Wednesday, 27 May 2009

What I did on my summer spring vacation bank holiday weekend: Beyoncé and Shontelle at the O2

This past Monday night, fellow Bajan Shontelle opened for Beyoncé at the O2 arena here in London, and through the magic of generosity and association, I went with (her and my mutual good friend) NP to see her perform. But as luck (and getting lost) would have it, we freaking missed her opening act! And I do not use exclamation marks lightly! We took our seats five minutes before Beyoncé came to the stage, and as her fans screamed their glitter off, NP and I looked at each other in a daze mouthing "I can't believe we missed Shontelle."

This may all sound odd to you. But the truth is, I don't count myself among Beyoncé's fans. I think she's talented and a great performer and looks lovely in shiny costumes and all that; and I thought that Destiny's Child 1.0 had the formula for girl group entertainment, and still enjoy their music: they were no En Vogue, but they were not a bad approximation. But you're not going to see me on YouTube in a black leotard and a cyborg glove wukkin' up. My love for Beyoncé does not run that deep. So I sat back and enjoyed the show - except for the cheesy pageant performance of some song that must have had something to do with the ocean because there were rolling waves on the giant screen behind her while she warbled away in a white hoodie dress that was being billowed by a mysterious breeze; Beyoncé is given to a Miss Universe-style cheesiness on her ballad performances that would put Celine Dion to shame - but I haven't much to say about it. The woman can sing, and dance, and has a body comprised of 90% legs pretty much as I expected. And I loved her all-woman backing band, minus the backup singers' feature performance that just had to fulfil the fat, oversexed, Black woman brief in a number where they called themselves The Mamas and described men from the audience they wanted (It was bad. When are people going to stop making fat, black women 'characters' convince everyone that even though they are fat and black, they are hot and have plenty sex? Or stop reducing these 'characters' to big, fat vaginas, because clearly we couldn't possibly see them for who they are as just women who can sing the hair off your head.) But there were few surprises. Listen was great, as was Halo, and the Destiny's Child medley was probably my favourite part. Beyond that, all I was really occupied by was when I might see Shontelle again.

See, I'm anxious to see her live since she signed with Universal Motown, and make my own comparative assessment relative to her Roll and Colours days. Because I'm still waiting for that former Shontelle to emerge, and am hoping she doesn't get too bogged down by the old, familiar, first album rebranding that so many artistes have to rail against to let her own songwriting and vision really speak. It's easy to believe that she's just another Rihanna Ciara Tearra Christina (I didn't even do that on purpose, I swear) hybrid, but she's not; she has a great ear and a wicked pen, and I'm hoping people stick around long enough for her to show it. Because glory knows, although T-shirt and her collaboration track with conspiracy theorist and perfumier Akon are out there doing well, any number of R&B singers could have recorded those. Her album Shontelligence (I know, blerk), though, has some smatterings of what Shontelle's strengths are, like the feisty Focus On Me, which could use some stronger vocals (stronger as in 'rawr!', not stronger as in better, although 'rawr!' would be better), but starts to get it right. I know we've seen nothing yet.

So next time, NP and I are draping ourselves in the Barbados flag and getting comfy in the front row. And Beyoncé fans watch out, because the world knows by now that nobody can scream like a Bajan.

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