In Beyonce’s “***Flawless ft. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie” the empowerment of women is pushed to the audience. She shows her mastery of literacy through the video and in the use of her choice feature, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who is also a feminist icon in the community. Beyonce uses knowledge of her audience, powerful lyrics, her feature,visual symbolism, and anecdotal evidence to support the agenda she is displaying, feminism and why it should matter to all of us.
Beyonce knows who her main audience is, women, but that does not stop her from speaking to multiple audiences throughout her song and more notably in the first line, “I know when you were little girls you dreamt of being in my world…” She then shifts her focus to the more general audience of “haters” and the press singing, “Don’t forget it, don’t forget it respect that, bow down bitches I took some time to live my life but don’t think I’m just his little wife don’t get it twisted, get it twisted this my shit, bow down bitches.” This first verse serves as Beyonce’s launchpad for the feel of the song. She uses these aggressive first lines to set up the main message of the song which is empowering women.
The second verse in the song is preceded by the Adichie feature. The sampled audio is weaved into the song as the significant moment where we as an audience understand the general message. “We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller…You should aim to be successful, but not too successful otherwise, you will threaten the man.” This parallels with the lyrics earlier in the song talking about how people call her by “Jay Z’s wife” instead of who she really is, which she claims in the song saying “I’m so crown,” or the queen. This gives us extra meaning to what we were listening to before and clearly demonstrates that Beyonce is trying to push forward the feminist attitude.
The video for the song itself also serves its purpose of displaying Beyonce’s main argument. The setting of the video is an underground, grimy, punk-rock mosh pit, and Beyonce inserts herself into this group which is traditionally associated with violence, profanity, etc. Clearly this is on purpose and is to show that women are strong and can hold their own in whatever situation; she is surrounded by rough looking men and women in a sort of juxtaposition. Traditionally masculine shots like men sitting above women in a possessive manner are mimicked by Beyonce within the video as well which shows her belief that female dominance and ambition should not be frowned upon but in fact sought after. Instead of using a more elegant dance style Beyonce chooses an aggressive dance routine where she is constantly in the center frame up close to further reinforce the point.
To make the song hit home for more than just the female audience Beyonce includes anecdotal evidence to show a more direct example of what she is singing about throughout the song. In the opening of the video we get a glimpse of a battle between two groups, one all white-male rock group, and the other an all black-female group including Beyonce herself. When the video closes out we get to see that She and her group lost the competition, which Beyonce attests to the gender difference, otherwise she would not have included it to further prove her point. In the lyrics, “Momma taught me good home training my Daddy taught me how to love my haters my sister told me I should speak my mind…” She uses family which is something we can all relate to, and how being told and taught things can be good influences, like how her sister told her she should speak for herself.
As a literary narrative the song could not do much more except tell you exactly the message it is pushing because Beyonce is a master at what she does. Using audience, lyrics, a well placed feature, visuals, and personal stories Beyonce crafts a song and video that directly and artfully promote feminism to a large audience.
Knowles, Beyonce, performer. ***Flawless ft. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Youtube, uploaded by BeyonceVEVO, 24 Nov. 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyuUWOnS9BY. Accessed 14 Sept 2017.