3: Yoncé

After watching the Grammys this Sunday, I felt several types of ways. I was overjoyed seeing Bruno Mars’s fine ass twice. I was grateful to see The Time perform in my lifetime. I was excited to see great inspirations like A Tribe Called Quest and Busta Rhymes share the stage and make space for immigrants and marginalized folks. I was kinda bored with Adele’s dresses and annoyed with her performances, sadly because I remember being so happy to see her sweep the Grammys twice before. And I was so disappointingly unsurprised by Beyoncé’s losses. But I didn’t feel like ruminating on the obvious or regurgitating the already said. I wanted to remember Beyoncé’s highlights, particularly her mesmerizing performance (which you can enjoy with her vocals isolated, here) that I need to re-watch to ensure I caught all that I need to catch. I interviewed my friend and fellow Vassar student, Michael Woods, who is also a recording artist and Grammy associate member striving for voting membership and perhaps his own golden gramophones someday — and who witnessed the glory in person. We recalled the experience of watching one of Beyoncé’s most notable performances of her career (I mean, you’ll never forget, at the very least, the fact that she performed in her second trimester with twins).

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Michael

As transcribed from a phone interview.

So I was sitting, you know, just looking at the show. And I was surprised by how fast Beyoncé’s performance actually came up. Like, I thought it would be a bit later in the show. But they put her kinda in the first hour, first hour and a half, something like that. And one thing that I noticed — so when they have the performances, they basically split the stage in half. Like, on TV you think it’s a full stage but they split it half so that they can make the set easier to move and everything, just for logistical purposes. But when Beyoncé came out, she had the entire stage to herself.

It was– then I saw the stunning visuals, kinda like the layered images, that was just completely stunning and with her just being– embodying Black womanhood was just phenomenal. And then the dancers, they were so on point, and the table was across the entire stage, if you remember that moment, when she was at the edge of the table and the chair. And she was singing everything on pitch, as always, being perfect and everything.

And then– this was the interesting moment: and then, at the end of the performance, so you know, I was like oh my goodness, that was stunning, that was beautiful, that was amazing, umm and the person who was sitting next to me, that has been in the indus– I’m not gonna say his name, but he’s been in the industry for, like, 26–27 years, he told me, something like that. And he told his friends on the phone, probably some other industry insider, like, Beyoncé’s performance was like the most boring piece of shit he’s ever seen. Ya know, so…in that moment, I was just like oh! interesting…

And I was like this was really, that was a great moment, ya know. And I was just like wow, so, I know where my music might stand, ya know, if I create something very political, something for marginalized communities, for, people like me, for us, ya know. So that was just kinda difficult to navigate. And I do feel like people have their preferences and most people are used to Beyoncé putting on this, ya know, lively show. Ya know, that was very sentimental, it was very– it took you to a deeper level, it really put you on a journey and I’ll never forget that moment because I saw Beyoncé embrace, ya know, something that some people in the industry might not want her to embrace, umm, and I think Adele, like, she gave– basically told Beyoncé like you tha bomb, like, I think that was needed. I know it’s a lot of critiques on her statement and everything but, umm, I think it was needed cuz she really put on a great show. It was just beautiful. I’ll remember.

Matt

I’m sitting in my living room on a couch, my friend Timothy on the couch opposite me. (The producers made a smart decision in putting Beyoncé within the first two hours of the show and the three biggest awards of the night, all of which Bey is nominated for, at the end of the show.) Tina Knowles appears, her thick brown curls and jewels dangling on her snug black dress, glistening under the dimmed lights of the auditorium. (“Both my daughters have Grammys!” Timothy repeats aloud in affirmation.)

The performance opens with stuttering, layered visuals on screens. Golds, greens, oranges.

Love Drought: Beyoncé appears in a shimmering gown of jewels, bearing her breasts and legs, her plump belly peeking through a thin wall of crystals, and her face and tight golden curls gleaming beneath a golden crown of flowers and sun beams. (As she sings, Timothy yells, “her breasts!”) She walks across a long table spanning the stage (of course Bey has paid enough dues to use more than the usual half), flanked on either side by dancers adorned in circular golden headdresses and plain, brightly colored dresses, and sits on a chair that leans obtusely. (“Bad parenting,” Timothy cackles.)

Holograms appear, one of her swaying her arms, waving golden yellow cloth in the air; one of her surrounded by dancers; and another of her sitting on the floor, her mother on her right and Blue on her left, all draped in gold.

Sandcastles: Bey stands on a small platform that lowers her to the main stage (“She like, I ain’t walking,” Timothy says), where flowers are scattered about, before walking down two more steps. Her golden hair billowing in the air, she sings soothingly and boastfully amidst a tight circle of dancers. When she finishes, she gently smiles to the standing ovation before her.

Other than staring at the TV for a few moments, I don’t remember how we reacted. Timothy read from their phone that Beyoncé was channeling the Empress tarot card, and I read later that night from a friend’s Facebook status that she was inspired by the Yoruba goddess Oshún.