Swift is tapping into the “boss ass bitch” archetype by reclaiming the insults she’s received during her musical sabbatical. The problem is, it’s not a capstone, it’s in place of an apology.

The semblance of Commodity: Taylor Swift started falling apart. Her fans, new and old, have been waiting for an apology for the Wildest Dreams video, an explanation of the “Famous” feud, a clarification of her identification as a feminist. They waited for her to stand up for them and against Trump. Instead, she slipped into the pre-WOKE narrative of subservient pop star. “Look What You Made Me Do” is as docile as “Piece of Me” is in 2017, without the power to reclaim the sluthood and craziness of 2007. Nor does it equate to a black superstar reclaiming angry-black-woman, female rebellion, and n-word, while staying at Number 1.

Taylor Swift hasn’t always been a “bad bitch,” and I’m not sure this single is for anybody but Taylor Swift. There is no longer time to chip away at society’s problems. Boss ass bitches must have it all, while still being unfairly subjected to harsh criticism of not being WOKE ENOUGH. A brand of feminism protecting only cattiness and domination of a privileged group isn’t enough.

Perhaps in 2017, the rise and fall of boss ladies doesn’t make sense. A more inclusive, active profile to epitomize better fits the needs of a culture at war. It’s all appropriated from black women, anyway.


MORE STUFF:

The history of “yas!”

Bette Midler slut-shames Ariana Grande

The diversity of Fifth Harmony

Britney Spears on her mental health

MORE BEYONCÉ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s