Column originally published on the StudentStandard.ie
Just this afternoon on her train, Bank Holiday Tuesday (BHT) noticed many “tweenage” girls in short shorts and brightly coloured baseball caps. I wondered if I had in fact fallen through a wormhole to 1993. No, these were just the final stragglers returning from staking out the Merrion Hotel where Justin Bieber was staying. Oh Bieber fever. When I was a girl it was Spice World and Boyzone – we were big into pandering the gender binary to little girls in my day and viewed the new wave of co-ed pop groups with suspicion. Liberty X and Hearsay and all that MIXING of the SEXES! It was too much for my little 9 year old head. Now we’re back to the nice binary system of boys in one group, girls in another. Now some don’t even NEED band mates: we have Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber to aspire to.
I drove past the point depot with my Ma last night and marveled at all the cars parked around- way more than you’d usually see waiting after a gig. When I heard it was Bieber I realised this must be an army of mums and dads waiting anxiously to pick up their darlings from the concert, possibly chaperoned by cool older sisters or younger aunties. There is something strangely cult like about Bieber. I think his hair has nanobots in it, controlling the little girls via electron pulses. That is the only way I can justify his alarmingly hysterical popularity. Maybe he’s a cult leader. I think Anonymous needs to get onto him, to be honest. He could be sacrificing virgins to Xenu for all we know.
But seriously, let us all be fair. Bieber is pretty easily avoidable in music fan terms. He doesn’t get that much radio play and he’s not on the music channels (yes this is how BHT experiences her music because it is still 2003 in her head…) and the level of hate he produces online is about equal to that of Osama bin Laden. People haaaaate this kid. BHT is not sure why. As far as pop crooners pandering to little girls go, he’s certainly not the worst. Often I hear people complaining that kids are listening to shit music these days. Eh, yeah, because that’s what kids do. You have to go through a stage where you listen to total twaddle before you catch five seconds of, say, Joni Mitchell’s Blue played by your mother at 3AM on a Sunday and you understand.
We need shitty pop music slopped out by the mainstream labels: if we didn’t we would have no way of obscuring our gems so they don’t get sucked in by the mainstream. Let the little girls work themselves into a state of weeping hysteria. Let them get it out of their systems now in one fearsome dose of fever: the Bieber fever. Bad music is, to BHT, a rite of passage we must all take. We don’t all have parents with extensive Rory Gallagher back catalogues or Uncles who lend you Talking heads ‘77 to help you in your education- some of us curate our tastes slowly, through accumulation. The first Album BHT owned was Avril Lavigne and a best of Britney Spears. Let those without sin cast the first hip hop style diss. Besides, little girls have always listened to inane crap. It’s how Donny Osmond and John Travolta made careers. There is NO POINT trying to play Ani DiFranco to your 3 year old cousin (BHT has tried).
So let it be said now: BHT is defending Bieber. She is defending Bieber because all little girls have to have their shitty music quota filled, so that when they are 24 and sipping ironic PBR at a party in a squat on Camden street wearing one of those absurd furry animal hats, she must still pause before passing judgement on another person’s music taste. It is an anchoring anti hipster force in the world, for no matter how hip and cool any of us will ever be,
There will always be a Bieber Fever scar on our heart.
Niamh ‘I’m about to lose my mind up in hurrr’ Keoghan
This column originally appeared in the Student Standard volume 1, issue 1 on the 12th February 2013. The Student Standard is NUI Maynooth’s independent new source and can be read online here
published here with kind permission of Keith Broni, editor of the Standard.
Bank Holiday Tuesday 12th February 2013
Another year, another Superbowl Sunday passed with me in bed early, not willing to stay up until 5AM watching the most excruciatingly boring sport known to man (Worse than Cricket, Curling and Lawn Bowls put together because AT LEAST those sports don’t stop for a little rest every every. single. Play) only for the faint promise of nine minutes of Beyonce that I could catch on YouTube the next day. No, I experienced the superbowl the way I also experienced the Late Late show’s debate on marriage equality last week- tucked up in bed with a hot chocolate, following the proceedings via twitter.
Twitter is a great medium for experiencing telly, a crowdsourced annotated commentary of whatever happens to be on. It’s basically watching highlights that are tailored to your own personal tastes- so in my case, the Superbowl coverage I saw was mostly ‘When’s Beyonce on?’ Then hysterical tweets when she actually did come on (SHE’S SO GOOD AT WALKING!) all about the dancing, the costume, the choice of song (‘Baby Boy?’ Really? That song was lame back in 2004. Come on Bey, do Bootilicious, come on-OH MY GOD THEY’RE DOING BOOTILICIOUS) and of course, the fact that Destiny’s child had ‘reunited.’ When really, all that happened was that Bey got her moderately famous backing singers back. I always liked Kelly Rowland. She reached a minor solo peak around 2003 when I first got into pop music. Sadface. Oh wait, now they’re doing single ladies- I have to do Single ladies on this deadly silent train now, excuse me.
The Bey halftime show was a bit of an experience for me, watching it on my phone on the train to Maynooth Monday Morning. It was when I finally sort of ‘got’ Beyonce. We’ve long had a complicated relationship because she just doesn’t really have a lot of songs I can groove to. Bootilicious and Single Ladies are aggressively good and that is Beyonce at her best. Telephone is an over produced masterpiece of pop excess. If I were a boy and her other break up jams always felt a bit flat to me. It never really captures the actual pain of a break-up- they’re more like revenge dreams. I’d theorise that ‘If I were a boy’ is really a dissing of the sort of casual misogyny that’s common in most hip hop and rap.
Beyonce isn’t particularly titillating. She’s too fucking scary to be titillating. Compare some of her earlier videos- writhing on a beach because Sean Paul is just too hot to comprehend (note- it was 2004 after all) in baby boy, to the aggressive dominance of the Single Ladies dance. Single Ladies is an aggressive, iconic song. It’s not sensual- it’s a war cry. She’s strong and she will fucking TRASH YOU in a song if you wrong her. She’s not pandering to sexism so much as sticking a sharp heel through it. Men do fancy her (note-I fancy her. everyone fancies her. don’t lie.) but she’s not for a moment subservient to any man. She consistently out-earns her husband. All you need do to set off any woman born between 1980 and 1993 is to go up to her and ask earnestly ‘Kelly, can you handle this?’. You will be treated to every woman in the vicinity shrieking the lyrics to ‘Bootilicious’ at the tops of their voices.
Which brings me to the title of her new tour- Mrs Carter. Using her husbands name on her solo tour has been a bit… confusing to people who have always seen Beyonce as a strong independent figure. Personally, I had actually forgotten Beyonce had a surname at all. ‘Knowles’ sort of became redundant after Sasha Fierce came out- She’s reached Cher levels of ‘first name only’ recognition. I had also forgotten Jay-Z had a surname either, in fact I just assumed they were monarchs and didn’t have a need for one, you know? Privately, Bey and Jay apparently both hyphenate their names, going as the ‘Knowles- Carter’ family. Bey has said publically that when she’s stressed, she likes to go make love to her husband to chill out. She is one of the most athletic and accomplished dancers of our generation- I’d argue her choreography will define the dance of our generation in the same way Michael Jackson defined the 80s. In the promo for this tour she’s dressed in a Louis the XIV style leotard and a fur cape. She’s Beyonce. LADS. She is Beyonce. Beyonce is allowed name her tour whatever she wants.
Niamh ‘I don’t think you’re ready for this Jelly’ Keoghan