Beyoncé recently posted a photo of herself on Instagram wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the question, “Can I live?” Can you blame her? The backlash against her after it was revealed that she lip-synched the national anthem at President Barack Obama’s inauguration last week has been swift and brutal. And it seems to be neverending.
The Root‘s political correspondent Keli Goff argued in a recent blog post titled “The Real Reason Critics Target Beyoncé” that Knowles is known more for her skills as an entertainer than for her singing, and that her use of the prerecorded track should come as no surprise. Beyoncé is really getting all the flack, Goff writes, because she was not an appropriate choice for an inauguration singer due to her “hypersexualized persona” and her Pepsi endorsement deal. Goff’s not alone — the Internet has been dotted with similar criticism, ranging from knocks on Beyoncé’s vocal talent to suggestions that she was never the right choice to grace the inaugural stage.
Let’s get these misconceptions straight once and for all.
When I read arguments that Beyoncé’s talent is confined within the limits of her onstage shimmy, I often question whether those stressing that fallacy are arguing it from 2003 — before she formally shoved Destiny’s Child to the side to launch her solo career.
Fair enough if songs such as “Love on Top” — at the end of which she breezes through four key changes — and “Speechless” never made it to your iPod, but the perception that Beyoncé isn’t celebrated as one of the premiere vocalists of her generation is one that only exists to those who haven’t been paying attention. A cheap nonstory about Beyoncé singing over a track of her own voice doesn’t alter that fact. And make no mistake — if she does it again this weekend for her halftime performance at the Super Bowl, the fact will remain that her vocal ability is just as celebrated as her value as an entertainer.
The premiere vocalists of the generation before her – Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey – have each praised Beyoncé as a singer. The same can be said of other legends, such as Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Bette Midler, and of her contemporaries, such as Alicia Keys, Emeli Sandé, Monica, Justin Timberlake and Leona Lewis. You can add Madonna, Lauryn Hill, Martha McBride, Björk, Plácido Domingo and White Rabbits, too. Throw inAmerican Idol judge Randy Jackson, The X-Factor judge Simon Cowell and celebrated songwriter Diane Warren.
Plus: Check out my essay for Ebony.com, “Why Are Texas Schoolchildren Being Taught ‘the Curse of Ham?”