In defense of Beyoncé

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By Tim Redmond

I want to come to the defense of Beyoncé. Not that anyone who just won six Grammys needs my defense or cares much what I have to say, but the talented Ms. Knowles has gotten some shit lately, particularly from my colleague at BeyondChron, Randy Shaw, who says she “embodies the soulless Starbucking of the Music Industry.”

He complains:

“Beyoncé provides the homogenized sound that today’s music industry touts, and which it rewards as the best it has to offer.”

And he waxes nostalgic about the good old days of

“the rebellious rock stars of the 1960’s, and the soulful and truly passionate voices of Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Janet Jackson, and the stars of Motown.”

Well, Randy Shaw’s not known as a music critic, and neither am I, but I can tell you this: As the father of a seven-year-old girl, I know from today's pop.

Movin’ 99.7 is the soundtrack of the Redmond-Field household these days. Vivian has pretty much seized control of the CD player, and when she’s dancing at night instead of doing her homework, and dancing in the morning instead of getting dressed and ready for school, the living room is filled with Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, the occasional Jonas Brothers tune (although she generally sneers at anything that isn’t sung by a girl) and, of course, Beyoncé.

We watch Hannah Montana, I Carly, and Wizards of Waverly Place. We party with “Party in the USA.” Sometimes, we go to the show.

It’s what’s going on in her world – and frankly, it’s not that bad.

Look, I grew up around the same time Randy Shaw did, and while we can all celebrate the great rock, soul and Motown hits of the time -- and there was outstanding, world-changing music being produced -- the popular songs dominating the airwaves were often terrible.

When I was Viv’s age, the number one song on the New York music stations was an abomination called “Wedding Bell Blues” (The Fifth Dimension). My classmates dug Bobby Sherman (“Easy Come, Easy Go,”) – I mean, Woof. We endured a group called The Archies, which was a fake rock band derived from an awful cartoon TV show derived from a really lame comic book – and on the bogosity level, that’s even more meta than Hannah Montana. And remember that blockbuster band America, with the heavy hit “Muskrat Love,” which may count as the single worst pop song ever to make it onto the public braodcasting spectrum?

In fact, I think it’s safe to say that nothing I hear on Viv’s radio stations is anywhere near as bad as 50 percent of what WABC played in those glorious days of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

There was a whole lot of starfucking soullessness in the music industry back then, too. And the record companies were always looking for ways to exploit garbage and turn it into money through relentless hype.

I’d even argue that the power of the soulless recording industry is far less now than it was when we grew up. The Oakland hip-hop movement in the 1980s proved that you could bypass the big guys by selling CDs out of the back of your car and get traction. Today you can do it with Itunes and Twitter and your website.

And honestly? As pop music goes, you can do a lot worse than Beyoncé. Maybe her live performances don’t excite Randy Shaw, but the Grateful Dead couldn’t do studio. I’m not so into the endorsements thing, either, but I think we all lost our virginity on that one when Jagger, Richards & Co. sold “Start Me Up” to Microsoft in 1995.

And you have to admit, the girl can sing.

We listen to “I am … Sasha Fierce,” Viv and me, and we crank it up and dance and sing along and have a great time.  I love “Halo.” I have it on my Ipod. It plays in my party shuffle mix when I’m at the gym, along with “Radar Love” (Golden Earring), “Roll With the Changes” (REO Speedwagon), “Fool in the Rain” (Led Zeppelin), “Love Child (Diana Ross), “Apeman" (the Kinks) and about 100 more examples of the Most Important Songs Ever Written.

In fact, when I read Randy’s piece, I thought about my father, looking at my brother and me as we took his Perry Como records off the player and put on some Rolling Stones, and shaking his head and saying:

“Kids these days.”

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