Identity Crisis: Beyonce is Every Pop Star, Except Herself

Fair Warning

If you consider yourself a huge Beyonce fan, then this hub's not for you. If you think Beyonce is a fascinating and captivating entertainer, then again this isn't for you. But if you're like me, an observant critic of Beyonce's public image conceptualized through her music, then this is definitely your hub. It's not that Beyonce hasn't become a pop culture icon overnight, but the real question is how is she unique?

Now many people obviously call Beyonce a great entertainer, a dynamic performer, and a classy pop star. However, beyond what she gives us from a bird's eye view, what is she really giving to pop culture beyond the surface?

Does Beyonce rightfully deserve to be where she is or is it mere circumstance and happenstance that got her here? Well that's what this hub's for.

Part of a Rare Breed: Black Female Pop Stars

If you begin to name black female pop stars from the 1980s until now, you'll be hard pressed to find more than a handful. That handful includes names such as Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston. And to be honest, the list doesn't go much further than that. Of course there have been many black female artists in the past thirty years, but there are very few who have taken over top 40.

Why is this? There's no science to it. I think it has more to do with marketing and image. For instance, when the world was first introduced to Whitney Houston she had the looks of America's Sweetheart and the voice of a real diva. By hooking up with record industry legend Clive Davis, he managed to help her maintain a viable MTV presence as well as appearances on national shows that garnered attention from the mainstream media. When Houston peaked in the early 1990s, she was still seen as all-American and wholesome even though she married the troublesome Bobby Brown.

Janet Jackson also had the same innocence and appeal due to her following that was built from fans of her brothers (Jackson 5) as well as her own fans from her stints on shows like Fame and Good Times. By the time of her breakthrough album in 1986, Janet was seen as sassy and fun-loving but still relatively harmless. It wasn't until her 1993 album, Janet that people finally saw her as a young woman with a deep and powerful sexuality. However, because of nearly a lifetime in public, she was still highly regarded.

And then there's Beyonce who essentially picked up where Janet left off. She fronted the childhood group of friends that became Destiny's Child and around 2003 launched the solo career which she is currently known for. Destiny's Child was a powerful launching pad because of their girl-power anthems and sassy attitude. But due to frequent lineup changes and other issues, the group ultimately broke up. It was hoped that Beyonce would continue the legacy of the group's female-empowered anthems, but she opted to go in a different direction.

Beyonce's success has paved the way for more black females in pop, most notably Rihanna who inevitably drew comparison's since she was signed by none other than Jay-Z at the tender age of 16. However, for all of Beyonce's influence Rihanna's musical style is more of a fusion of dance, pop, and reggae. But the comparisons remain nonetheless.

A Strong Start

Beyonce released Dangerously in Love in 2003 to rave reviews and multiple Grammy wins. It was hailed as one of the best solo debuts for a young artist in several years and Beyonce managed to stand out in an era filled with young singers leaving their groups in hope of solo success.

She set the standard and booty shake for the decade with her debut single, "Crazy in Love." The go-go inspired beats and the electrifying video garnered a lot of acclaim. She followed that up with successful hit singles.

In 2006. she released her second album. The video for the first single,"Deja Vu" evoked images of Josephine Baker and the infamous banana skirt. Beyonce stated that she was paying homage to a fashion icon and trailblazer among African-Americans; she worked closely with Baker's son even to capture the essence of the look.

Beyonce had managed to get away with that, but by the time of her third album, people weren't hearing it. I Am.. Sasha Fierce garnered multiple Grammys, but that still didn't silence Beyonce's critics.

Dance Dance Revolution or Confusion?

"Single Ladies" was a movement in 2008. The dance, the look, all infiltrated pop culture at warp speed. However, it was not without controversy. The hand motions, especially gave way to the fact that Beyonce said she was inspired by the choreography of the legendary of Bob Fosse.

But no matter how many funny SNL parodies pop up, there were steal multiple controversies about that dance among others. While Beyonce continues to say she was inspired by the looks and performances of other icons, no doubt even performing with one of them. This question of stealing has now hit a peak in 2011.

"Run the World (Girls)" borrowed heavily from African choreography troupes, but the costume looks were said to also to be taken from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, starring Tina Turner.

Her follow-up videos, "Countdown" and "Love on Top" are also inspired by fellow iconic performances. One being a Belgian artist, another being 80's boy band New Edition. While Beyonce continues to say it's all an homage, the real question is where does the originality play in for her as an artist?

Borrowing or Stealing?

It's one thing when a younger artist is inspired by an icon to the extent they mimic a look, a movement, or even a sound but it's another thing when the movements and looks begin to mirror another artist than reveal a distinct persona.

Beyonce isn't the only young superstar to face this issue, but others have overcome it. Other pop stars have had the same battles. Britney Spears faced the Madonna comparisons, but in her own right has now built her own pop empire. Usher and Justin Timberlake were both heavily compared to their idol, Michael Jackson but somehow managed to create their own sound while still being true to their influences. Justin Timberlake even re-wrote discarded tracks intended for Michael Jackson's last studio album, Invincible, for his debut album. And while he faced criticism at first, he later reaped the rewards in the form of a few Grammys. Usher also has had massive success by experimenting with techno and dance music.

And while there is no real way to say what constitutes borrowing or stealing, there is something to be said for forging your own identity or style but almost ten years into being a solo artist, it's hard to classify something that uniquely applies to Beyonce. Sure she has songs like "Single Ladies" and "Irreplaceable", but those were written by other artists and collaborators. However, her other songs and videos even seem to resemble too much of artists' past.

Sasha Fierce or Sasha Farce?

Beyonce is still a relative mystery to many people. While she has opened up in recent years about her life offstage, it's only been in small doses. But beyond that, she hasn't truly established herself as someone with a unique offering to popular culture.

People have admired her career, but there has always been speculation about how she has not yet managed to creatively go beyond things that seem to be taken from someone else's cannon.

For instance in music videos, it's okay to pay homage to pioneers but at some point there has to be something that people see that is unique to you. Beyonce doesn't come across as very unique but more of a skilled borrower. Someone who can take something from someone else and master it, but nothing that we know to be purely unique to her.

While she did create alter ego Sasha Fierce to give her confidence and attitude on stage, where is the distinct persona? Even Lady Gaga's Jo Calderone and Garth Brooks's Chris Gaines gained notoriety for their outlandish antics in comparison to their counterparts. Sasha Fierce is only known as being sassy, but isn't Beyonce just sassy covered up by shy? I can't tell who is Sasha Fierce and who is Beyonce.

Maybe I am being a little harsh, but it seems like all of these recent accusations have proven that Beyonce is using the pop star equivalent of Pink Monkey to get ahead these days and she's finally getting caught in a very serious way.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments!

What's Your Take On B's Borrowing?

Do You Think Beyonce is Ripping Off Other Artists?

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Comments 53 comments

stayingalivemoma profile image

stayingalivemoma 5 years ago from Tempe, Arizona

This was really well put together. I still love Beyonce though, copycat and all!! Voted up and interesting!!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Stayingalivemoma! I appreciate Beyonce, put to me she hasn't really mastered exposing her personality through her music like she did in Destiny's Child.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

I heard a couple of weeks ago that she got some of her moves from a dancer is Sweden or Belgium, can't remember. The dancer said yes, B said no. What irks me about B is the bodysuit and then everyone copying her WHY did she have to do that! There are pop stars wearing that thing in public that just shouldn't be such as Christina and Britney! FANtastic hub Alecia...I really enjoy your hubs and I do like B cause she makes us wanna shake that thang!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Sunshine for stopping by and for the compliments! I agree Britney and especially Christina nowadays have definitely crossed the line with the bodysuits. Gaga has definitely done it too, but she can get away with it because everything else she does is so crazy. But yeah maybe after the baby she'll come back better than ever.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

How did I forget Gaga and the suit but you are right she can get away with anything ?


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Yeah, at least for now.


juliafranceschini 5 years ago

Great hub and well organized, I follow you the whole way through. But I also don't get Beyonce's more sexed up look in recent videos. Like in Gaga's Telephone video I didn't expect B to be so sexually aggressive. I'm confused on her image, she usually seems wholesome and self-deprecating in interviews, but then in her videos she's become sort of a siren. The "Run the World (Girls)" video could have been so much better. But then again, nowadays it seems all female pop stars try compete for attention through their flamboyant fashions rather than create unique music.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks julia for the comments. Yeah, I don't get the Sasha Fierce sexy thing either in her videos, especially now that she's married. I would have thought she would have done all that when she was younger. Her image seems to composed to me because in her interviews she seems too choreographed with her answers and responses. But I agree all female popstars usually focused on using sexiness for sales than dynamic music.


juliafranceschini 5 years ago

Oooh, good call. Even her interviews are choreographed!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Yeah, I just hope she takes this maternity leave long enough so that we'll actually miss her.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Hello, My New Friend, Alecia!

Voted up and away on this GREAT hub. Very interesting info about Beyonce...I love this artist. She was in an inteview last year and conducted herself with such grace and lady like manners, I was in awe. I don't know what is going on with her, but I agree with you, she is in an identity crisis. Keep up the great work. KENNETH


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Kenneth for your comments and for the fan mail! Yeah, it's hard to tell what she's up to all the time, but it does provide great fodder for debate.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Dear Alecia...yes, you are right. Beyonce, not only sings like an angel, but her own life is something that books are written about. I wish that you or I could land an interview with her for hubs. Would that be great or what? Maybe someday. Bless you and keep up the great work. Kenneth


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Kenneth again for coming back. If I could interview anyone for a hub that would be awesome, just to say I've had the experience.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Amen, Alecia. For me, Id love to take Beyonce to dinner at some expensive N.Y. restaurant. That's it. Just dinner. I am not into other disrespectful things with women. That would not make My Heavenly Father proud. Just to sit at her table would be a blessing. Sincerely, KENNETH


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks again Kenneth for stopping by!


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Alecia, you are welcome. I enjoy chatting with you about your subjects. If you ever make contact with Beyonce, would you tell her that I said hello. What a dreamer I can be at times. Alecia, you keep up the great work. And much peace and success to YOU. Always a friend, KENNETH


cheatlierepeat profile image

cheatlierepeat 5 years ago from Canada

Great Hub. I just found you and I'm loving your work. Glad you answered my question ;) I've added you to my following list!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks cheatlierepeat for stopping by and I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.


Carlon Michelle profile image

Carlon Michelle 5 years ago from USA

First I must say Alecia, you are a fantastic writer and commentator. Your thoughts are thorough, your research is well done and your ability to make your point without repeating over and over what you're trying to say is amazing.

Now as for B. I must say, really, what is new? The music industry is simply a rehashing of what was done before. Fashion too is consistantly influenced by styles of the past or other designers. I think you said it right when you said that Beyonce has managed to master what others have done and that I believe is her uniques style. No one does it better. She can take what was good and make it awesome. That's what I like about her. Her music and entertainment style is light and fun and when she is serious, she makes you think without necessarily making you cry.

That's my thought. Thank you for sharing your unique talents Alecia. Smile!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thank you Carlon Michelle. I agree music and essentially all pop culture takes what has been done before and reinterprets it in a unique way to make us see what we've missed or lacked. I agree she does a great job of putting things together, I just wish it was less obvious how she did it sometimes :)! Thanks again for stopping by!


Express10 profile image

Express10 4 years ago from East Coast

Great hub. I enjoyed this very much. It does seem that she's not the most creative but I like some of her music. I am by no means a big fan and enjoyed this. Thanks.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Express10,

I agree. Beyonce isn't the most creative artist, but she knows how to use her talents. Thank you again for coming by and commenting.


mphsglo profile image

mphsglo 4 years ago

Very good observation. She's well marketed. The family has a strong business sense, which is probably what brought her and JayZ together. She uses her beauty and sex appeal. Singers like Whitney Houston let their voice sell their songs.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Mphsglo,

I think Beyonce is actually a very capable singer but she also has good business sense like you said. However, all artists have to come from an angle and even those with 'the voice' like Whitney Houston or Aretha Franklin have a distinct approach. I think in Destiny's Child Beyonce was more of a raw artist but probably knew in order to last she'd have to do more. Thank you for coming by and commenting!


davenstan profile image

davenstan 4 years ago

I have always said that Beyonce was just another Tina Turner. I have seen her in concert before, and nothing really stood out as real other than her vocals. I have liked her in the past. I'm not into her music, but I think maybe she should see what original stage presence Sasha Fierce can give her.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Davenstan,

You have a point. Her voice is definitely a plus but beyond that she doesn't offer much.


Current 4 years ago

I think this article explores the topic in a dishonest way. It's very shallow to simply compare and contrast Beyonce's work to that of it's inspiration with out examining the history of great artist who "borrowed" ideas and made them into something better... like Michael Jackson. And back then we didn't youtube to allow us to see the original sources. I think its lazy to call this copying and not acknowledge the greatness beyonce brings with her performance videos.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thank you Current but I disagree, I believe I'm honest about other artists bothering from their inspirations. It doesn't take YouTube to see the truth about some artists.

Thank you for sharing and I am glad you shared your thoughts.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Happy Birthday to Beyonce! (9/4)


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Sunshine!


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

Happy Birthday to Beyonce!.....A nice tribute to a wonderful singer....checking out some of your comments...it seems that things got a little testy a few months ago....but I enjoyed reading your responses as well. Voted up and awesome.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks so much Cogerson! Yeah I think this was one of the more controversial hubs but I'm glad it inspired a spirited debate.


KDuBarry03 4 years ago

Happy Bday Beyonce! Yes, this hub may be controversial on some key levels; however, you are right on one very important thing: she paved away for a more culturally and racially diverse pop culture that we know about today. Yes, she may have stole some things; however, many other key pop culture sensations stole other things from other bands or other musicians.


Your Cousins profile image

Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

I agree with the poll answer that says all stars steal in some way. If you go back further you will probably find that portions of the New Edition dance routine were taken from earlier choreography by such groups as The Temptations and The Four Tops. Voted up and interesting.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

This is a beautifully written hub. You do very nice work, Alecia. I ignored your caveat in your intro about not reading if we are a Beyonce fan....OK, I wanted to read anyway.

I am a fan. I think she is exceptional and I do mean that literally. Gorgeous, fabulous voice and certainly can DANCE. I like her off-stage, as well. She's an intelligent and sweet woman. I find her engaging and classy. Her family is also impressive. Her husband is an incredibly talented and successful man, as well.

Not too much not to like. I'll admit I don't know if she has mimicked or stolen from any other entertainer.......I'm not familiar with many of them, because they don't interest me.

The moment Beyonce won my loyalty was one evening, on.....I believe it was and "Award's Program "(sorry I don't recall specifically) but she performed a Classic......unlike her usual style/genre. She stood in one spot, in an elegant gown and sang this song as though she was born to sing it... Utter Perfection. I'd give anything to remember this song...Maye you know what I'm referring to, Alecia. It was several years ago.

This proved to me, beyond doubt that she is UNIQUE and gifted. In this particular number, her voice was that of an Angel....No hype, no dancing,no props.....just beautiful music.

OK.....that's all I wanted to say........ Very thorough hub.......UP +++


Learn Things Web profile image

Learn Things Web 4 years ago from California

Great hub! I think Beyonce has a great voice. She just doesn't do anything creative or interesting with it in my opinion. Being a great technical singer isn't enough. I don't have a problem with being influenced by other. But I like artists who are creative, diverse and who aren't afraid to try new things.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Keith,

I think you're right- each artist steals in their own way and somehow make it in to their own. But I agree she definitely has diversified pop culture. Thanks so much for coming by and commenting!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Your Cousins! You have a great point. All groups/acts have somewhere they borrowed from.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Effer for your very thoughtful and engaging response. You make excellent points about how she sets a wonderful example and is in a class of her own- that I completely agree with. And what you said about not knowing who she has borrowed from is another great point and I think a lot of her fans are that way but it is interesting to see what she's taken and how she's progressed. But you definitely said it right in that her voice doesn't need anything else and that's what really makes her awesome!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thank you Learn Things Web! I agree her voice stands alone and I think that's why she likes to diversify how she expresses herself.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Thank you, Miss Alecia.......I appreciate your sweet reply.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Your welcome effer! Thank you for leaving such an eloquent response. I love getting insightful comments :)!


Label ME? 4 years ago

Theres nothing like hating somoen just for the sake of hating them. I wonder if Beyonce's life resembled that of a tragic pop starlette like Rihanna or Britney Spears, would folks be so critical of her? I wonder if she were just a tad wrecked if people would describe her as aloof or ditatched? I don't get it. What do people want from her, a vile of blood? This article has some valid points, but its seems like Beyonce was doomed from the start. She's gorgeous, tremendously talented AND STILL making millions and people HATE HER FOR IT. Hence why attacking her pregnancy satisfied the lynch mob


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Label Me?,

I understand what you're talking about but I personally don't hate Beyonce. I just like to examine how her career could be better executed in terms of being a creative force. Some things she's done I absolutely love, while others not so much. That's with any star for me. Thanks for coming by and sharing your thoughts!


THE BLACK ALPACA profile image

THE BLACK ALPACA 3 years ago

We call it imitation and celebs call it influence. Either way it's flattering to whoever they immulate and there will always be those greats who are followed to an extreme.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi The Black Alpaca,

You have a great point. Thanks for coming by and commenting.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

This is an interesting look at Beyonce, I never thought about whether she was copying to many people's style or music, but I do remember watching her on tv and thinking she looked liked Tina Turner as you mentioned, it was the style of clothing and the backward walking . I don't mind some of her music, but to be honest some of her songs are terrible, I do love Rihanna! lol!


jenbeach21 profile image

jenbeach21 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

Very interesting hub! I never really thought about it they way you presented to facts. Great job!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Nell,

I think you're not in the minority in your opinion. I think it's natural for stars to borrow from other artists but I mean when people think your videos aren't original- it can get problematic.

Thanks as always for coming by and sharing your thoughts!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thank you jenbeach21!


CurtWill1975 profile image

CurtWill1975 3 years ago

Your article was interesting. I am a huge Beyoncé fan, but I am an entertainment fan first and therefore I try to access myself to past performances and music as well as today's. I think a lot is made over "inspiration, influence" and "stealing", or being "original".

The performer's craft is more about execution and delivery. Someone mentioned MJ, as an example, it's the same with him. His own brother said that MJ was a great mimic in his book. I think that we have become so analytical and therefore jaded at times because we have so much access to information and not to mention, fanbases have become so cliquish that we can't enjoy a performance because many have to elavate their fave performers so they nitpick everything that a "rival" performer does.

As for alter-egos, every stage performer pretty much have one, and theory behind that is that their personality on stage whereas away from the stage, they can separate that aspect of their life. More entertainers have stage names, it's all "acting" per'se. With Beyoncé, I actually know who she is as a performer, even if she get other ideas and expands on her performing "foundation", she's still who she is.

One of the criticisms that I actually hear is that's she don't change, never ever bring anything new to what she has done before, so when people say that she has an identity crisis as a performer and entertainer, I am surprised with that critique.

I think the real issue is the fact that because she's has accomplished so much as a pop entertainer, people are apt to be critical than they are with other pop entertainers and that's fair. It's what happens when you accomplish a lot, but even with that, as far as execution and delivery goes, she's top notch and has worked hard to get where she is. Thank you for the article and the comment section to voice my POV.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi CurtWill1975,

I understand your points. I'm a Beyonce' fan as well and it is very admirable all she has accomplished in such a short time.

Michael Jackson indeed is probably the best example of a pop star who has melded others' performance styles and techniques and made them his own. I remember he was very influenced by Jackie Wilson and James Brown and if anyone researches their videos when they were younger- it's obvious where the idea for the moonwalk came about.

I think the criticism about Beyonce' not changing her musical style is very valid but then again female pop stars are still mostly noted for being sexy and having stage presence rather than switching styles so it makes sense.

Thank you so much for coming by and commenting! I enjoyed reading and responding to your thoughts.

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