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Second Take: Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé’s ‘Flawless’ remix subverts feminist message

By Alicia Sontag

Aug. 19, 2014 1:40 p.m.

If Beyoncé’s first version of “Flawless” was angry, then her remix with Nicki Minaj is seething.

But in that seething remix, Beyoncé loses what was originally a powerful message about feminism and convolutes the theme of being a flawless woman.

In Beyoncé’s original “Flawless,” she interchanged between a beautiful, soothing voice and a fierce, rough voice during the first few lines. It created a nice contrast, balancing the elegant with the coarse ideas in this feminist song, including ideas of physical beauty, self-liberation and inequality.

“I took some time to live my life/ But don’t think I’m just his little wife/ Don’t get it twisted,” Beyoncé sang.

Beyoncé concluded that though she is married, she is still her own autonomous person. Later in the original song, Beyoncé also added an emphasis on the word “diamond,” likely referring to herself as well as a wedding ring. While her wedded life seems flawless, it is not the union that she said should be celebrated, but rather her own self.

“This diamond, flawless/ My diamond, flawless/ This rock, flawless,” Beyoncé sang.

Alongside Beyoncé in the original version, there was the voiceover of Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who in a calming voice spoke of the inequality and standards that society presents for women, such as the expectation for women to marry and remain economically subordinate to men.

“You can have ambition/ But not too much/ You should aim to be successful/ But not too successful/ Otherwise you will threaten the man,” Adichie said.

While the original version of “Flawless” empowered women and reminded them that they are powerful, the remix barely touches upon this idea. It is almost an entire new song, with a faster, more electronic beat. Immediately Beyoncé’s voice is harsh, lacking the singing of the original as she raps.

“Want me to come around and give you good karma, but no/ We escalate, up in this bitch like elevators,” she raps.

It is blatantly obvious that Beyoncé is referring to the infamous elevator incident in May between her sister Solange and husband Jay Z, when Solange punched Jay Z after an argument, while Beyoncé watched from a corner. But “Queen B” seems to mock the situation. She raps away, and attempts to find her flawless person by asserting herself after this fight.

But she tries too hard to demonstrate her power. Beyoncé’s cute, ironic laugh in the original version becomes nothing short of a maniacal cackle in the remix, while the the chorus turns into a shriek.

By vocalizing her feelings, Beyoncé attempts to empower herself. But the anger and mania of the remix only draws away from the message of her original “Flawless.”

Minaj replaces Adichie in the remix, adding to the fury Beyoncé already creates. But Minaj never makes her point clear, as she shifts between slow, heavy sentences and the fast-paced, never-stopping-for-air rap that makes her famous. Although her voice is fierce and frenzied, her lyrics mostly don’t make sense with Beyoncé’s original message.

Minaj does hint at the feminism of the original version of “Flawless” by siding with Beyoncé in what may be a reference to the fight between Beyoncé and Jay Z, or rather “Team D.”

“The queen of rap, slayin’ with Queen B/ If you ain’t on the team, you playin’ for team D,” Minaj raps.

But aside from this brief mention, Minaj just seems to string together some nonsensical rhymes and swears, and her part doesn’t do the original track justice.

There’s also her racy cover art of “Anaconda” to be taken into account. On the cover of Minaj’s new song, Minaj poses in a pink bra and thong with a pair of Jordans, boldly displaying her backside.

If Minaj is trying to empower women by displaying women’s freedom to sexuality, she instead undermines her attempts by displaying such a racy and objectifying photo that she herself has defended. Minaj does the same in the new remix of “Flawless” by combining risque lyrics that seem to put women down.

Beyoncé’s original version was a call for equality for women – her anger gave more power to the song, with a peaceful balance that perfected the feministic voice.

While her remix with Minaj strikes awe, the track loses the integrity that Beyoncé first created and draws away from the original message that Beyoncé had intended for women.

– Alicia Sontag

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Alicia Sontag
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