Beyoncé's video clip for her new track 7/11 was released last Thursday and has already amassed over 20,000,000 views on You Tube – that is a number so unbelievably large that I had to double-check the amount of zeros. The three-and-a-half minute clip is filmed entirely on a GoPro camera in a rented hotel room, and features spliced candid footage of the singer dancing in her underwear wearing various sweatshirts, using playful spontaneous choreography (that foot phone will go down in pop culture history), and dancing around with a group of other fun-loving girls. The video clip marks a revolutionary new period in the age of Queen Bey – the singer is finally accessible!
It's now been fourteen years since the birth Destiny's Child, and despite her extensive time in the limelight, Beyoncé's watertight PR team and reserved demeanour in interviews has ensured the singer's status as an enigma; very little is known about her personal life (beyond a few mysterious ninja kicks delivered to her husband in an elevator by sister, Solange earlier this year) or in fact, her real personality.
Her 2013 self-titled album was remarkable for the candour of its lyrics: Beyoncé addresses the most personal issues she had ever revealed to us but her personality was still missing. In fact, the rumours that have emerged regarding turns in her personal life are stories that have largely been interpreted from subtle lyric changes in her live shows – up until this point Beyoncé has revealed herself only through music alone.
Her 7/11 video clip marks a supposed step down from the pedestal and we can't help but think, "Oh my God, I love her even more, she is just like us". It doesn't take a huge amount of cynicism to consider that this is actually a very strategic move for Beyoncé, and while I'm certainly just as enamoured with her as anybody else on this planet, perhaps this "candid" display of personality from the singer is actually just as constructed as anything else she has produced. And that says something very interesting about what audiences now demand from their pop culture icons.
The Instagram generation has become one of the most influential tides in the world of pop iconography. Only two-and-a-half years after the launch of the app and there are a reported 100 million active users scrolling through the feeds, liking photographs and, most importantly, open to commercial influence. Just last week Kendall Jenner (second youngest daughter of the Kardashian clan) was announced as the new face of L'Oreal in what must have been a seriously lucrative deal. The reason cited for this? Her Instagram following, which stands at a whopping 16 million – that's some serious advertising reach for the brand.
What Instagram supposedly allows – in a way that other social media platforms cannot – is an intimate window into the lives of our musical or acting heroes. The natural result of this is a growing demand for personal insight. It's not enough for a celebrity to be beautiful and talented anymore, now we also need to know everything about their personal life – we need to like them, as well as respect them. It's the same reason both Emma Stone and Jennifer Lawrence ascended to such remarkable popularity in recent years – both actors have a reputation for incredibly candid dialogue in press junkets and those are exactly the kind of voices we want to hear, and that are worth serious bank these days.
There are very few female celebrities who are allowed to maintain substantial privacy whilst also consistently capturing our attention – Angelina Jolie, Natalie Portman, and Scarlett Johansson are three that come to mind. They are relics of a past generation where the glamour of Hollywood was just that – glamour.
Taylor Swift cashed in substantially on this personality dollar with her last hit, Shake It Off – a song that addressed issues that had been floating around in the media for months. The song was also accompanied by a video clip that shows the singer endearingly fumbling across different genres of dance (it is currently sitting at over 300 million views on Youtube).
Ultimately, the release of Beyoncé's 7/11 video clip was a savvy business decision. While we're inclined to believe that what we're seeing is a rare glimpse into the personal life of the reigning queen, what we are mostly likely getting is a marketing construct.
The social media representations of celebrities like Rihanna, Taylor Swift – and now Bey – are constructed to nail a demographic, knowing full well who is waiting with baited breath for their every move, and, most importantly, what they can sell them.
Subscribe to our e-newsletter for news you want, fashion you like and opinions to share.