Actually, Even Beyoncé's Art is Honest
Art is filled with many truths – for us as individuals and as people. While artists are held to the standard of honesty, when art transitions into the mainstream media, it is given a presumption. This presumption is of inauthenticity, and it seems to target Black artists and genres in which they participate in the most.
Beyoncé’s "LEMONADE" was one of the purest texts to enter the wider consciousness of America in some time. Not only showcasing Beyoncé’s evolution as a singer and performer, but its wider discussion of betrayal, self-discovery and recompense was exactly what most people in our society of illusion and fronts deal with. However, that did not prevent the uniquely skewed discussion of virtue and credibility in Beyoncé to commence.
Whether it was someone’s pseudo-conscious friend, or cousin from back home, there was an opinion along the lines of “Lemonade was just a publicity stunt.”
You rolled your eyes at it, and moved on. Maybe, because you're smart enough to realize a publicity stunt doesn't permanently smear your marriage and reputation before the world and then eventually your children. Perhaps, you understand publicity stunts aren't as vividly thought out as a theatrical HBO Release. Or, you consider the spiritual successor to the confessions of "LEMONADE" released by the singer’s husband, Jay-Z, 4:44 – and its staggering honesty on masculine performance and expectation.
Regardless, this statement is the shallow reason rappers may lose fans upon gaining notoriety, or that Youtubers notice a loss in viewers with their 100,000th subscriber. People assume that Art is made beneath the ground by people filthy with grit and sweat and the sins of their poverty: the “Starving Artist” archetype. Beyoncé is none of those things; rappers on their come up are usually none of those things. Yet, because the wider consciousness of America assumes that you should be suffering to create powerful or provoking art of Truth, her contributions and creations become undermined and belittled.
Music is not the only genre that suffers from the stereotype neither. Visual artists such as painters are widely held to a standard by the elusive supporters and connoisseurs of their medium. Comic book artists and animators are ostracized as “lower” art forms because there isn’t a secret society of art collectors and vendors hoping to market the ”blossoming, pained genius” to some sap to jack up the pricing. Therefore, this mainstream success is discouraged, and artists are encouraged to dig deep into their pain and traumas to create something that is real: a concept as abstract as it is redundant – if it is truly made by an artist, wouldn’t it always be “real”?
Regardless, to achieve true greatness and originality, artists are encouraged to partake in potentially toxic behaviors, such as drug abuse, alcohol dependency or even exasperation of their mental difficulties – an idea often reinforced by the misattribution of the negative life decisions of Vincent Van Gogh to his thought provoking art.
Rather than art being about experience and dedication to their craft, it is associated with bursts of early spontaneous-ness under pressure. Whilst long-term, successful artists of Beyoncé’s esteem have the luxury of spontaneous-ness, the audience disbelieves of the pressure they face. What real risk is there to the come-up when you have nothing to come-up on?
Honestly, this mentality is easily problematic. Where in the unwritten lexicon of “How to be an Artist” does it state that mainstream evaporates talent? Where does it say that success in one area is sacrifice in another?
Yes, it is true that there is a point where art becomes commercial, and its honesty is drafted for results rather than Truth alone, but that does not mean there aren’t those who realize Truth holds more want and desire for a fanbase – especially a fanbase that thirsts to connect with a creator as much as Beyoncé’s fanbase desires to connect with her, a natural reclusive.
Further, the presumption that mainstream art is somehow untrue, or a publicity stunt is derogatory. It is a cheaper way of discrediting artists – especially Black ones – as capable of achieving fame, success and praise without cutting corners in one way or another. A woman of Beyonce’s stature couldn’t possibly write her own music and create texts of any honesty with such critical acclaim, because when have you heard of a Black woman doing such things? It tells tomorrow’s great creator to run away from demanding respect and wealth because to be a “sell out” is to be dishonest with your craft, rather than demanding compensation for your basic, essential contributions of supply-and-demand: after all, if you are on the mainstream, you’re supplying something people want.
Isn’t that honest enough?