C-Sides: Beyoncé

“Grown Woman” (2013)

As the 21st century’s improvement on Diana Ross, it’s all Beyoncé’s world and we’re just lucky to be living in it. However, there are moments when we could actually be living better in this “flawless” queendom. In contemplating the how, why and opportunity missed in the self-titled 2013 album add-on “Grown Woman,” we contemplate the future of globalism and feminism.

Timbaland-produced for the purposes of a Beyoncé-driven Pepsi ad campaign, “Grown Woman” came out six months prior to the eventual “surprise” release of her eponymous album. It’s a funky Afrobeat jam, bearing the unmistakable Timbaland flair for expecting far more out of the taste of the mainstream pop audience he’s cultivated over the past two decades. Likely due to the use of the track for the Pepsi campaign, it’s not on the audio version of the album. Rather, it’s included in the album’s all-video release.

Similar to “Flawless” and other material on the album, Queen Bey’s vocals here are flirty, playful, boastful and proud of her ascendant feminist beliefs. The hook is brassy and bold, plus the hand-clap and percussion-driven melody are bright and fanciful, making the entire song a winner. The song is an organic four-minute African party anthem, a euphoric Ricky Martin 1998 World Cup “La Copa De La Vida”-style moment for feminists everywhere.

“XO,” “Drunk in Love,” “Partition,” “Pretty Hurts” and “Flawless” are Beyoncé’s five official singles. Aside from “Drunk In Love” being a Grammy winner and Mrs. Knowles-Carter performing “Flawless” at 2014's MTV VMA’s in front of the word FEMINIST in bold white letters, there may be no better song or feminist anthem on the album.

Whether you love it for the lyrics, hook and chorus, Nicki Minaj’s guest verse or the sample of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk , “Flawless” is as much the most necessary of next-era feminist anthems as much as it contains the best overall performance on a mainstream-released and charting single of 2014. However, “Grown Woman” is better. Let me explain.

Far be it from me to engage in “mansplaining” feminism, but let me offer the notion that for pop culture to get behind a movement it needs a feel and a groove. While “Flawless” more than nails the feel, it loses something in the track insofar as finding a fun-filled and danceable groove. Yes, for as much as feminism has pain, angst and depression trapped in its evolution as a revolutionary ideal, for mainstream culture to really support it, maybe getting it up and dancing to a globally-accessible beat could get it to really care.

The idea that Timbaland’s track — aka the one produced by the guy who made productions that made female icons out of Aaliyah and Missy Elliott — was somehow not included on the audio version of the album is unfortunate. Here’s hoping Timbaland and Beyonce are happy with those Pepsi checks, because feminism sure could use a catchy and radio-ready anthem right now, and an opportunity was missed.

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