“Introduction” to AllHipHop.com contributor Clayton Perry’s Beyoncé [Expected Date of Publication: Fall 2012]
With close inspection, one will discover that the career of Beyoncé Knowles is much like a jigsaw puzzle: a collection of diverse, interlocking pieces that come together to form a unique whole. In various stages and phases, she has utilized her talents – as a singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress – to seal her status as one of the best-selling female artists of all-time, in addition to being a member of the world’s best-selling groups, with worldwide sales of 75 million records.
Her fame and fortune resemble that of a “fairy tale” life – or better yet, a Charles Dickens novel: mixing fantasy and realism – with multiple cliffhangers pinches in the storyline – that captivate audiences to sit, stare and watch in awe. One can only applaud Beyoncé’s defiance to adhere to the prevailing scientific notion that “what goes up must come down.” For the record: the trajectory of “the Beyoncé brand” has been purely vertical.
Since the age of seven, Beyoncé has dedicated her life to the mastery of the entertainment craft. With such preparation, her bold (“in-your-face”) professing on “Diva” (2008, I Am… Sasha Fierce) smacks all competition and naysayers soundly in the face – like the mighty jabs of boxer Laila Ali – with rap-like singing and customary braggadocio on Verses One (“Stop the track! Let me state facts” and “Been the number one diva in this game for a minute!”), Two (“Getting money – [this diva’s] getting money!” and “Tell me somethin’ where your boss at?”) and Three (“Since fifteen – in my stilettos – been struttin’ in this game!” and “What’s your age? Was the question they asked when I hit the stage.”)
If a diva – as Beyoncé attests – is “the female version of a hustler,” then it would be futile to deny the business savvy, sensuous imagery and dual [personal-professional] “merger” with Jay-Z fused with her artistic skill set, in re-defining [with contemporary modifications relating to connotation and denotation] of the social status and personal vision of the modern-day diva. (Lyrics from the bridge of “Diva” allude to this triumphant mission: “Take it to another level. No passengers on my plane!”) Both in life and art, as it happens, Beyoncé “talks the talk” – because she can “walk the walk.” And who can blame her?
Beyoncé’s ubiquitous presence and entrenchment in popular music culture is simply amazing. The continuous stream of success – flowing incessantly like the Nile River – is the by-product of two decades of practice, focus and commitment. A pop icon indeed: 16 GRAMMY Awards, 11 Music Television (MTV) Video Awards, recognition as the “Top Certified Artist of the 2000s” by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and the receipt of Billboard’s Millennium Award following her designation as the magazine’s “Top Radio Songs Artist of the 2000s.”
In isolation, the praise and accolades bestowed to her artistic journey read like a professor’s curriculum vitae – a record tracking the extensive professional experiences and nuanced qualifications collected over a lifetime of significant achievement. The gross receipts of Queen Bey’s worldwide box office – consisting of six films totaling $725.9 million [unadjusted for ticket price inflation] – adds an emphatic exclamation mark to the list: $296.7 (Austin Powers in Goldmember, 2002, New Line), $158.9 (The Pink Panther, 2006, Sony – Columbia), $154.9 (Dreamgirls, 2006, Paramount – DreamWorks), $73.8 (Obsessed, 2009, Sony – Screen Gems), $32.8 (The Fighting Temptations, 2003, Paramount), and $8.9 (Cadillac Records, 2008, Sony – Columbia).
Since the beginning, with the debut of “No No No” in 1998 as a member Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé has literally engaged in a decade-plus game of one-upmanship. Interestingly enough, the narrative arc of Beyoncé’s career is not a tale featuring the outwitting, outsmarting and outmaneuvering of fellow entertainers. Quite the opposite: she battled herself – as a solo and group artist in various forms – along with “Sasha Fierce,” her confident, internal cheerleader.” Let the facts be clear: Beyoncé always outshined Beyoncé. The competition could only watch in awe and pay respect – with applause – or simply “hate” – perhaps the greatest form of flattery.
By the age of 30, Beyoncé was a seasoned professional with a level of success comparable to veteran entertainers twice her age. Belying the love – and at times envy – of her comrades in art, it was attained with an air of simplicity - but only with superficial examination! Like a chameleon, the world watched the evolution of one of music’s greatest performers, and luckily – as a result of her longevity – we were allowed to grow and age together.
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FOOTNOTE: AllHipHop.com contributor Clayton Perry is currently working on what he has dubbed his “Beyoncé masterwork.” Although a “work in pro(c)ess,” please provide feedback on the book’s “Introduction,” which has been appended above. Public comments are desired, but you may send private notes to the author as well [via email@example.com]. Feel free to check out a few definitive interviews from Perry at his website, www.claytonperry.com.