Bow Down: Has Beyoncé Gone too Far?


Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, a name that excites, empowers and inspires. Throughout Beyoncé’s career she has cared for the entertainment needs of an entire generation. After branching out from her all girl group, Destiny’s Child, Queen B. has become an international superstar and has created music with themes ranging from women’s empowerment to love to everyday life.  By using a wide variety of subject matter, she has acquired a sizeable fan base ranging from young girls to grandmothers. While in recent years she has ventured slightly from her roots and added edgier vibes to her music,  Mrs. Carter, for the most part, has stayed consistent in her style and out of the negative spotlight that most celebrities with careers lasting as long as hers so often find themselves in. However, in the past month Beyoncé has come out with a controversial song called Bow Down/ I Been On. Seemingly everyone from popular YouTube video-bloggers to singer Keyshia Cole to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh have given their opinion on the new direction Beyoncé has taken with her latest “hit.” The vast majority of the commentary surrounding the song is negative.  But are these negative opinions warranted? Before answering that, let’s take a closer look at some of the lyrics:

[Hook:]

I’m out that H-town

Coming, coming down

I’m coming down dripping candy on the ground

H, H-town, town, I’m coming down

Coming down dripping candy on the ground

[Verse 1]

I know when you were little girls

You dreamt of being in my world

Don’t forget it, don’t forget it

Respect that, bow down b*tches

I took some time to live my life

But don’t think I’m just his little wife

Don’t get it twisted, get it twisted

This my sh*t, bow down b*tches

It is clear that the lyrics to Bow Down/ I Been On are not B’s most child friendly. Due to her use of profane language, many critics of the song complain that Beyoncé isn’t living up to her role model status. My question is, have we forgotten the multiple songs Beyoncé has made regarding love and sex? Dance for You, Hip-Hop Star, and Naughty Girl are just a few of the less than wholesome songs Beyoncé has graced her listeners with. Overlooking song lyrics, Beyoncé’s style of dress, dance moves and music videos aren’t always appropriate for her younger fans either. If we’re going to criticize B for her inappropriate actions and songs, we really needed to start way before Bow Down/ I Been On.

In an era where just about anything goes music-wise I don’t think the issue is necessarily with the words said in Bow Down, but with the artist who says them. The disappointment that some fans are experiencing is most likely due to them thinking Beyoncé was above these types of lyrics. Since Bow Down/ I Been On isn’t Beyoncé’s typical style, the criticism of her as a result has been harsher than necessary. We could go on for days discussing vulgar and quite frankly disgusting rap lyrics written by men, but the media has chosen to discuss Bow Down. The fact that other artists make demeaning and profane music doesn’t necessarily make what B has done okay, but it does make the excessive criticism seem very unfair. If Beyoncé was her husband Jay-Z or his partner in crime Kanye West, there would have been little to no uproar from the song. Rapper Ice Cube also has a song entitled Bow Down in which he too tells listeners to bow down. This song was released in 1996 and did not receive nearly as much negative media.

The situation with Bow Down reminds me of singer Ciara’s song Ride, which debuted in 2010. Ride is a song about just that…riding (not horses). So as you can imagine the music video accompanying Ride was not meant for young sets of eyes. As a result the video was banned by BET. Again, Ciara is not the only artist to make a suggestive video, but she is one of the few in recent years to have her video completely banned from the network. I think the issues with Bow Down and Ride are identical. They are issues not of content, but of gender. Our culture has to stop saying certain things are bad but only reacting when women do them. Either ban everything or don’t say anything, but only punishing female artists when they express themselves in ways that may come off as offensive has to stop.

Regardless, at the end of the day while I am not a fan of Bow Down I cannot criticize Beyoncé for her cocky attitude without doing the same with the majority of the music on my iPod.  I will always be a Beyoncé fan and won’t let this one bump in the road keep me from listening to her music. I believe B has every right to make whatever kind of music she pleases, regardless of what others think; so, I say carry on Mrs. Carter. While I will not bow down, I will watch to see what you come out with next.

Photo Credit:

Beyoncé’s Tumblr Account

http://iam.beyonce.com

Other Sources:

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beyonceknowles/bowdownibeenon.html

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/westsideconnection/bowdown.html

http://www.thisisrnb.com/2010/05/bet-bans-ciaras-ride-video/