The Boy from Virginia Criticizes the Best (Session 1)

There are times when I wish that artists like Beyoncé didn’t exist. Not because I don’t admire her commercial appeal, work ethic or overall packaging, because Ido. I just wish she didn’t exist because then I wouldn’t find myself pondering the many contradictions she represents to me. Yes, there is the whole, “country bumpkin” who is actually probably “the smartest-business-woman-we-know” thing she has going on. There is also the, singer/ actress thing (side-eye to that one…) And then there are songs like “1+1” and “Best Thing I Never Had.” Drum roll for my conundrum, please.

Beyoncé’s newest album has only been out for a couple of weeks. I’m not particularly sold on the new material, but I have a feeling that her songs (whether great or mediocre) will soon be trumpeting from iPods or the modest speakers of a trendy retail store near you. Unfortunately, I’m also certain that her “Put yo hand in his face” type lyrics will be blasting from thousands of mouths of women, and even men who feel that she is singing their lives. I am one of those people, normally. But why am I one of those people? It has more to do with the woman’s artistry  and singing rather than what she, herself, has to say about an issue.

As I mentioned earlier, Beyoncé is a package. She does write her own material, sometimes…but there is a huge part of me that feels she doesn’t truly feel what she is singing about. Oh, yes, she sings hard. Harder than any singer I’ve heard to be honest. At day’s end, however, singing hard is hardly the same as having empathy for another person’s suffering. I guess at this moment, I’m speaking about the current single “Best Thing I Never Had.” How do I analyze this track?….Hmmm.

From the cutesy tinkling of the piano-intro, and her growling the words, “What goes around comes back around,” I’m already thinking…uh-oh, another “Irreplaceable.”  But I surrender myself to listening to the lyrics and melody (coupled with Bey’s infamous vocal acrobatics). The more and more I listen to the song, I realize it is a revenge song, or shall I say a song to “teach you a lesson.” It’s an “I-did-better-than-you” song, so Ha! In other words, it’s juvenile. It’s playground fodder for young girls to stomp on their ex-boyfriend’s sandcastles so they can say “I win, you lose.” (Bey would quickly say that men can relate to her lyrics as well, so they are universal…Okey doke then!)

My issues with this song are many. Firstly, I think that the song gives a false sense of security to people who have been broken up with. Let’s be honest, Beyonce is in a position to sing a song where she is the best thing someone never had because…well look at her! She is the best thing someone never had! She has the right to go, “look how far I’ve come since you.” But if that new music video is any indication, her high school sweetheart was clearly not the one she was going to end up with. And if this new love and the high school love was all she had to compare, then great. The song fits her situation perfectly.

I feel that this song is dangerous because it will be a fall-back song to rely upon after a break up. Irreplaceable was a “warning” song which inspired confidence. Women (and men too, I guess) could say…”wait a minute, I know what you’re up to and if you think I’m stupid, think again.” With this song (“Best Thing…”), it’s implies that you should be a guaranteed success since your last lover. In other words, if you are not THE best thing someone has NEVER had, this song should not be sung by you…

Let’s  be honest: in the real world, what goes around does not necessarily come back around (“Hey, my baby,” my ass). Real people who’ve been hurt (and who are observant enough to not allow naïveté to cloud their lives) know that you can still be “alone and looking” while your ex is living it up with someone new and living successfully not thinking about you. Since this is the case, sometimes more often than not for a lot of people, the question becomes, NOW whose the best? Is that person the best thing you never had? If they aren’t, their circumstances surely exhibit otherwise.

Also, how many times will this song be sung by the same person who has “moved on to the next?” The average person tends to date more than one person. Therefore, my question becomes, how many times will this song be used as a response to a break up? I swear, I would get so sick and tired of hearing a friend say, “oh well, that just means that I am the best thing they never had.” Wrong. It just means you’re not good at relationships, or that you don’t know what you want. (I’m generalizing here, but it’s a pop song…I’m talking about. How much more general can we get?)

I think my key problem with the song actually has nothing to do with people using the lyrics as leverage, or as some sort of empowerment anthem. My issue hits a bit closer to home. For me this song implies that the person who you are singing about holds some sort of regret for having left you in the first place. You both need to have been through the mill a couple of times, but you will need to seemingly come out on top as the successor. If you have been successful at becoming the “best” over a period of time, while the other person is deteriorating in some fashion, then that would be reason enough to shout the lyrics of this song to the top of your lungs, especially if that person treated you sub-par. But what if that’s not the case?

For me, I don’t have anyone to sing this song to. I don’t think there is anyone I’ve ever dated who regrets leaving me behind in any shape way or form. Every single person seems to be so content in their own lives that I don’t cross their minds. I would love to love this song and be one of the many people saying “It sucks to be you right now” with a smug face, but that’s not how I feel. To be honest, when it comes to love, many days, I feel like it sucks to be me right now.

But what is interesting is that I’m sure what goes around will come back around again. However, when it does, I don’t think it would be beneficial for me to rub someone’s face in my personal triumph. Victory usually speaks for itself. Instead, I’d rather forgive a person for having mistreated me. Why? Because that’s the best way of saying “I Win.”  There is no dwelling, nor sleep lost over someone. Instead, it’s all given away to a higher power to deal with while you thrive. My belief is that you can only be your true best when you let go of unnecessary baggage. What’s more unnecessary than hate?

I guess once you let go of the hate, it allows more space in the heart for songs about love and a positive future. If I were a guest at Beyoncé’s Wedding in her video, I’d say “Here’s to the happy ones who know the power of forgiveness.” Then I’d clink my champagne glass, and down my drink for all of those who believe that “what goes around eventually goes away leaving you with a clean slate!”

Best Thing I Ever Had (Video)

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One comment on “The Boy from Virginia Criticizes the Best (Session 1)

  1. What an poignant point of view and ability to articulate why you aren’t subscribing to the “it” artist of the moment–or her message disguised under a layer of beats and harmony. Great article man! Keep it up. I haven’t heard the song–but now, I can’t wait.

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