The Vagenda

Why I’m Pissed with Drunk in Love


 I went and saw Beyoncé at the O2 Arena last Thursday, for the last of her sold-out London tour dates. As ever, she was magnificent. Awe-inspiring. A goddess amongst women.  She mostly performed songs from her new, self-titled “visual album”. An album I am obsessed with. I love most of the songs but I especially adore “Drunk in Love”. And therein lies my problem.

Because “Drunk” is a great song. Rolling Stone called it “superb”, the “best song” on the album and “a bubbly, sexy, snap-filled duet”. It’s all steamy beats, exotic singing and exciting lyrics. Jay-Z has a verse (quelle surprise) and traditionally, he improves any song he guests on.

Except this one. His verse in this song contains the lyrics that I’m sure everyone knows by now:

 “I’m Ike Turner, turn up, baby know I don’t play. Now eat the cake Anna Mae. Said eat the cake Anna Mae.”

 This is a clear reference to Ike Turner’s famously abusive relationship with his wife Tina Turner (real name Anna Mae Bullock), specifically to a scene in the movie that was made about said relationship, “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” In this scene, Ike (played chillingly by Laurence Fishburne) tries to force feed Tina (played by Angela Bassett) a piece of cake in a restaurant, before hitting her friend when she objects. It is a disgusting, degrading and harrowing scene (one of many), portraying a gross violation of a woman’s body by the man she is supposed to be able to trust the most.



And that is why it is completely nonsensical to me that Jay-Z would include this lyric in a song. In a crazysexycool song, about drunken passion and lust. The video features a scantily clad Beyoncé (another shocker, but who’s complaining?!) writhing seductively on a moonlit beach, cuddling and giggling with Jay-Z as they dance and lark about together. The lyrics include things like:

“Why can’t I keep my fingers off you baby? I want you”

“Can’t keep your eyes off my fatty, daddy I want you”

“Last thing I remember is our beautiful bodies grinding up in that club”

“Slid the panties right to the side, ain’t got the time to take drawers off”

“We sex again in the morning, your breasts is my breakfast”

  The music fully matches the sexuality of the lyrics and if I didn’t already mention it, I love this song! Which is why I don’t get why they threw in this big bucket of ice water.

 Nothing about that line is sexy. It completely kills the song. What would possess someone to include that reference in a song about lustful, drunken passion? Why would Jay-Z think “ooh this song is so erotic and sensual, I should probably mention that guy who famously used to beat his wife to a pulp regularly, that will get everyone going”?

But that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that he appears to have been right. Beyoncé caused controversy at the Grammy’s in January this year when everyone thought they might cut the line but instead she sang it along with him. And on Thursday, at the O2, Jay-Z made a “surprise” appearance to perform his rap. We all cheered with excitement- after all, Jay-Z is a legend- and when the time came for that line, I girded my loins as usual, braced myself and looked down at the ground.

And then he didn’t sing it!

I looked up in excitement, thinking maybe he’d finally gotten a clue, when I realised – he was holding the mic out and the entire stadium (capacity 20,000, of which approx. 70% were women) was thundering “EAT THE CAKE ANNA MAE! SAID EAT THE CAKE ANNA MAE!!!” for him. Only that line. How the actual is it possible that this line is the most popular in the song? I suppose I should just be grateful that it didn’t say it on the T-shirts. But I’m not. I’m just really fucking pissed.

I’m pissed that they ruined this hot song that I otherwise would have loved unreservedly. I’m pissed that Jay-Z thought this was an appropriate lyric. I’m pissed that Beyoncé agreed with him. I’m pissed with every single record-label/producer person who let the song get released like that. I’m pissed that the radio stations and MTV don’t have the sense to at least censor this line. I’m pissed with the 20,000 people who seem to think this is some epic lyric. I’m pissed with myself for buying the album anyway and going to see Beyoncé live because I love her and I didn’t see how me not going would make any difference. I’m pissed with the fact that no one I know feels able to make any difference. I’m pissed that Beyoncé, who has been hit with many criticisms for being anti-feminist in the past, for various things (including but not limited to calling her tour, a show about her own personal fabulosity, the Mrs Carter Show), seems to have made such strides recently in correcting that image (eg. including an excerpt of a TED talk by the eloquent author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in which she speaks about feminism and double standards, in her song “Flawless”; making a big deal at her show of the fact that her band is mostly female etc.) and has then pissed all over it with one wholly unnecessary and completely misguided line.

Because domestic abuse still happens. And there is still a view, held by far too many people, that it is somehow just an extension of love. That domestic violence happens because the abuser just feels too strongly for their partner. That the passion is too hard to contain. That they just don’t know how to control their deep and intense feelings and so they are released in the form of violence. Like a child who squeezes you painfully hard, because they don’t know how to tell you they love you. But domestic abuse is not about love, any more than rape is about sex. Beating your partner is about control, manipulation, intimidation and serious mental and emotional issues. It is the grossest violation of trust there is, and perpetuating the myth that it somehow stems from a place of passion or lust is not just stupid, it’s dangerous. It makes it seem glamorous, romantic and almost even desirable.

 Now, I’m not usually one to harp on about the derogatory effects of pop culture on our nation’s youth etc. I’ve always believed (and still do) that if a nice, balanced kid listens to music about murderers/drug-addicts/abusers/whatever, they will not suddenly become any of the above or a willing victim. Youth are young, not stupid. And I believe strongly in free speech. But the Knowles-Carters are a powerful couple. They are admired and adored by millions, they are BFFs with the Obamas, they are respected by their peers and they represent a modern, and wholly desirable, family unit. What they say carries weight. Especially when set to a catchy beat and couched in sexy lyrics. So, while their words do not cause the problem, I believe that they can and do contribute to it.

Ike Turner is probably the most famous wife-beater of our time. For him to be immortalised in a love song by arguably one of the most influential couples of our time, is not fucking ok.

Beyoncé, please sort this out – we’re counting on you.

 - DH

15 thoughts on “Why I’m Pissed with Drunk in Love

  1. I’ve read a couple of articles on this and haven’t commented until now because I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I do think it’s a shame that the Anna Mae line has become so popular – mostly, I think, because it’s delivered so well that it’s been dislocated from its historical meaning. However, I am very uneasy about taking any form of art so literally, even a pop song. One thing it does is remove the right of the artist to express herself freely, and being that this song appears to be about female sexual appetite I think it’s important to insist on Beyonce’s right to express this in all its ugliness. I am also uneasy about the continuing trend of assuming that art by women is more closely aligned with their personal thoughts/feelings/experiences than that by men. Yes, there will be youngsters who will hear this, but actually it is their parents, teachers and communities that are responsible for educating the youngsters about the difference between consensual adult sexual relationships and abusive relationships, not Beyonce. Jay Z also has a song, featuring Beyoncé, called Bonnie and Clyde – what’s the difference?

  2. I went to the Mrs Carter Show at the O2. It was fantastic and I felt so lucky to see Jay-Z perform too, but the Anna Mae line… eugh. I couldn’t sing along. I can’t believe Bey did, when fifteen minutes ago Adichie’s speech had been staged so wonderfully. I just find the whole thing a bit mystifying.

  3. I don’t understand why Jay Z raising the bar on his sexism comes remotely as a surprise to anyone. Remembering that if, for example, he had 100 problems – in all likelihood the 100th one would be his ‘bitch’. The thrust of this is that all of that is forgotten on account of how we surely tacticly accept that Jay Z is a ‘legend’, so he gets a pass.

  4. I think the lyrics are disgusting. I really do. “I’m Ike…eat the cake Anna Mae…”who the f*** wants to call himself that? Beyonce and Jay Z are great musicians. But honestly, do you really think they care about feminism? Do you really think they care about making women feel good about themselves? They make music that will sell. I doubt the things we struggle with as women affect them, they are too big and successful to be touched by the realities of what the mainstream media does to a woman’s confidence. If she’s being attacked as anti-feminist, she will add an excerpt from Adichie’s TED talk to straighten things out and help sell more records. Whether it’s Partition, Blow or Drunk In Love, most of her songs are just about sex. And because she’s Beyonce, when she sings about cunnilingus and blowjobs with equal enthusiasm, we’re supposed to get all excited about it and deem it “feminism” and “women loving their bodies” and “sexual freedom.” I think it’s bullshit- sex sells, and that’s all she’s singing about.

    • I like the song. I think this particular part of the lyric is disgusting now that I understand it and really think they should have thought twice before putting it there, but to say Beyoncé is not a feminist just because she’s rich and talks about sex is absurd. She is a feminist because she is putting herself in the same level as male singers who talk about sex, but the difference is that, while they objectify women, Beyoncé writes about it on HER point of view. It’s a woman talking about sex and showing empowerment towards sexuality. It shows that she has control not only over her body and mind, but also at her career. Sure, she talks about blowjob, but why can’t she? Because it’s selling? Shouldn’t we be amazed with the fact a woman talking about sex and feminism and how she is her own person is actually a mainstream sucess?

      Also, everyone suffers from misogyny and sexism. Just because she is rich doesn’t mean she is different. Just because she is famous doesn’t mean she is above all the social problems that make women’s life a living hell. You have also to consider she is a black woman, who doesn’t have the white priviledge to help her (even though you are a woman, if you are white you’ll have more respect than a woman of color, who’ll be objectified for her race and will be thought of as a sexual being, not a human. And I know that because I’m brazilian and people don’t even know what language I speak, only that I must be super hot and know how to sambar) and she is speaking on a point of view of a black woman.

  5. Beyoncé ‘a goddess among women’ – for some reason this deifying strikes me as perhaps not the most empowering way to describe this normal woman who is a very successful singer and businesswoman.
    Also I like the new Vagenda logo but it is also perpetuating an arguably harmful ‘stereotypical’ hourglass body-shape as representative of women. Not been on the site for a while but not too impressed with what I have seen so far.

    This article has an important subject but unfortunately doesn’t really add anything to what has already been said about this particular line.

    • …You’re joking. Hour glass body shapes are harmful now?! It’s not some biologically impossible Barbie shape or a “stereotype”, it’s a legitimate body shape that some women just have (whether I’m a size 6 or 26, I will always be an hourglass, that’s just how I’m built). I mean, sure it was considered the ideal for a while, but the same can be said for literally every body shape somewhere, sometime. Plus, if my epic struggles to find clothes that fit my body shape are any indication, it sure as hell isn’t the preferred one now!

  6. The only explanation I can come up with for why this lyric is included is that it is referring to S&M or submissive/dominative role play; that by allowing Jay-Z to sing the lyric on her song, Beyonce is acknowledging that the playing out of this fantasy is in fact consensual, and just another way for them to explore their sexuality and desires.

    But I still don’t like it, and I still find it offensive, and it upsets me that Beyonce has included it when so much else of what she does is about strong women. But maybe that’s her point – like calling her tour the Mrs Carter Show. She’s a wife, a Mrs now, but that hasn’t diminished her in any way; she’s not suddenly going to turn into a 1950s-style housewife. Maybe the point with this lyric is that even though she might enjoy being dominated in the bedroom, it doesn’t mean she can’t also be a strong women and a feminist. If this is her point though, I feel that it’s a distasteful way to make it.

  7. Just find the lyrics offensive and utterly baffling. Some guy tried to convince me it was a metaphor yet could not explain what the metaphor was meant to represent. It’s a horrendous thing to include in a song and I don’t believe Beyonce when she claims to be a feminist. If she’s so interested in female equality, why is she in music videos half dressed while her husband is in baggy trousers in a T shirt and why put those lyrics in her song?

  8. I went from not thinking Beyonce was a feminist, to sort of reluctantly accepting that she was doing some good for the cause, but after this I’m right back to where I started. If we brush off the Anna Mae line as being meaningless in a pop culture context, then we can just as easily do the same to the Adichie sample. In which case, Beyonce and her music are just as shallow and idiotic as the rest of the pop world, and she cares about nothing but her own career and her own image. And that hurts me to say, because she is a talented and hardworking woman, and I admired her before this absolute fucking bombshell of a clanger.

  9. I felt like that lyric was to express that her and Jay Z were engaging more in fulfilling their sexual fantasies, like rape-play fantasies in S&M (when both people are safe and it’s consensual of course) , which is why I think she sang along with him during the live performance. Similar to the way she sings “Slap me! I’m pinned to the doorway. Kiss, bite, foreplay” in Haunted. Power play and taking turns of being in control. Her whole album seems to be her exploring her desires. Also, the way the line is delivered made it supposedly the catchiest line out of his chorus which is why people remember it…

    But I’m not a fan of the meaning of the line and it could’ve so easily been avoided. I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt though!

  10. I have been thinking about this particular lyric for a while now and I had yet to find a succinct way of fully articulating how I feel. After reading this article, the corresponding comments and various other journalism pieces, my gut instinct simply cuts through all the confusing white noise and tells me that that lyric is wrong. Plain wrong. There is no positive justification for that lyric, and I need to stop believing in Beyonce as a beacon for feminism.

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