Once Destiny Child called it quits in 2006, rumors have grown steadily about a riff between the group’s two most noticeable singers, Beyoncé Knowles and Kelly Rowland. Some of Kelly’s biggest fans believe Beyoncé and her team consistently collude with major industry players in order to make sure Kelly never reaches the heights of superstardom they feel she deserves.
Even though Beyoncé and Kelly have never directly released an album in the same quarter, many have charged Beyoncé with overshadowing Kelly’s album press with her own media barrage. This year will mark the first time Kelly and Beyoncé will battle on the charts directly when Kelly releases her highly anticipated album, “Here I Am” on July 22nd.
Inflaming the speculation, Beyoncé’s recent satellite performance on the 2011 BET Awards from the Glastonbury Festival in the UK. Unfortunately, it looked like she was upstaging Kelly, who, according to most viewers, had the performance of the night.
The media loves feuds between popular artists because it fuels their engines. Still, the most tragic and infamous dispute between R&B band mates involved The Supremes’ Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, both of whom were immortalized in the Broadway musical and subsequent motion picture, “Dreamgirls,” which starred Beyoncé as a fictionalized Diana Ross. That was just one drama-filled saga that happened over 40 years ago and was so compelling, the mainstream media is still eating off of it.
One of the biggest reasons the Bey vs. Kelly rumors persist is because of Beyoncé’s father, and former-manager, Matthew Knowles, who is known in industry circles as a shrewd businessman, especially when it comes to protecting the Knowles brand. After Kelly’s split with Knowles’ management, rumors surfaced of a heated verbal spat between Kelly, Knowles, and Beyoncé, which reportedly led to bad blood between all parties involved.
Matthew Knowles’ contemptuous stance towards former Destiny’s Child members, Letoya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson, after they sought outside management—which led to their unceremonious replacement by Knowles— only intensifies the rumors that Knowles actively worked behind the scenes to sabotage Kelly’s career on behalf of his number one client at the time, his daughter Beyoncé.
Regardless if Knowles is a shady manager or not, the rumors would die quickly if Kelly didn’t have any talent. On the contrary, Kelly’s talent is on full display with every top ten record she puts out. From her 2002 number-one charting duet with Nelly to her international dance fame, Kelly lets everyone witness her artistic brilliance. What really gets under some of her fans’ skin is how hard it seems Kelly has to work to receive half the accolades Beyoncé garners seemingly effortlessly.
Case in point, Kelly’s popularity overseas. Anytime an American artist has to go across the pond to amass the success that they may have once had in the States, it will always look like she is working extra hard for money. Not to mention having to deny rumors that her Miami condo was in foreclosure, coupled with very few believing she split amicably with her record label, Columbia Records. What seemed like a downturn to many, more than likely, was a positive shift in priorities and towards her most lucrative market, England.
The fight to the top of pop culture’s royal throne has many more shades of gray than most media outlets would lead one to believe. Realistically, neither Bey nor Kelly have next-to-nothing to do with any major decisions concerning their strategic positioning within the R&B landscape. As far we can see and know, both are mere players.
This is not say that they have no say in industry politics in regards to their careers, respectively, but when it comes to Beyoncé specifically, there are entertainment executives of all kinds that have much more to gain from Beyoncé’s reign than she does. At the top of the entertainment food chain, there are men–and women who think like men–that control the creation, production, and dissemination of what is heard and seen in popular music around the globe.
The bottom line is that men place Beyoncé in her position. Beyoncé is the most desirable woman in music, and this is not to say that her talent isn’t the main reason she able to reign, but when you play in the big leagues most of women at that level have tons of talent. So, when separating the superstars from stars, Beyoncé’s intangibles are what allow her to trump not only Kelly, but also every other woman in music.
In America, like it or not, there is a standard of beauty that is rigidly adhered to by marketers and entertainment executives. Beyoncé has what sells easily: She’s light skinned (yes I said it, please name a dark skinned woman, sans Lauryn Hill’s one historic album, that has reached the consistent levels of Beyoncé, since arguably Aretha Franklin), has long hair, and chiseled ”Roman” (i.e., somewhat European nose and facial bone structure) features. Now, there is no shortage of light skinned girls with “Roman” features, many whom are no where close to Beyoncé status, but there are a few. What separates Beyoncé from, say, Alicia Keys, however, is her femininity. Bey is the ultimate woman; she’s the woman who wants to be put in her place by a “Soldier,” and then “Upgrade” him with her bank account, all the while she’s “Catering” to her man after a hard day at work.
The gold stamp, though, came from her union with Jay-Z. The self-proclaimed “King of New York” is the man that every man wants to be. Jay-Z sets the cultural trends for black men, and their marriage gave her the powerful man that no other R&B megastar in history has had while in her prime.
Beyoncé doesn’t have to directly derail Kelly’s career, her mere presence on the charts and in the media puts insurmountable pressure on every singer in the game, including her former band mate and best friend Kelly. Don’t blame Beyoncé for playing and mastering the game, she is just playing the cards dealt, and like her superstar husband says so astutely Bey will not lose!