Yeah, I said it. So much talk about who will wear the proverbial white glove now that the King of Pop has passed on. And with the release of Michael, Jackson’s first posthumous studio album this week, it really does beg the question: to whom does the torch belong?
Not surprisingly, men are always mentioned: Chris Brown. Usher. Ne-Yo. It never occurred to our chauvinist entertainment world that it could even be a woman. But I am here to tell you right now: after seeing the newly released I AM: World Tour DVD/CD concert film on the big screen, his heir is actually an heiress. And her name is Beyoncé.
Think about it: at the tender age of 29, she’s already logged 15 years in the game: eight with Destiny’s Child, who eclipsed The Supremes and TLC as the top-selling female group of all time, seven as a tireless solo artist with three studio albums, a live album from England’s Wembley Arena, and a bonus Spanish album of B’day. She’s the only African American female to have won Pop Songwriter of the Year Award from ASCAP (2001). She’s decorated with 16 Grammy(r) Awards, winning 13 as a solo artist, including 2 as a producer. In 2010, amid all the Lady Gaga/Taylor Swift hype, she broke the record for most Grammy(r) wins by a female artist in one year (six).
Each tour has topped the previous one in delivering on expectations. And with each project, Bey pushes herself to do more, go further, reach higher–just as Michael did, at times amid tidal waves of doubt, hate, and overexposure (both engineered and unwanted).
Also very much like Michael, Beyoncé is serious about controlling the direction of her sound and her career. She’s made herself bankable as an actor in Dreamgirls, Obsessed and Cadillac Records. Which brings Ms. Knowles to the tour so massive in scale, so broad in scope, so utterly global (108 shows on 6 continents), it became a feature length documentary film out now on DVD. But for this project, Beyoncé took on the roles of director, editor and producer. Just like Michael did for his “Thriller” video, using some of his own funds and sitting side by side with director John Landis to execute his groundbreaking vision.
I know, you’re giving all that director-editor-producer stuff the side-eye. (Funny how that’s never questioned with male stars). Beyoncé really did put in the time (9 months of post-production) to earn those credits. She did a masterful job of taking multiple shows and compiling them into one cinematic concert experience. The movie audience was cheering as if they were standing front row center. In between, we see the superstar traveling, eating junk food, shopping, and confessing on a variety of subjects, including Mr. Carter.
I had to know why she divulged so much about the strain her tour put on her marriage, when she’s been so mum about it for so long. So I asked about that and some other things. Here’s what she had to say:
On the stress of the editing process:
“I definitely some days, had to say ‘listen, we have to go work on a different song and come back to this one.’ There were [also] things that didn’t work and things I didn’t want to try because I was too afraid to show my vulnerability–but that worked very well. I ended up having to think about it hard and having to say, “let go, let go, its time.”
On the motivation behind directing and getting personal:
“As long as I could have control and know its coming from the right place– and as long as its natural. Trying to figure out how we were going to tell the story and keep the integrity of the show but also figure out how to keep these great private moments and intertwine them, that’s what was difficult, and that’s really when the directing started. It was in the edit.”
Bitten by the off-stage bug:
“I definitely enjoyed the process of directing, editing, and producing. And I honestly believe that no one could have done this DVD the way it is but me. Because I would have never exposed myself the way I felt comfortable doing because I knew that I could control it. It’s given me confidence to do other things that are behind the curtain and I enjoy it. It’s a lot more work than I thought, but I learned so much. My whole team learned, so the next time it won’t be as difficult. And knowing that when I decide I don’t want to sing or perform anymore, I’m developing a skill that I could [use for] other artists…that’s exciting for me.”
On Michael Jackson:
I have a moment in my show where I dedicate “Halo” to Michael Jackson. It’s interesting because every show I’ve done has had a Michael Jackson tribute, since Destiny’s Child…My last tour, I sang one of my favorite Michael Jackson songs from Off The Wall. This is something that I’ve always done because I literally am who I am as far a performer, even just my life–knowing what I wanted to be, knowing what I wanted to do at a young age was because of Michael Jackson.”
Well, Bey is very humble for an icon who has officially arrived. She would never make the leap that I am making in this piece, but after seeing this film, it’s clear that she is the one entertainer who embodies the total package to which all serious artists aspire because of Michael. Her vocals are pristine in performance, even as she performs intense choreography in heels. Her impact on the fans, who numbered 60,000 in Sao Paulo alone is undeniable–so much so that the audience is a secondary character in the film. She’s got women in full hijab singing the lyrics to “Irreplaceable” one moment, and grown men crying openly for her in the next. She’s as serious about the business of stardom as was her predecessor.
Sorry guys. If you want the crown left behind by The King of Pop, you’ll have to try your hand at taking it away from Beyoncé.