Every society needs its idols. Countless civilisations have structured their societies around a system of Gods, omniscient beings above human fallacy, exemplary figures who tell the unwashed masses how to live. Of course, even today, many people rely on a divine figure to provide guidance. On a smaller level, most societies have heads of state who, among other things, are tasked with embodying the ideals and values of a nation. Hell, even bees have a queen.
Deference has long been a crucial element in many cultures, and pop culture is no different. In the music world, there is surely no higher figure than Beyoncé, a woman who we have collectively raised to Godlike status.
But as loathe as many people are to admit it, Beyoncé has made her fair share of bad decisions too. The latest of these came just this week, as her collaboration with Eminem was unveiled to a baffled public. Why Beyoncé — who at this point has absolutely nothing to prove — felt the urge to duet with a man who has been stuck in angry adolescence for the last thirty years, constantly framing himself as a hard-done-by victim despite being a violent misogynist and homophobe, while gradually losing the rapping prowess that made him famous, is just perplexing. To be fair to Beyoncé, her chorus is the best part of ‘Walk On Water’, but on a track this dreadful, that isn’t much of an accolade. Apparently, Jay-Z convinced her to lend her vocals but, by now, Beyoncé should really have learned her husband isn’t exactly an oracle of good decisions.
It’s not just Eminem who’s benefited from Bey’s velvet vocals. Naughty Boy snagged Beyoncé for his 2015 hit ‘Runnin”, not a bad track by any means, but one that feels so below what Beyoncé is capable, and deserving, of. It’s like she lost a bet after a high-stakes game of poker and somehow ended up working with a guy whose previous collaborators include Chipmunk and JLS. Noisey even went as far as to call it ‘Beyoncé’s worst hit‘, saying she sounds bored and confused throughout. And wouldn’t you, if you were the most adored musician on the planet, ending up on a track with a guy called Benjamin Arrowsmith, a man who was unknown before the track dropped and has never been heard from since? Of course you would.
But of course, Beyoncé is not merely a musician. Her acting debut came back in 2001 in the incredibly titled Carmen: A Hip Hopera. Beyoncé plays the title character, an aspiring actress, alongside the likes of Mos Def and Lil Bow Wow. The made-for-TV film garnered mixed reviews, and watching it back now, it’s more than a little embarrassing watching the future queen of RnB fumble her way through some bad dialogue in a ropey bit of musical theatre.
Carmen didn’t put Bey off the acting, though, as we know from her next film. This one even made it into cinemas! But unfortunately for Bey, Austin Powers: Goldmember remains the lowest point of her career. An exercise in toilet humour and stereotypes, Beyoncé is a million miles away from the enigmatic artiste we know today, hamming it up in the crass and cheesy comedy caper. The film also spawned her first single, the funk-influenced ‘Work It Out’. However the track flopped outside the UK, failing to spawn the successful solo career Beyoncé was hankering for. Luckily for her, ‘Crazy In Love’ was just around the corner.
Music and film aside, Beyoncé hasn’t always had the best nose for a good deal. When Jay-Z unveiled his premium streaming service Tidal, Beyoncé was unsurprisingly introduced as one of the big name ‘owners of Tidal’. The birth of Tidal sparked a minor backlash against Jay-Z and Beyoncé with many criticising the price of the service as well as the rather limited benefits on offer. Beyoncé removed her music from competing streaming sites, leaving many of her fans high and dry unless they forked over for a Tidal subscription. The service was designed to pay artists a higher rate of royalties, but rather than laud the owners’ model for a fairer streaming service, it led to many questioning whether the likes of Beyoncé, Jay-Z et al really needed a boost to their bank balance. The general consensus was – they didn’t.
All in all, these are some pretty minor missteps in a career that has been on a steep ascendant since the late nineties. But it does go to show that even the best of us – the very, very best – fuck up now and then. So the next time you send that nude to your boss, just remember that hey, Beyoncé has probably done the same.