Did Beyonce Sell Out Another Pop Star To Sell Records?

I don’t really want to discuss Beyonce’s latest in lady-power anthems, “Run the World (Girls).” At least, not in terms of a music review, except to say that as listenability goes, it’s sorely lacking. It might make for a good choreography opportunity with it’s grinding samples, starts and stops, and disjointed sections, but it’s not a song I could listen to past the chorus. Which is really just enough to get the earworm neatly embedded for an hour or so. It’s mostly an exercise in radio-free annoyance.

Which is ironic, because I find myself annoyed by Houston’s golden child for an entirely different reason. Surfing headlines this morning I noticed something about Beyonce crediting an Italian singer for her performance at last Sunday’s Billboard Music Awards. I, frankly, didn’t even know those awards were still around, much less being aired on television, but that’s neither here nor there. Apparently, Beyonce performed her song in front of and synced up with a digital screen displaying animated graphics that ranged from clones of her dancing the same steps to drumsticks she “caught” to geometric figures. But the most recognizable image was of Beyonce flanked by two giant wings.

The image wasn’t actually a new one. Or, rather, the image of a dancer flanked by two giant digital wings isn’t, anyway. In 2010 Italian pop star Lorella Cuccarini performed a number that bears a striking resemblance. In fact, Cuccarini’s performance was the inspiration for Beyonce’s. And that’s great. Except something was needling my “this doesn’t jibe” nerve.

As the Yahoo! Music article linked above mentions, Beyonce didn’t really come out with the credit for Cuccarini and her team until her routine was in question on the Internet:

Beyoncé was accused of stealing the idea for her show-stopping Billboard Music Awards performance Sunday night after a video surfaced online the next day, comparing her routine to a February 2010 performance by Italian pop star Lorella Cuccarini.

But Beyoncé clarified speculation about the motivation for her cutting-edge show Monday when she explained that seeing Lorella’s interactive video performance made her want to make her own version. “My makeup artist showed me the performance of Lorella Cuccarini a year ago, and it inspired me so much,” Beyonce told AOL Music. “I then met with the talented people who worked on it. The technology and concept were so genius. Thank God for YouTube or I would have never been exposed to something so inspiring. I never worked so hard on anything in my life as that performance for the Billboard Awards.”

The performance (save that damn song) was incredibly executed. And that’s fantastic that now Beyonce has given Cuccarini and Co. credit, but it comes at a point that, sadly, makes the effort seem insincere and totally self-serving. Regardless of whether or not I love the song, it feels like the intended positivity and lady-power message of “Run the World (Girls)” is sullied by the afterthought props that clearly seem intended to keep Beyonce’s own reputation pristine. That’s just not ladylike, now is it?

What’s also not exactly pro-sisterhood is the feeling that (and I’m not alone in the faux-empowerment discussions regarding Beyonce and others) “Run the World (Girls)” is only empowering if the eponymous “Girls” are wealthy, beautiful icons who already have an army of adoring and mimicking fans following their every move (if you watch the video) … or are better-known in the target market than, say, the ladies across the eponymous World who come up with baller ideas for televised performances (if you go with the awards performance).

Now, had a reporter asked her post-show, “Great performance, Beyonce. How do you feel?” and she’d just responded, “I feel wonderful. I’m so grateful to Italy’s Lorella Cuccarini and her team for the inspiration. Thanks to her and Mozambique’s Tofo Tofo dancers, we girls have truly run all over the world tonight,” everything would’ve been just punny and fab.

And I’d feel a lot less like she’d sold out another lady just to sell out her lady-anthem.

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