The Queen of Not Very Cool

February 27, 2014 • Music

The word “cool” dates back to the 1940s, when Lester Young (otherwise known as “The Prez”), lead saxophonist in the Count Basie Orchestra, coined the phrase. Young was famous for his porkpie hat, long before Walter White chose it as Heisenberg’s badge of badassness. Folks loved the way Young held his sax—high to the right, at a 45-degree angle. His solos were legendary.

“Never played a tasteless note in his life,” said Dan Morgenstern, who wrote the book Living in Jazz. As such, Lester “The Prez’” Young made the list of 100 men and women who exemplify cool in the “American Cool” exhibit on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC.

Jay Z also made the list. And Susan Sarandon — who might have actually started the mom jean, sneaker, backpack, and denim-on-denim trend all with one photograph. Missing from this catalog of the cultural cool: Beyoncé.

Somehow this list took five years to make, and includes non-Americans like Audrey Hepburn, representing American cool for Belgium—so it clearly has its flaws. But apparently it was very labor intensive, and this chosen clique had to meet certain requirements.

“The big question that we kept asking ourselves,” said Joel Dinerstein, Tulane professor and co-curator of the list, “is, ‘Did this person bring something entirely new into American culture?’”

So why Jay and not Bey? Well that’s simple, according to Dinerstein:

“Beyoncé really wants our attention. She really works hard. I like that she works hard, but she’s really needy as a performer. And neediness is the opposite of cool.” A legacy of destructive and misogynistic lyrics is totally OK though, apparently. (Although, to Jay Z’s credit, hip hop did not invent misogyny; that’s the white man’s burden.)


I guess Beyoncé’s neediness could be illustrated by the following:

Banning all professional photographers from her concert tour last year. The fact that she has an on-staff photographer and videographer documenting her every move.  (As relayed in that February 2013 GQ article: Beyoncé’s inner sanctum also contains thousands of hours of private footage, compiled by a “visual director” Beyoncé employs who has shot practically her every waking moment, up to sixteen hours a day, since 2005.) That pandering (yes) video of her singing with the blind girl at her concert. Or the fact that after years of refusing to acknowledge her relationship status, she and Jay are clinging to each other’s egos, “surfboarting,” and giving any audience willing to watch a meet-and-greet to their sex life.

Or you know, her newest video, “Partition,” where B hangs out in Downton Abbey in a totally anachronistic outfit, which definitely took her way longer than 45 minutes to put on (listen to the lyrics).

All of this extreme neediness could be forgiven, I suppose. Bey is hardworking and talented. No one shakes their hips like Beyoncé, or sings like Beyoncé, or buys their daughter an $80,000 diamond-encrusted Barbie doll like Beyoncé.

But you know what else is the opposite of cool? Total hypocrisy.  And we’re not talking sound-off-on-feminism-and-then-shoot-with-pervy-molester-Terry-Richardson hypocrisy (everyone else does that!).

We mean using-feminist-language-for-marketing-purposes kind of hypocrisy.

Because what Beyoncé really cares about is being Queen. Which she will never actually be, because that title belongs to Tina Turner. (Which is, pathetically ironic, at least based on the now accepted and totally erroneous use of the word.)

That’s right, the same Tina Turner that Mrs. Carter’s husband tears down in the lyric we are all too familiar with by now. (Sidebar: Imagine if the lyric had been: Beat it up/like Fenty’s face. You think any radio station would play that shit?)

The same Tina Turner Beyoncé melodramatically (everything B does is melodramatic) introduced as such at the 2008 GRAMMYs:

“There is one legend,” Beyoncé emotes, “who has… the glamour, the soul, the passion, the strength, the talent. Ladies and gentlemen, stand on your feet and give it up for the Queen.”

And then 68-year-old Tina Turner came out onstage (and of retirement) and wiped the stage with Beyoncé’s (then larger and less toned, but still awesome) ass.

Because Tina Turner is cool.

Beyoncé, on the other hand, is one needy puppet with a great ass. A shameless advocate of self, who will do and say everything to keep her monarchy in power. The problem is Beyoncé was never Queen to start. Tina was and is.

And while, yes, “Drunk in Love” is a song about sex, it’s also a song that uses domestic abuse and violence to talk about sex. And it’s a huge “fuck you” to Tina Turner.

So it’s great that her ass looked impeccable on stage with Jay Z. It’s great that Beyoncé wants to be the kind of feminist who can gyrate on a chair in a black thong and not be called a whore. Or the kind of feminist who can bounce around an empty mansion desperate for her husband’s attention. Whatever. Women have the right to explore what sexuality means to them. But it is not possible to be a feminist and trivialize violence, domestic abuse, and misogyny, and hide behind your husband while doing it.

And it’s not possible to be a feminist and totally dismiss some very real, very relevant, and very public concerns. That’s a huge “fuck you” to feminism. And to all women.

Instead of actually addressing the issue, she belittled it, releasing yet another music video showcasing this never-ending look-at-me charade.

Real feminism isn’t needy. It doesn’t ask for your approval. It takes it.

This faux-feminism Queen BS? Not cool. Not cool at all.

 (Photo courtesy of Bob and Nadya Gruen, Xclusivememphis, ibtimes, and Hollyscoop)


  • Holly Sh

    Wait, for real? And Miley Cyrus gets to be “the biggest feminist in the world” while putting on blackness like a costume? And Lily Allen gets a pass for her uber sexist and racist “It’s hard out there” video? I see you sippin’ haterade, wrapped up in a cozy blanket of high-and-mighty white feminist bullshit. Shame.

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