2017 Was The Year The Carters Let Us In

Photo: Lester Cohen/Getty Images/NARAS.
Over the weekend, Beyoncé rolled out more content on her Instagram account, in a neatly packaged set of three ,of course. She was feeling quite cheeky in a pair of cutoff short shorts and knee-high boots with her long, blonde hair trailing behind her. She posed at an unidentified venue with her husband Jay - Z. It was the kind of the photoshoot not uncharacteristic of any social media aficionado, except Bey and her bae stood untied on a private jet ,and the YSL boots she wore cost $10,000. But the megastar’s willingness to put her own otherworldly spin on something that is second nature to so many of us — sharing glimpses of our lives on social media — is a decidedly 2017 shift for America’s unofficial royal family.
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Beyoncé’s Instagram account really came alive in 2016 when she leaned into bright borders, took advantage of video options like boomerangs, and perfected the Instagram row by posting in threes. When she announced her pregnancy with twins Rumi and Sir Carter in February of this year, it became the most-liked photograph in the history of Instagram. According to data, a post from the singer is worth a million bucks should a brand get her to promote them. That Beyoncé Knowles-Carter is now a consistent and successful social media user is not something I saw coming. With the exception of sporadic posts on Twitter and aggregated shots of her on vacation or performing, both Beyoncé and Jay-Z mainly avoided social networks altogether.
Elusiveness has been part of the Carter brand for years. They don’t give interviews and are notoriously private. They’ve released official statements sparingly and only under the most dire circumstances (e.g. like when a video of Jay-Z and Solange involved in a violent incident surfaces on the internet). Even paparazzi shots of the couple often come out grainy, partially obstructed, or unclear, betraying just how difficult it was for the photographer to get a line of vision on them. Beyoncé's refusal to expose herself to cameras helped fuel ridiculous rumors that she faked her pregnancy with daughter Blue Ivy.
Beyoncé loosened her professional tight-lippedness when she released Lemonade, her sixth solo studio album. The lyrics seemed to reveal that Jay had been unfaithful to his wife at some point during their relationship, and that they had moved past it. Speculation about Jay’s mistress and debates about how this revelation aligned with the bold feminism Bey evoked was just beginning to wind down when Jay released his own album 4:44, confirming the infidelity. Both parties admitted to the world, albeit in neatly wrapped musical packages, that not even they were perfect.
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These revelations about their personal relationship opened a floodgate of public sharing in 2017. Jay-Z gave an intimate interview to T Magazine where he addressed everything from his marriage to the strained relationship between him and Kanye West. He has continued to speak out against the criminal justice system, even making multiple statements about the recent prison sentence Meek Mill received. Beyoncé also acted as an agent of change by sending support to Houstonians impacted by Harvey, and she even presented Colin Kaepernick with the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award at the 2017 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Awards. And of course there was her Instagram. It was a booming maternity blog in the months before the twins were born. And it has been a tribute to “still got it” in the months after.
We still don’t know where Beyoncé and Jay-Z were or what they were doing in pictures that graced Instagram this weekend. Only time will tell. But they are a sign of a new wave in the Carter family, where all of us are able come along on at least some of the ride.