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Why Beyoncé is the 'artist of my life'

On being a fan of Beyoncé for the best part of two decades.

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LAST YEAR, ADELE won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, beating the likes of Justin Bieber, Sturgill Simpson, Drake and, most notably, Beyoncé.

When she took to the stage to accept her award, a visibly overwhelmed Adele thanked the “army of people” who had gotten her to this point. Then she did something remarkable and turned what should have been an acceptance speech into a tribute to Beyoncé.

“But I can’t possibly accept this award,” she started. “And I’m very humbled and I’m very grateful and gracious. But my artist of my life is Beyoncé.”

“And this album to me, the Lemonade album, is just so monumental. Beyoncé, it’s so monumental. And so well thought out, and so beautiful and soul-baring and we all got to see another side to you that you don’t always let us see. And we appreciate that. And all us artists here adore you. You are our light.”

I often think about this speech, not only because of how gracious and generous it was, but because of how perfectly it summarised the relationship many people have to Beyoncé and her music. For so many of us, Beyoncé is the artist of our lives.

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I was six, going on seven when Destiny’s Child’s first hit the charts in Ireland with their single Bills, Bills, Bills, a banger that excoriates a man for not paying his way in the relationship. It was later followed up by the likes of Say My Name, Jumpin Jumpin, Independent Women, Survivor and Bootylicious, all of which charted inside the top twenty.

More than even The Spice Girls, Destiny’s Child provided the soundtrack to my childhood. I have vivid memories of choreographing dance routines to their songs and convincing an audience of teddy bears that they weren’t ready for this jelly, to say nothing of watching music channels in the vain hope of catching the tangerine-hued video to Say My Name.

I was eleven, going on twelve when Beyoncé went solo. At the tender age of 21, she released Crazy in Love, a stonking number that saw her strut down a street in a white vest and denim shorts, tilt her head, and ask, “You ready?” It was a rhetorical question, of course, because none of us could have been even remotely prepared for what was to come our way over the next fifteen years.

Over the next few years, Beyoncé released hit after hit. Baby Boy. Me, Myself and I. Deja Vu. Check On It. Beautiful Liar. Irreplaceable. She starred in movies like The Fighting Temptations, The Pink Panther and Dreamgirls. As a triple threat, she was following in the footsteps of predecessors like Michael Jackson and Prince.

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I was sixteen years old when Beyoncé released Single Ladies. Everything about that song left an indelible impression on me. The dance, the visuals, the punchy lyrics. Everything about it was just fun.

The following year, I found myself nodding in agreement when Kanye West crashed the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards to interrupt Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech and declare, “Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you and I’mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!” Nearly a decade on, and I’m confident that few would rate Taylor Swift’s video for You Belong With Me ahead of Single Ladies.

I was eighteen years old when Beyoncé released 4, which remains my favourite album of hers. I remember being at a ball in DCU when Run The World (Girls) came on. Giddy after a few cans of Druids, I began to emulate the shoulder dance she performs in the video.

I was stopped in my tracks when a boy passing by tapped me on the shoulder and sneered, “Do you think you’re Beyoncé, do you?” He then mocked me and I shuffled away, embarrassed.

Years later, I am enraged when I think about this. Imagine making a young woman feel bad for dancing to Beyoncé! It would be like me interrupting a group of boys playing football in the park and being like, “Do you think you’re Ronaldo, do you?” before stealing their ball.

Just another reminder of all the ways in which society tries to make women feel bad for enjoying certain types of art, eh?

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I was 21 when Beyoncé surprised the world with her self-titled album. I had been out at a Christmas party and was awakened the following morning by texts and tweets alerting me to the existence of a new Beyoncé album.

I spent the day holed up in bed soothing my hangover with new Beyoncé videos and marveling at her commitment to excellence. I thought she had reached her peak. After all, how could she top a superbly executed visual album unleashed on an unsuspecting public?

The answer was with Lemonade, her fifth and most accomplished album to date. On Lemonade, Beyoncé cemented her status as a creative visionary. She weaved hip-hop, R&B, rock, and country together to make an intensely personal album about betrayal, healing, redemption, and forgiveness that simultaneously served as an ode to black femininity.

It represented Beyoncé at her most human. She was raw, she was angry, she was vulnerable. I remember listening to it on the way into work the morning after it was released and having to suppress giggles when she uttered the line, ‘Just give my ass a big fat kiss, boy’ on Don’t Hurt Yourself. And I remember having a lump in my throat the first time I listened to All Night, a song about hard-earned forgiveness.

What was most remarkable about Lemonade is that it signalled Beyoncé’s continued growth and evolution as an artist. How many musicians are producing their best and most radical work twenty years into their career? It proved once again that her hunger and stamina are unrivalled, that she is in her own galaxy. And that alone was exhilarating to witness.

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For most of my life, Beyoncé has produced work that has resonated with me in different ways. She has accompanied me through pre-drinks, nights out, hangovers, crushes, love, happiness, sadness, crisis, and whatever else you’re having.

If I’m in need of a serotonin boost, I’ll listen to the joyous Love On Top. If I’m getting ready for a night out, I’ll turn on Get Me Bodied. And if I require a quick injection of confidence, I’ll press play on Flawless.

I was 6 when Bills, Bills, Bills came out. I am now 25. That’s 19 years of Beyoncé. Will Beyoncé still be around when I’m 44? I have no doubt about it.

Tomorrow she will perform her historic Beychella show for the second weekend in a row. And for the second weekend in a row, I will get up early to watch her and rejoice in the fact that I get to exist at the same time as Beyoncé Gisele Knowles-Carter, the undisputed artist of my life.

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About the author:

Amy O'Connor

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