Beyoncé Ethics II: Has-Been Shaming at the Super Bowl?

Destinys ChildBeyoncé didn’t lip-sync her Super Bowl appearance, but according to Slate writer Julia Turner, she was ungracious, unkind and disrespectful to her former Destiny’s Child partners, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, who joined her in the half-time show for what was billed as a reunion. She writes:

Beyoncé’s lack of magnaminity reached its peak as their medley came to its climax. Instead of launching into a full rendition of “Say My Name” or some other Destiny’s Child classic, she said “Kelly and Michelle, can y’all help me sing this one?” Kelly responded, “Sho’ nuff, baby,” and the trio launched into “Single Ladies,” Beyoncé’s solo hit—about how great it is to be solo. This was, as Dave Weigel tweeted, “Like Beatles reuniting and singing ‘Mull of Kintyre,’ ” Paul McCartney’s Wings classic. Beyoncé, don’t shame Kelly and Michelle by dragging them back into the national spotlight and then making them sing the very song that shows what a culturally relevant force you still are, and what afterthoughts they have become! Be generous. Share the spotlight. You have so much.”

Fair?

I don’t think so, at least not based on what we know. For example, for all we know, Beyoncé was responsible for getting her old partners the gig, as a gesture of friendship and appreciation for their long association. She did share the spotlight. The three sang as a group; it’s not as if Beyoncé demanded, as Diana Ross reportedly did as a condition of appearing with the old Supremes, that she perform far out in front of the other two-thirds of her former group. Beyoncé hardly “shamed” them. By the ethical standards of her profession, which are certainly miserable, she was far better than most. She is the star and a premium solo act. Would Michael Jackson have been “shaming” his brothers by inviting them on stage to join him in “Thriller”? Andy Williams once brought his brothers, with whom he once constituted a successful pop quartet, “The Williams Brothers,” on his show to harmonize while Andy sang “Moon River.” They sounded terrific, just as Rowland and Williams did yesterday. How were they shamed? In both cases, the mega-star made those left behind look good.

True, I’ve seen more exemplary conduct by a big star toward less successful former partners. Jimmy Durante, whose giant nose, eccentric humor and joyous energy made him a ubiquitous star  for half a century, was once part of a vaudeville team called Clayton, Jackson and Durante. Clayton, a dancer, died, and “the  Schnozz” went on to success in every medium while his old partner Jackson, a Ziegfeld Follies crooner, fell into obscurity. So Jimmy Durante put him on his show’s permanent payroll, and until the day Eddie Jackson joined Flo and Lou Clayton in that Big Follies in the Sky, paid him as a primary performer, though all Jackson did in his latter years was briefly reprise his corny version of “Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey?” Here’s Durante with Jackson reprising their old act, in 1955:

Not every performer is as loyal and generous as the great Jimmy Durante, unfortunately.  Beyoncé, however, has nothing to apologize for.

3 thoughts on “Beyoncé Ethics II: Has-Been Shaming at the Super Bowl?

  1. It’s hard to stay on topic, but if I were to make a point, I would say that the microphones for Michele and Kelly were turned down.

    If that is a fact, then the positive thinker says: that’s by their own design because they had let their voices “go” and were unsure of putting themselves out there. The negative thinker says: that’s because Beyonce doesn’t want to really share the spotlight. The neutral thinker says: The business is buying Beyonce. We’re going to feature her and if someone else is singing with her, we need to keep the feature on top.

  2. Mull of Kintyre? As hard as a Beatles/Destiny’s Child comparison is to take, that line is funnier if the punch line is ‘Band on the Run.”

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