Beyoncé: The Times Is On It

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beyonce_embed2Photo: Juergen Teller For T Magazine.
It has recently come to the Gray Lady's attention that Beyoncé exists. Well, Beyoncé as a commodity — you know, a thing and brand that we are, as SNL so aptly put it, compulsively required to bow down to. "She is a kind of national figurehead, an Entertainer in Chief; she is Americana," T Magazine's Jody Rosen explains in the publication's latest cover story. "Someday, surely, her 'Single Ladies' leotard will take its place alongside Mickey Mouse and the Model T Ford and Louis Armstrong’s trumpet in a Smithsonian display case."

Rosen is probably right. There's no denying the majority of the nation is drunk on the Beyoncé Kool-Aid, but it's not without merit. The cover story does what any cover story featuring the surprise-album dropper does and glosses over the superstar's career shifts and singles, before going beyond all the watercooler fodder. Rosen takes a step back, sets the Kool-Aid down, and explores the themes driving Beyoncé the brand.

Now, when the Times covers something pop-culture centered, it's typically a topic the majority of those fluent in Internet have been conversing about for months (read: 20-something girls having sex #shocker). But, this profile does something different. There's no interview with Beyoncé, just a Juergen Teller shoot. The accompanying article questions the legitimacy of a popular star's brand and the impact it has on the world, without pandering said brand's agenda.
beyonce_embed1Photo: Juergen Teller For T Magazine.
What is Beyoncé? Unlike Lady Gaga, whose "artpop could mean anything," Beyoncé is a traditionalist pop star bending the rules to fit her flavor. She goes beyond the genre, as Rosen writes, to make her own. "The extent that we hear Beyoncé as 'pop,' it’s because she has taught us to do so." It is, going by her latest onslaught of music and videos, genre-less. Pop, yes, but hip-pop; R&B-pop; soul-pop; trap-pop; island-pop. And, that opens up an infinite number of possibilities and venues to explore. But, as Rosen points out, this makes the brand a moving target, too. The contradictions Beyoncé the brand represents ("soul-woman warmth and diva hauteur, a nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic and garish 1 percent excess") are what makes one of the most recognized individuals on the planet impossible to nail down.

"What does Beyoncé mean?" Rosen asks. "What doesn’t she mean?" And, in an age where retweeting and reblogging has become the root of creating, that's the best thing a brand can be: an aggregate of influences who is clever enough to spin it their own way. (T Magazine)

You can pick up the full issue of T, The New York Times Style Magazine this weekend.