Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Cake


I went running during my premiere listen of Beyoncé's new album. I don't seem to have the patience to sit still and listen to an entire album on repeat while doing anything else other than running these days. I was pleasantly surprised by the progression from her last album, there didn't seem to be a desire to get herself back to the booty bouncing mainstream, or calling it totally quits and working with David Guetta.

This makes me smile. Good for her, I think while I run. Here's an artist with nothing to lose, releasing an album with no fanfare because she pleases it that way. I used to have a poster up in my office that stated “You have the same hours in the day as Beyoncé”. When people criticise her as vapid, I counteract with my opinion that I feel she is hardworking, relatively scandal free and not busting out of cars with no underwear.

Even professing to be a feminist, I do my best to defend. Can you not be a feminist and pose in a bikini because you damn well want to? I think you can. The album continues, with its bonkers samples and more than a little Janelle Monae. She's clearly been leaning more towards Prince than Tina Turner, more on her later.
So we get to Drunk On Love, a particularly stand-out track. Last summer I was completely obsessed with Jay-Z's Magna Carta album, and in particular Beyoncé's collaboration, On The Run. There's no denying Jay-Z has been an influence in her life and given her the opportunity to go beyond whatever Destiny's Child comfort zone was. I've been to see her twice, I sat jaw-dropped when she won over Glastonbury. There's a hell of a role model, for reaching towards what you want and just working hard to get it.

Hang on, why is Jay-Z comparing himself to Ike Turner? That's a little weird. I can't quite hear the words to the rest of his rap, and listen to the album three times all the way home. I am hooked.

The come the Grammys, and despite Pharell's best-hatted intentions, the power couple stole the show. Except the words were a little bit clearer now....because she sung along with him.

I am Ike Turner, Baby know I don’t play. Now eat the cake, Anna Mae. Said Eat the Cake, Anna Mae.”

When I was about ten, I discovered my father's vinyl copy of Private Dancer, a Tina Turner masterpiece. Finally being a little older, I got the chance to watch the harrowing What's Love Got To Do With It, and found out what it had taken to make that record. I read Ronnie Spector's autobiography, Be My Baby, about the treatment she also received from her spouse. She alluded to Cher being in the same position with Sonny. I read Mary Wilson's autobiography Dream Girl, and found much of the same.

I watched an interview with Tina Turner about the moment she finally escaped from Ike Turner, how she crossed a road in the middle of the night even though she was terrified about all the trucks in oncoming traffic. How she didn't have a penny to her name and had to promise the man at reception, while battered and bruised, that she really was Tina Turner and she would pay him back in the morning, that she just needed to get away. Her struggle to keep her name, to not be washed away as an individual by the intentions of a malicious, disgusting and abusive human being.

Eat the cake Anna Mae” refers to a scene in What's Love Got To Do With It, where Laurence Fishburne as Ike Turner psychologically tortures Tina as played by Angela Bassett by smashing a piece of cake into her face.


I've already heard the argument that we shouldn't read so much into music, that the scene in question never happened. Who cares? Would you be so tolerant if he'd recited a line from Precious in relation to their daughter? The fact remains that is a scene depicting domestic violence and an abusive relationship, it is not a joke or something to be celebrated in a sexual or lighthearted way.


The thing is, Jay-Z could have made up a million other rhymes that were dirty, provocative or whatever it is they were trying to describe happens between them in the bedroom. Comparing himself to Ike Turner is just ridiculous at best, and at worst disrespectful and harmful. There is no art there, no point to make, why not just leave it alone? Why lose the respect of everyone in the world who thought you were doing great things when you claimed to be so philanthropic and wanting to elevate the position of women in the world? Who runs the world, whatever.