I checked out Beyoncé’s Stevie Wonder tribute performance, but did it differently from many of you.
I closed my eyes, and then listened.
The musical arrangements were tight—I picked that up straightaway.
I then—still with closed eyes—focused on Beyoncé’s vocals and asked myself at the end of her performance, “If Beyoncé released the three Stevie Wonder songs she just covered —”Fingertips,” “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” and “Higher Ground”—would you buy them?”
For your background, most of the music I buy these days are releases I will want to hear 5-10 years from now.
I answered without hesitation: “No.”
Don’t get me wrong, I consider a bad song something that I find too offensive to hear. And Beyoncé’s performance was not offensive.
I reviewed her Stevie performance again—with eyes my open this time—asked myself the same question and my answer remained unchanged.
My second—er—viewing confirmed what I always figured: Bey’s flow has the ephemeral properties of the virtual lap dance thrill she gives some of you when she’s onstage—nothing that will last, nothing you could take home other than the fleeting fantasy she’s imagined for you. Too much money is being made for the garter belt to handle, but credit cards are gladly accepted.
That’s probably why as much as I dig women, I don’t do strip clubs. There’s nothing real about that experience.
But the fantasy I mentioned runs deeper. My Soul detector operated as if it had no batteries when I experienced Beyoncé’s attempt to sing three tunes from a Soul legend’s discography that night. Like most carefully-crafted modern marketing packages, fantasies treat Soul much worse than an afterthought.
Which leads me to my next point, and this is likely why I had a problem with Beyoncé doing Stevie—you can’t fake Soul. More than a genre, Soul is how much artists like Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Lisala Beatty, Kenny Bobien, David Ruffin, Carole King, Luther Vandross, Aminata Moseka, Maysa Leak and Joyce Moreno share their innards with listeners—in addition to being far superior singers to Beyoncé. Pop marketing packages like Bey are not wired for those kinds of singer-audience connections.
In fairness, I have a massive amount of respect for Beyoncé’s talent as a businessperson, as well as her ability to change the rules of the music industry.
But…fantasy lovers will continue to adore her, while Soul-seekers will keep it moving…
song currently stuck in my head: “ain’t no mountain high enough” – inner life