At a moment when virtually everyone is debating the pros and cons of a Tiger Woods Masters comeback, the Roots’ opinionated bandleader and drummer Questlove drops a little something to make the Net go crazy. BEYONCÉ IS THE NEW MICHAEL JACKSON. This supremely ballsy statement, which some fans reacted to as if it was a treasonous action on par with selling Nuclear arms to Iran, was initially made on Twitlonger, but quickly spread to the Root’s Okayplayer home base and into parts of the blogging universe.
“No one is EVER disputing MJ being the STANDARD,” Quest pointed out. “[But Beyoncé] is well on her way at a quicker pace than the unspoken. This is year 10 for her at THIS level. It took MJ 13 years before he became GOD status. If you are to pick the ONE figure in music today that is taking that baton: [Usher]? Justin 1.0? [Chris Brown]? Sorry. [Beyoncé] appeals to all races. All lifestyle creeds from the kiddest of the kid, to the churchest of the church. Straights, Huxtable men…Housewives and hoes. She can ACTUALLY SING. And dances with the best of them. [She’s] a regular on most fashion mags, sells out stadiums, wins countless Grammies, makes anthems, got bank…is her own industry. (still counts for something right?)”
Not even some of Quest’s most hardcore followers could co-sign such blasphemy. And it didn’t help that his theory came on the heels of news that MJ’s estate secured the biggest record deal in history with Sony Music—$250 million. You could almost imagine MJ giggling from the grave at the notion that any of today’s stars could fit into his mammoth penny loafers. Needless to say, responses were sharp and at times comically brutal, with some readers even pointing to the Afro-haired stick man’s close relationship with Ms. Carter and her other half Jay-Z.
Roll the highlights:
- Beyonce is 80 percent thighs and ass, 20 percent talent.
- [She] jacks other folks’ songs and takes credit.
- She’s never done anything close to touching Off the Wall.
- The J5 Motown audition tape alone runs Yonce and that horseweave off the Kentucky derby track.
- I think she needs to take some time off, maybe have a baby or two and come back with a more mature look and sound.
- No one has sold as many records as MJ. Period.
- There can be no heir to MJ’s throne…He made the chair & took it with him when he left.
Okay, so let’s take a deep breath, y’all. While it’s true that Beyoncé has never reached the mind blowing commercial and cultural heights that MJ had (As I stated in a previous Murphy’s Law, it’s nearly impossible to overstate Mike’s overall impact in the early ‘80s. Show me another artist responsible for single-handedly saving an entire music industry from economic turmoil with just one album), to be fair to Quest, some of his points were on to something.
As the big homie rightly noted, during MJ’s reign, we lived in a smaller universe than today. If you were a teenager in 1984, your Twitter, Facebook, Nintendo Wii and Xbox equaled to MJ’s Thriller, The Police’s Synchronicity, Prince’s Purple Rain soundtrack, and Tina Turner’s Private Dancer. With no Internet (the first true personal computer created by Mac had just gone on the market in ’84), music and movies were indispensable. Mega films such as ET, Return of The Jedi, Beverly Hills Cop, and Back To The Future were setting records at the box office, propelling the scene into a billion dollar industry.
And at the center of it all was MJ, whose immense, game-changing talent just happened to peak at a time when MTV was being forced into changing up its “rock only” policy. This was the new age of the cross-over-Negro, and Mike was the spark. It was there for the taking. As Quest added, Lionel Richie or Prince could have just as well been in MJ’s seat.
This is precisely why in today’s era when music is treated like disposable diapers, Beyoncé’s success is quite impressive. When over three million fans would rather spend their money on I Am…Sasha Fierce than on the latest Twilight DVD, you have to acknowledge Honey Bee’s power.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that at times Beyoncé comes off as a bit of a phony, in the Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodriquez tradition. She wants us to believe that she would travel in the same gay, lesbian, transgender, drag queen, gothic, and riot girl circles as the reigning look-at-me!!!! freak of the week Lady Gaga in her polarizing video “Telephone.” B wants us all to take her seriously as a first-rate songwriter to the point where she is continually dogged by rumors that she gets sole credit just by just changing one line in a verse (what up, Ne-Yo?).
Still, I’m convinced that a good portion of the hate thrown Beyoncé’s way comes from the fact that she is the epitome of that popular girl in high school who seems to have it all. Her drop dead “fineness” is usually reserved for models, Hollywood bombshells or the lip-synching vixen crowd ruled by Britney Spears. The thinking is: it’s bad enough the ‘Yonce looks like a beauty queen. But does she have to sing like the star lead of a Baptist church choir; appear in box office movie hits; headline a sold-out tour that grossed over $30 million just last year; run a successful clothing empire; pull in an obscene amount of commercial endorsements; sell millions of albums; and be married to the most powerful man in hip hop?!!! It just doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Yes, no one ever said it was easy to love the popular girl. So let’s just place all of the extra stuff on the side and deal with Questlove’s statement at the most basic of levels: Talent. Beyoncé has it. But MJ had abundantly more. We can talk about Mike’s biggest achievements being tied to visionaries like Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton, and Teddy Riley. But B has never written a song as universally beloved as “Billie Jean” or as heartbreaking as “Stranger In Moscow.” MJ WINS. Of course, I’m a dude that was old enough to buy Thriller with my little allowance when it was released, so I’m kind of bias when it comes to magic of those times.
Still it makes you think. For me, artists like MJ, Prince, Madonna, RUN DMC, Rakim, NWA, De La Soul, Nirvana, Nas and Radiohead have always come off as larger-than-life figures who towered over the acts they influenced. But sooner or later, the old guard has to respect the view of the 16-year-old girl in Detroit who worships the ground Beyoncé walks on. Trust me. In about three years, some kid will declare Drake as the next Jay-Z. I can already imagine the outrage…A half Jewish black kid from Canada who looks like he’s about to grow a unibrow and raps like he’s does voice-overs for the Smurfs is the next Jigga? FOH!!!! —Keith Murphy
With all apologies due to Mick Jagger, Keith “Murph” Murphy may not be a man of immense wealth, but he does have taste. For over a decade, the Chicago-born journalist has sparred with brazen hip hop moguls (Jay-Z); Hollywood royalty (Quentin Tarantino); political powerbrokers (Rev. Al Shaprton); redemption-seeking pugilists (Mike Tyson); R&B divas (Mary J. Blige); and lyrically great white hopes (Eminem). His work has appeared in such publications and sites as VIBE, Essence, The Root, and KING, and he is a frequent commentator on CNN, Fox News, VH1, and A&E Biography.