Taking a Cue from Beyoncé on Confronting Heartbreak in Public
By Erika Ettin
Beyoncé recently released her sixth studio album, Lemonade, to instant worldwide acclaim, awe, and unabashed speculation. Rolling Stone described it as "an entire album of emotional discord and marital meltdown, from the world's most famous celebrity…"
There is something both mesmerizing and endearing about watching someone famous confront heartbreak, raw and uncensored, in the public limelight. Allegations of infidelity are abundant in Lemonade, and some of the most highly-scrutinized lines can be found in a song titled "Sorry,” which features lyrics like, "I regret the night I put that ring on,” and "Middle fingers up, put them hands high / Wave it in his face, tell him, boy, bye.” It’s almost like rubber necking to watch a car crash. You know you shouldn’t be staring, but it’s too hard to resist the temptation to be nosy. She’s actually tempting us by inviting us into the inner circle.
As if that weren’t enough finger pointing (literally), Beyoncé goes on to sing, "Big Homie better grow up” — an explicit reference to a nickname for her husband, Shawn Carter (commonly known as "Jay-Z”). Ouch.
In the age of social media, where instant sharing and feedback is the norm and privacy is the anomaly, we are increasingly drawn to not only the celebrity product, but the celebrity identity. We want to know the ins and outs of their daily lives—what they eat, where they shop, which workouts they do… and of course, who they’re dating/breaking up with! Even on a non-celebrity front, so many people today are "researching” their dates before meeting in person. Can anything be left a mystery anymore?
Just like the car accident I mentioned, when a celebrity pulls back the metaphorical curtain to his or her living room and gives us a glimpse into intimate personal relationships, it’s hard to tear our eyes away, especially if the information we find is less than glamorous. Not only does it provide us insight into the most private details of these celebrities’ lives, but it imbues their "product” with genuine emotion, which consequently makes them more relatable and likable to the average person. I mean, who hasn’t turned up the radio after a particularly traumatizing break up and lip-synced to the tune of Taylor Swift’s "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”?
No? Okay, maybe that’s just me. Actually, who are we kidding? My break up song of choice is "There’s a Fine, Fine Line” from the musical Avenue Q.
Speaking of my own experiences, although in most circles I’m not exactly a celebrity, I recently made the decision to write about "getting ghosted”. Although this deviation from my usual, less personal content made me a potential target for naysayers, I hoped to convey to my readers that I’ve "been there,” too. When you’re considered an expert on a subject, it’s easy to seem like you’re suddenly above getting your own feelings hurt, but believe me when I tell you that it happens to everyone.
While Beyoncé never comes right out and admits that Lemonade is based on her own marital grievances, Taylor Swift has quite publicly discussed several of the romantic encounters that stoked her creative writing process.
Consequently, people gravitate toward her as someone they perceive as down-to-earth, real, and most importantly, fallible. If she goes through the same emotional heartbreak that we "normal” people do, she must be just like us, right?
That said, coming straight out and unpacking the nitty gritty details of your personal relationships always comes with the risk of embarrassment or negative publicity. In the final line of "Sorry,” Beyoncé croons, "He better call Becky with the good hair.” This single phrase sparked international controversy over the identity of Becky, perceived to be the "other woman” with whom Jay-Z purportedly had an affair.
And Swift? Her autobiographical break up songs are so pervasive that someone was inspired to create a detailed timeline of Taylor Swift’s relationships and the song that corresponded to each. That’s a little embarrassing! Ugh. (Though, it seems like she’s pretty happy now with the sexy Calvin Harris.)
All that said, trusting the public with your feelings can be a gamble, but it’s one that many people are willing to make… and usually lands them on top. Lemonade quickly surged to No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and Taylor Swift recently made history as the first woman to win Album of the Year at the Grammys, twice. These ladies might have suffered personal loss and devastating heartbreak in the public eye, but now they’re laughing all the way to the bank.
Curious to read about more celebrities’ love lives? Check out who’s true online dating.