The cliché that there’s no such thing as bad news may or may not be true. But when pop stars audaciously move gossip storylines along to their own advantage, it’s good news for everybody. Beyoncé‘s new Nicki Minaj-assisted remix of “Flawless,” from last year’s stunning Beyoncé, is a perfect case in point; Minaj’s new single “Anaconda” does something similar, too.
A couple of months ago, headlines proliferated about surveillance video footage that showed Beyoncé’s sister, Saint Heron mastermind Solange, physically confronting the former Destiny’s Child singer’s husband, Jay Z, in an elevator. Later, the three put out a joint statement to the Associated Press regarding the incident, saying, “We’ve put this behind us and hope everyone else will do the same.”
The line generating the most headlines from “Flawless (Remix),” which went online over the weekend and can be heard here, gleefully puts the elevator incident back in the limelight. “Of course sometimes shit go down when there’s a billion dollars on the elevator,” Yoncé raps twice, with a cackle. She’s simultaneously burying the tabloid tidbit and kicking it forward — on one hand she’s saying “of course” this would happen, so let’s move on, but on the other hand of course that only makes the media more fascinated … and, more importantly, keeps audiences paying attention to Bey. From at least that perspective, then, it’s a “flawless” victory.
Minaj faces a different gossip-tinged media narrative, and she addresses it in a different way. The reaction to her derrière-focused “Anaconda” single artwork turned patronizing and paternalistic so quickly (HuffPo has a roundup) that it has redounded to her advantage. It was already condescending and misguided to criticize Minaj for expressing herself as outrageously and explicitly as male rappers such as Eminem or Kanye West can be wont to do, rather than for the success or failure of that expression; now there’s a context for calling out those types of wrong-headed dismissals.
So on “Flawless,” the self-professed “Queen of Rap” doubles down on the “curvalicious” sexual braggadocio. So “Anaconda” itself, which is on iTunes and Spotify now, is rightly unabashed about the backside-oriented imagery, flipping samples from a song that can be heard at perhaps even some of the most conservative wedding receptions: Sir Mix-A-Lot’s 1992 “Baby Got Back.” If he (and his decades of increasingly less squeaky-clean male successors) can do it, why can’t she?
No comment yet from Jane Fonda. Let alone Tipper Gore. But both Beyoncé and Minaj have taken what could have been a source of scandal and reclaimed it for their own scandalous purposes. Rinse, repeat. Not for nothing: Right after Bey’s “Flawless” verse there’s a cash register sound.