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In Music Commentary

Beyoncé is a lightning rod for fans.

Beyonce is a one-name wonder


Everybody loves Beyoncé, right?

Well, they do and they don't.

With the Super Bowl hype reaching a climax, the entertainer known as Beyoncé dominated headlines.

If it wasn't her rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the inauguration of President Barack Obama (was it live or Memorex?), then it's the show-stopping performance at the Super Bowl, a dynamic half-time concert that managed to become one of the signature moments of the American sporting event and also led to speculation that the extreme use of lights, fireworks and video special effects might have knocked out the power in the Super Dome.

Reports say it was a power surge and not a Beyoncé surge.

It's been awhile since a performer earned a one-name status like Beyoncé. In the past it's been Madonna or Michael or Sting or others that needed no surname.

But Beyoncé is a lightning rod for fans and others who are alternately amazed by her talent and stage presence and turned off by the seemingly rush to anoint her "The Greatest Ever" based on little more than self-created hype.

"I love Beyoncé, she's such a talented performer who sings, dances and acts with the best of them!" is a common theme for many of my social network friends, mainly African-American woman who have come to see the woman they call "Bey" as the modern day embodiment of greats like Billie Holiday or Josephine Baker.

"I can't stand her; she doesn't have any talent and she is too into herself and her image!" is the other commonly heard gripe.

A wife and mother (her husband is the rap superstar Jay-Z, which makes them the royal couple of pop music) Beyoncé Giselle Knowles Carter was a child star and member of the best-selling recording group Destiny's Child before she struck out on a solo career that has managed to increase her fame ten-fold through a series of shrewd moves that included marketing strategies that allowed her to cross-over to various audiences and a high-profile lifestyle that engages millions of fans to speculate about her personal life.

Even her pregnancy brought lots of controversy; for the first time in memory, there were persistent Internet reports that Beyoncé wasn't actually pregnant but planning to have a surrogate deliver her baby in order to preserve her signature curves and stunning physique.

A television interview in Tokyo was scrutinized multiple times to determine if the "baby bump" she was carrying was a prosthetic device. In several instances in replays over and over, the "bump" appeared to move or flatten.

When the prodigal daughter was born to great acclaim, the move to have the Blue Ivy copyrighted for future financial gain was seen not so much as a loving act of parents proud of their off-spring but rather just another sign Beyoncé and her husband had bought into the hype about their exalted status a bit too much.

The Super Bowl revealed that even when going against America's premier sporting event, Beyoncé could find a way to dominate the news coverage. After being accused of lip-synching the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner" – she later admitted to the deed because she felt unprepared to sing live – she showed up at a Super Bowl press conference to command that all the assembled media stand up while she belted out an acapella version of the national anthem just to prove her doubters wrong.

True to form, everyone did as they were told.

Beyoncé is an entertainment figure who has become a cultural icon based on her ability to reinvent herself over time and stay on top of current fascination with celebrities and stardom in general.

She's friends with First Lady Michelle Obama and her husband and regularly mixes with an elite group of artists, dignitaries and public figures who seem to regard her as more of a queen than a performer.

Some feminist writers decried her Super Bowl outfit, a blend of dominatrix and exotic dancer as being unsuitable for a massive audience that included children. Others continued to question her vocal chops, pointing out that some recorded voices could be detected during the performance although Beyoncé clearly did her best to belt out particular verses and choruses in the midst of some pretty rigorous dance moves.

I've never been a big Beyoncé fan; I like the more authentic singers like Anita Baker, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and others. I consider her more of a performer like Janet Jackson or Madonna, who can fill arena size stadiums and create music videos that are a large part of today's entertainment scene.

It's a mystery to me why Beyoncé has become one of the best selling music artists of all time even while so many take shots at her musical talents and criticize her materialistic lifestyle.

When you use just one name, it's assumed that you deserve it.

After last week's blitz of publicity, Beyoncé may very well have demonstrated that love her or hate her, she's certainly proved sometimes one name is all you need when everybody's talking about you.

Talkbacks

AndrewJ | Feb. 6, 2013 at 10:26 a.m. (report)

Spot on, Eugene. To me, Beyonce is somewhere a notch or two above your Brittany Spears' of the industry; more style than substance. At the same time, she's several notches below a Jennifer Hudson, who was fantastic in her SB performance.

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TosaJim | Feb. 5, 2013 at 1:33 p.m. (report)

Hey Eugene...welcome to OnMilwaukee.com. Beyonce...Beautiful woman...beautiful voice...but I agree with you...Anita Baker, Aretha Franklin and Gladyis Knight didn't have to dress and dance like a street whore to get people to appreciate their music and their voices.

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