This is not however the first time Beyoncé has conceived of an alternate persona to help her with her music. Sasha Fierce debuted in 2008, claiming to be the artists on stage alter ego whilst performing. She revealed herself to the public in Beyoncé’s subtly named third album, I am… Sasha Fierce (2008).
Hits this album spawned included “Halo”, “Sweet Dreams” and the famous anthem, “Single Ladies”. Though the latter was possibly crafted as a celebration of female independence and agency (and received as such), it seems to revolve around anything but this. The song bemoans the fact that a former male lover failed to “put a ring of it”, and is now jealous that “another brother” is paying her attention. This track’s attempt therefore seemingly celebrates female form however actually perpetuates female stereotypes regarding desire for male attention and matrimony for fulfilment. This irony undermines the track so, that it borders on straw feminism. “Ego” and “Why Don’t You Love Me” provide similar messages, and as such it is perhaps difficult to describe Beyoncé, or instead, “Sasha Fierce” as a feminist.
This problem was also visible in her fourth album, 4 (2011) that birthed by The Mrs Carter Show World Tour. Mrs Carter was a product of her marriage to Jay-Z, where she adopted his name in place of her family name. This act, her appropriation into his family through matrimony, rendering hers inane. Though now she goes by Knowles-Carter, it contradicted certain themes on this new album. The leading single, “Run the World (Girls)” has been viewed as an aggressive approach to female empowerment. The lyrics themselves however seem to advocate in places female supremacy, instead of such equality – “I’m reppin’ for the girl who takin’ over the world”. Beyoncé does consider about men’s involvement and acceptance of gender equality during this track also, but both messages make the track highly contentious.
As we have established, Beyoncé’s lyrical romantic relationship with men primarily deals with monogamy. “End of Time” and “Countdown” from 4 contain idealistic approaches to the concept. Arguably, they echo female subservience within marriage of earlier tracks, such as “Cater 2 U” from her Destiny’s Child era. BEYONCÉ (2013) however provides convoluted take on monogamous marriage, an earnest response likely due to her marriage to Jay-Z (see “Mine”). This candid track, laying marital responsibilities on both parties, is perhaps the most balanced song the singer has released with regards to gender (though, it is unfair to use their personal life as a representation of the gender equality movement and its relationship to marriage).