When footage surfaced online late last month of Beyoncé's onstage tumble during the Orlando stop of her worldwide tour, most blogs and articles published about the "event" noted that, while she was just fine and had even continued singing to the track like a champ, the international superstar had asked fans at the show not to post video of her spill on the Internet. Quite a few people didn't obey, of course—come on B, this is Web 2.0—but more interesting than the splotchy hand-held footage of the singer's unglamorous face-plant (which admittedly looked like it really, really hurt) was her organization's after-the-fact efforts at damage control. Sony tried to delete the clip from YouTube in an attempt to maintain its brand integrity, since Beyoncé is a pop entity who earns an astounding amount of cash for the corporation. Protecting the world's eyes from her onstage fall wasn't entirely for image management. It was about Sony's reluctance to admit that Beyoncé is a human being and not just a curvy, talented dollar sign.
But she's already a human to the rest of us; in fact, it often seems like she's the best human on Earth. Beyoncé has 10 Grammy awards knocking around her mantel: seven as a solo artist and three with Destiny's Child. Dangerously in Love and B'Day, her two solo albums, have achieved multi-platinum sales, continuing the trend that began with D-Child's platinum output. As an actor, she blends her girlish pluck with a honeyed sexuality that's attractive even in the fluffiest of roles (um, Foxxy Cleopatra?), and as a corporate spokesperson she undoubtedly helps L'Oreal (the cosponsor of her tour) move millions of dollars in makeup. Who wouldn't want to look like Beyoncé—to be her—even if that's pretty much impossible?
And that's just it. Beyoncé Knowles has emerged as the queen of divadom—Rihanna, Ciara and even Christina are consistently compared to her—and it only took her 10 years to do it. First, she scored big with a relatively conventional R&B vocal group. Next she went successfully solo, and became romantically and financially involved with hip-hop's biggest mogul, Jay-Z. Then, after establishing herself as the source of hundreds of revenue streams, she entered the "one-name club" in triumph. There's no celebrity mashup name for Jay and B, because they sit on their thrones side by side.
Beyoncé has also helped define contemporary sexuality, by the way, as if being the face of success in an increasingly difficult industry weren't enough. She's a "Survivor" with a youth spent in Texas churches, a wholesome young woman in her 20s who named her custom fashion line after the matriarch of her family. But she's also "Crazy in Love," a wild girl gone mad with romance. Years later, "Crazy" still tingles with magnetized lust, and there are points in its video that seem downloaded from our collective sexual id.
This is the unattainable realm in which Beyoncé operates. What are her label, PR and marketing teams worried about? Nothing as trifling as embarrassing YouTube footage will stop this experience.
Beyoncé can follow her hit Shakira collabo "Beautiful Liar" with a Spanish-language EP (Irremplazable, due Aug. 28) that includes a duet with Mexican singer Alejandro Fernandez that also happens to be the theme of a popular telenovela on Telemundo. Sony's hoping Latinos want to be Beyoncé, too, but if the girl's career so far is any indication, there's no need for preocupación.
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She's inserted in the bedrock of our public consciousness, and it doesn't matter to anyone that the money behind her could fund the space program. She can sing, she can act, and she looks fabulous all the time. Beyoncé's a curvy dollar sign, and she's your best friend.
"Svisloch" probably put it best in the comment thread to one of the Beyoncé Falls! videos posted on YouTube.
"Envy is very thing, guys, you can lough as much as you wish, but you will never gether so many people and you'll never see so much money in your life. Beyonce! I respect you even more." [sic]
BEYONCé PERFORMS WITH ROBIN THICKE AT THE HONDA CENTER, 2695 E. KATELLA AVE., ANAHEIM, (714) 704-2500; WWW.HONDACENTER.COM . SAT., 8 P.M. $59.75-$125.75.