"RUN," an expensive-looking short film promoting Beyoncé and Jay Z's "On The Run" tour, which comes to the M&T Bank Stadium on July 7, casts the black pop power couple as the most dangerous duo in the world. They run around in ski masks, equal parts bank robbing thugs and Pussy Riot revolutionaries, outrunning enemies (Haters? Paparazzi? Record-label ding-dongs? It doesn't matter, just realize that they are embattled and on the move), like a Billboard-topping Bonnie and Clyde.
In real life, the duo are dangerous for reasons that are far more significant though much less sexy than the criminal schtickiness of "RUN." Fox News ninny Bill O'Reilly has taken to turning the both of them into "what's wrong with our country" talking points because they are successful, influential, African-American, and closely tied to our President. If you ask O'Reilly, Beyoncé is apparently responsible for the oversexualization of our teens and the birth of children out of wedlock (that statistic is on the decline, by the way, and Beyoncé herself is married to Jay, but hey), and Jay Z just needs to "knock it off" with all the thug stuff, even though the 44-year-old rapper long ago abandoned a relatively straightforward "gangsta" approach, instead opting for a more mature, regret-tinged revaluation of his powder-pushing twenties.
Here's the rub: O'Reilly and other right-wingers should love these two. They are seemingly happily married hypercapitalists who shill for Pepsi and Samsung, respectively. Beyoncé is, at least casually, Christian, and Jay grew up during the crack epidemic, escaped against all odds, and now makes boatloads of money, little of which he pays forward (infamously, he responded to Civil Rights hero Harry Belafonte’s criticism that he wasn't more politically engaged by saying, "My presence is charity"). Jay's come-up is a "bootstraps" tale if I've heard one, with a dickhead denouement that the right would normally view as delightfully Randian. But the racist, anti-women arm of the country must still contort the couple's importance into something nefarious.
And it's a pretty good sign that you're onto something in this hopelessly polarized political climate when the left finds your celebrity as distasteful as the right. Along with Belafonte's aforementioned critiques, feminist scholar and activist bell hooks ignored the sex-positive basic tenets of third-wave feminism and recently referred to Beyoncé as "a slave" and "a terrorist" because she dared to sexually express herself on the cover of Time.
The couple is also controversial because Beyoncé, whether she intended to or not, has rendered her partner useless. The not-so-secret secret is that the majority of people attending the "On The Run" tour are not really checking for Jay like that anymore. The two touring together is a one-of-a-kind event for sure, but he is mostly there to rope-a-dope all the boring-ass boyfriends going with their girlfriends who can't conceive of being a straight male and empathizing with Beyoncé's R&B. The whole thing's a sweet reversal of the way that so much of the music mainstream panders and condescends to women. Here, the guy is the perfunctory part of the tour. And how fucking badass is that?
At the end of last year, Beyoncé released an excellent auteurist self-titled record of patient slow jams and ecstatic pop songs, while Jay knocked out a tedious collection of trend-hopping raps as poorly conceived as its important-sounding hot-nonsense title, “Magna Carta Holy Grail.” “Beyoncé” is full of tricky moves because, like all our greatest pop stars, Beyoncé is a smuggler. Catchy hooks and canny concepts are a vehicle for bigger ideas.
On "Blow," she mocks mind-bogglingly juvenile, male-penned, food-as-vagina fuck jams (this was a weird 2013 minitrend thanks to Justin Timberlake's 'Strawberry Bubble Gum' and R. Kelly's 'Oreo Cookie'), and then does away with that coy crap, and over roller-boogie production playfully declares, "I can't wait 'til I get home so you can tear that cherry out."
Because there's levels to this shit, notice how she can't wait until she gets home. She isn't waiting around for him to get home. In the music video for another “Beyoncé” single ‘Partition,’ she toys with deferential housewife imagery, riffing on “Citizen Kane,” as she stares across the table at a bored one-percenter hubby character reading the newspaper instead of, well, wanting to fuck her.
While “Beyoncé” features plenty of radio-domineering superstars and producers such as Drake, Frank Ocean, Timbaland, and The-Dream, the stand-out guest spot belongs to Maryland-based author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The helium-voiced strip-club claps of 'Flawless' slow up so that the Nigerian writer can outline the indignities women suffer in this dumb dude-dominated world: "We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller/ We say to girls: 'You can have ambition, but not too much.You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise, you will threaten the man.'"
That the tour is named after Jay's Beyoncé-featured song 'On The Run (Part II),' rather than 'Drunk In Love,' the significantly more popular and inarguably better Beyoncé song featuring Jay, is patriarchal pop nonsense for sure. But hey, you gotta concede to the clueless and hand them that one hollow victory, right? Let Beyoncé give her husband and his hip-hop head fans the illusion that they are still in control.