Recently we had the Grammys 2014 coverage bombarding our screens with the various dramas in tow. The performances are always a huge focus of these festivities and usually a place for the artists to show why they are where they are and why they have been nominated. This year saw what many deemed a historical performance by a couple hugely popular among young people today, Beyoncé and Jay Z. After Beyoncé released her album one night out of the blue she has been doing the rounds on social media to drum up support and this performance of her new song ‘Drunk in Love’ featuring her husband Jay Z was set to be memorable from the start.
Most coverage of this performance centered around how Beyoncé was dressed and how she was dancing. No surprises here I’m afraid with this incredibly rich couple only managing to fully clothe one of its members while the lady herself wore very little and threw herself around him as well as a much talked about chair. Parents were “outraged” by the lack of clothing and the message this dancing sent their children, these topics were also the main focus of the pop culture sites visited by young people.
However one serious issue that much of Beyoncé and Jay Z fans seem to overlook is that of the lyrics they are singing along to. The theme of the song sticks to the usual pattern of female pop vocalists lyrics of choice until Jay Z chimes in with some pretty horrendous examples of the love he and his wife share. “Eat the cake Anna Mae” may not be familiar to many teens, with the exception of course to this song, but it is a quote from the 1993 biopic of Tina Turner ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’, which documents her rise to fame and her struggle with domestic abuse. Jay Z uses this quote after he refers to himself as being like Ike Turner, who in the film shouts these words at Tina before pushing cake into her face and slapping another women. What is truly frightening is that Beyoncé is standing next to him singing along. Although this quote became a slang term for oral sex in rap music it doesn’t take away from the violent intent behind it. People cheered and went crazy for these two, in awe of the spectacle without realizing they were cheering on a man who has compared himself to someone known to be abusive and violent toward his wife and even goes as far as to glamourize his actions. Shockingly Beyoncé knows and has preformed with Tina Turner in the past but still goes unfazed by what her husband is saying to her.
Most of the media attention on the lyrics of this song have been from sources used mostly among adults with pop culture magazines and sites playing dumb, with the exception of British radio station BANG FM banning the track stating it goes against the values held by the station for “displaying promotion of domestic violence against women”. This begs the question of how desensitized is the youth of today when it comes to violence and abuse in the media. With this couple being thought of as some of the most influential people in the world that can do no wrong are teens investing fully in these PR machines? As you scrolled through Tumblr and Facebook after this performance it would appear they already have and with a tour on the way I don’t think we will see this display of either ignorance or utter disregard for the reality of domestic violence come to an end any time soon.
This of course is only one example of how pop culture and rap use lyrics with much more obscene meaning than most of their fans realize and when it is called into question the only people responding seem to be fans backing up their favourite artists with the age old excuse of it only being a song and how its not real and therefore not hurting anyone. With domestic violence rates higher then ever and the greatest risk being to young girls between the ages of 20-24, the US Department of Justice found that 20% of female high school student reported being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner and that percentage is thought to be higher with young girls being unsure if events were actually abuse or whether it was an over reaction on their part. Are our generation at risk of being the most informed yet distracted by PR and fame? And are we making it much easier on these people to manipulate our thought process and opinions? Only time will tell whether things will be flipped on the powers that be or if we will continue to speak on their behalf as their fortunes grow.