When Beyonce sang “Bow Down Bitches” a number of us loaded and cocked and let off a few shots of side-eye at the singer, like, “And who exactly are these bitches she thinks she is talking to?” It turns out Time Magazine was one of them because this month they dropped their knickerbockers, assumed the position and named her the most influential person in their country. She wields more power to affect the lives of Americans, they posit, than the person who runs their central bank, than their president, and the pope.
But oba you can’t argue that she is not massively influential when she has just influenced Time Magazine to put her on their cover. She does. She does have influence.
Over her bitches.
But come on. Come On! COME ON! How can your most influential person be a pop singer? It just is not a good look. Beyonce may be the most fascinating, the most interesting, the most cool and awesome and admirable, but influential? She is the person who has the greatest power to affect the shape and outcome of your life’s circumstances? She is the person who most determines what will happen to you and how it will happen? She is the one most responsible for how your lives are?
Are you fourteen years old?
Let me imagine the situation from Uganda here, with our most famous pop singer.
Wake up in the morning and throw off covers and yawn. Those covers are either Nytil bedsheets, imported linen from a supermarket, second hand from a hawker, or a duvet from a fair trade company made for export that I managed to get my hands on. All of this is determined to a significant extent by Museveni and his economic policies. He pretty much decided what my options of bed linen will be.
I have breakfast. It is either sumptuous large, juicy omelet made with plump tomatoes and greens that I bought affordably from a local market or it’s skinny tomato raisins that cost eight times as much as an honest godly tomato should. The dice will fall on the side determined by whether Museveni’s NAADS and agriculture modernization programmes are successful or if he keeps letting corruption and incompetence pupu in the plot, as the boy Daniel Omara puts it.
I go to work. To a job I have that is available courtesy, again, of the economic and political environment sustained by the President’s government. While there I put on my headphones and feel the pleasant thrill of hearing our greatest musician. It’s ten o’clock and though I have been feeling Museveni’s influence since I woke up, I am only now feeling the pop singer’s.
There are people who will wake up in Beyonce brand bedsheets, have the same breakfast Beyonce told People she eats, then get a job as a Beyonce blogger, but those are a minority and even they are more greatly influenced by the gods of the economy. And then the people, the teeming millions who never once think of Beyonce all day, also must be affected by their head of state and his policies. To fail to find 100 people in your country who exert greater force on the way the nation is and will be than Beyonce does means that you are really not looking.
I am not buying it. I have seen this in the media many times before. They sell hyperbole. Everything has to be dealt in massive extremes. They can’t just say Beyonce is really good, they have to superlate it and say she is the absolute complete and utter best ever. They peddle balloons of hot air. They tell you Beyonce is empress in dazzling gowns and you need to believe it because the media says it and the media never lies. Only a fool doesn’t get it.
They won’t countenance the fact that they may be taking this too far.
Bey is entertainment. She’s not even a person, she’s a product. An illusion of smoke and mirrors, a magic trick, a fantasy that thrills you as long as you don’t look too closely to see that it’s only a paper moon over a muslin sea. It’s make believe, it’s playacting at being great. It’s not real.
Beyonce is successful, beautiful, gifted, , awesomest, inspirational, rich.
You can say this without riding her jock.