Beyonce has proven herself a master of promotion this year, and Iggy Azalea has found herself caught in the crossfire.
In February, Beyonce refused to acknowledge wild speculation about a potential pregnancy on the eve of her Super Bowl performance. During the Super Bowl performance, Beyonce again seemingly courted controversy. Costumes and imagery widely associated with the Black Panther Party were heavily featured in the guest performance. As the Super Bowl controversy died down, Beyonce released a visual album. Lemonade, in conjunction with HBO.
While Beyonce’s fans went nuts over another surprise release from the singer, the media went to work. From lyrics to costume choices, pundits, bloggers, and arm-chair sociologists analyzed the most minute detail of Lemonade.
One lyric, in particular, a reference to “Becky with the good hair,” generated the most controversy.
According to Rollingout, Iggy Azalea drew the ire of Beyonce fans when she labeled the term “Becky” a racial slur. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated.
Azalea’s initial tweet, which she has since deleted, expressed the singer’s displeasure at being addressed as “Becky.”
BASICALLY. but its not clickable if you say it how it is, is it? We all know this game by now. https://t.co/b0qd0N3phT— IGGY AZALEA (@IGGYAZALEA) April 26, 2016
No i dont think Beyonce is racist nor do i think calling someone "BECKY" is the same as a racial slur. I actually like her and the project.— IGGY AZALEA (@IGGYAZALEA) April 27, 2016
Iggy Azalea went on to accuse the media of “race baiting” for spinning her comments beyond her original intention.
Regardless of the intention behind her tweet, Iggy Azalea inserted herself into an emotional conversation in the African-American community. Some have accused Azalea of making the subject of racism about herself. And given Azalea’s controversial use of African-American slang and vernacular, many African-American women weren’t pleased with a blonde Australian rapper crying racism.
The lyric “Becky with the good hair” implies that Beyonce’s husband, Jay Z, cheated on her with the infamous Becky. The lyric itself is a strange mash-up of images. “Becky” is used in the African-American community to refer to Caucasian women, and sometimes in a disparaging manner. However, the lyric “with the good hair” muddies the symbolic waters. “Good hair” is usually used in the African-American community to refer to hair that is wavy or has a distinctly loose curl pattern. Most often, it’s used to refer to an African-American woman of mixed ethnic descent. It’s often been used as shorthand, a way to put down women with more typical African features while raising women with lighter skin and straighter hair.
“Becky with the good hair” could be any woman or no woman. According to Just Jared, sources claim that Lemonade is a storyline crafted to maximize record sales. According to the unidentified sources, Beyonce knew what she was doing when she released Lemonade and Jay Z was with her every step of the way. If true, that would make Lemonade less a peek into the most intimate details of an international superstar’s life, and more marketing genius.
In their zeal for media dominance, Jay Z and Beyonce may have hurt more women than they’ve helped. Iggy Azalea inserted herself into the controversy, but Rachel Roy, Rita Ora, and Gwyneth Paltrow did not. Roy, Ora, and Paltrow have all been suspected by Beyonce’s fanbase as being “Becky,” a claim which both Roy and Ora denied.
There is another interpretation of Iggy Azalea’s choice to comment on Beyonce’s seemingly intensely personal lyrics. Iggy Azalea dropped a new song, “Team,” in March, 2016. “Team” debuted at number 42 on the Billboard Hot 100, and has fallen steadily since then. As of this week, Iggy Azalea’s latest release sits at number 67, a fall of nearly 10 spots since last week. It’s possible that Iggy Azalea commented on “Becky with the good hair” to capitalize on a small portion of the insane publicity Beyonce has generated.
And the controversy has been good for business. According to The New Yorker, Lemonade pushed Jay Z’s streaming music app, Tidal, from a sub-500 app to number 2 on the United States iOS charts. Which begs the question, what real or imagined marital trouble will Beyonce and Jay Z ride to fame and fortune next?
[Photo by Frederick M. Brown and Isaac Brekken/Getty Images]