My relationship with Beyoncé began when I was five and first heard those three delicious guitar licks at the beginning of “Say My Name.” Since then it developed into pathetic attempts at singing “1+1” to karaoke instrumentals on YouTube, following the Beyoncé tag religiously on Tumblr, and watching her 90-minute Glastonbury performance at one in the morning. Over these past 13 years, our courtship—OK, my one-way obsession—has only grown fiercer. That’s not to say I don’t question my devotion. Sometimes I wonder: am I the only one who cares about us, Bey? Sure, the 16-Grammy-winning pop star is busy with Jay and Blue, but I was a fan years before either of them entered her life. I was there when she sported ramen noodle-like cornrows and wore outfits that had more rhinestones than fabric. If that isn’t unconditional love, then I don’t know what is.
Needless to say, I’m sometimes frustrated with how little Beyoncé gives in return. I’m an open book, and she’s as closed-off as the Barnard side gates after 10. Then again, this is what makes Beyoncé’s relationship with her fans so unique. Although she doesn’t expose every detail of her personal life, she reveals what she owes to her fans as an entertainer. The distance isn't because we don’t deserve her vulnerability, but because vulnerability would lessen the diva image she’s worked tirelessly to achieve.
But recently, my devotion has been put to the test. Excited as I was to hear Beyoncé sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Barack Obama’s inauguration, I was equally devastated that the diva herself used a prerecorded track. Performers like Ashlee Simpson and Britney Spears have been known to lip sync, but I would never have expected it from Beyoncé. The superstar we’re used to is confident in her capabilities, not self-doubting enough to commit a singer’s ultimate sin. Even with my die-hard fandom, I understood the enraged reactions. Lip-syncing shows a lack of effort and a sense of complacency. If I thought I was getting a live performance and got a CD, I’d feel cheated too! But after a great deal of thought, and even reconsidering my steadfast dedication to Bey, I've concluded that her lip-synced performance was fundamentally different from a Spears or Simpson cop-out.
At a press conference held before the Super Bowl, Beyoncé tackled the criticisms head-on. She began the conference by belting the entire national anthem with unwavering confidence and flawless vocals. When she was done, she thanked the press, asking, “Any questions?” with a giggle. Standing by her choice, the star explained that she “is a perfectionist,” and that “due to no proper sound check, [she] did not feel comfortable taking a risk.” She recognized that the day was all about the president and the inauguration, and told the press that she “wanted to make him and [her] country proud.”
From Beyoncé’s response, I think that for the first time in Beyoncé history, the diva’s body armor of complete confidence proved it wasn’t entirely indestructible. She understood the expectations, and considered that she might not be able to meet them. But instead of being disappointed by Beyoncé’s moment of weakness, I admire her even more. Who else could have handled the press like that and reaffirmed her talent simultaneously? I am humbled and inspired by the star’s ability to discern between performances that glorify her (hello, Superbowl!) and ones that celebrate others. Clearly, Beyoncé is still as fierce as ever. Plus, with Mrs. Carter’s documentary, Life is But a Dream, premiering on HBO this Saturday, maybe I’ll finally get the chance to know the superstar more personally too.