On “Hold Up,” Beyonce is more human than ever before—and more powerful.
The term gaslighting derives its meaning from the 1938 play “Gas Light” and the 1944 film version of the same name. It’s definition reads, “to cause (a person) to doubt his or her sanity through the use of psychological manipulation.” In the play and film, an abusive husband causes his wife to question her sense of reality by flickering the lights, while at the same time accusing his wife of imagining the flickering. On “Hold Up” the second track off the superb “Lemonade”, it seems Jay Z’s been the one with his fingers on the switch. In the past, Beyonce has excelled at making veiled references to infidelity that were easily dismissible as taking artistic license. On “Hold Up”, which samples Andy Williams 1963 hit, “Can’t Get Used to Losing You” and manages to credit everyone from Diplo, Ezra Koenig, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Soulja Boy, Father John Misty, MNEK, and probably your very own mother, Mrs.Carter laments “I’m not too perfect to ever feel this worthless” seemingly confirming our worst fears: in the game of love no one is safe, not even Beyonce.
In the accompanying music video, Beyonce strolls through the streets with her trusty bat “Hot Sauce” taking out her frustrations out on whatever storefront window, car, or fire hydrant is unlucky enough to find itself in her way. From the calypso beat, to the sunny Roberto Cavalli B struts down the street in, everything feels a bit lighter than it is. The passerbys seem to speak for all us when they chuckle at Mrs. Carter’s antics. The children dance in the water from the fire hydrant she liberates. Even Beyonce seems to be having a good time. It’s not until the end of the song where everything turns from Technicolor to black and white that we realize she’s come undone.
In typical fashion, right-wing media outlets are accusing “The Obama Favorite” of fanning the flames of “urban terrorism” with her “baseball bat rampage.” The Alex Jones Channel calls B’s position as a role model into question when, “we see her running around with a bunch of little girls skipping behind her and the message is learning how to be a woman is smashing cars up with a baseball bat because you hate men.” If Jones finds himself intimidated by the buoyant “Hold Up” he should certainly cover his eyes for the remainder of the album. For Jones, as for many, Beyonce was far better off as a beautiful object of contemplation. When she opens her mouth, which she rarely does outside of song, she risks inciting a riot. A Superbowl performance draws nationwide protests and a police boycott. An elevator incident becomes the shot heard round’ the world. The power of her words has to be artistically constraining. Still, Beyonce does more for women with the little that she’s willing to admit than she could with any call to arms. Through her lyrics, she encourages all the “little girls skipping behind her” of a far more dangerous notion that we can be feminists and be insecure at the same time.
Blame it on women’s intuition, or as Bey says, “If something don’t feel right, it’s probably cause it ain’t right.” On a mere mortal level, we find it comforting when someone who we admire admits that they too have insecurities. “What’s worse being jealous or crazy?” In lieu of being walked all over by her man, Bey much prefers the latter. We’ve all been there. Whether it be a quick glance at our partner’s call history, a scroll through an email account left open, or a scan of a personal notebook. All of us have fell victim to some sort of snooping; it’s just in our nature to pry. Once bitten-twice shy as the saying goes, and most of us come to the practice through nurture—or lack thereof. Either way, the learning curve is quick: when you find what you’re looking for, you’ll find it very hard to unsee it. Still, this is supposed to happen to us, it’s not supposed to happen to her. Beyonce’s suspicions of infidelity seems an admission on par with Jesus questioning the Holy Father on the cross: “Rap God, Rap God why hast thou forsaken the baddest women in the game?” Many will be quick to condemn Bey for choosing to stand by her man. The relationship between women and men remains complicated. Still, women everywhere will rest a little more easily knowing that it can happen to anyone.
Jay won’t be as lucky.
Sleep with one eye open J, it’s Queen B not the street that’s watching.
by Julia Cerbone
Julia Cerbone lives in Brooklyn. She can generally be found reading books at bookstores without purchasing them, engaging in conversations with unstable strangers, and commenting on paintings that she doesn’t really understand.