Beyoncé, tagged as a guest performer at the Super Bowl, overshadowed two mainstream male acts during the halftime show, with a powerful performance hinging upon a political message. With one song/video, for new single “Formation,” Beyoncé took control of the conversation—a necessary conversation of being Black, now, in America—on the biggest stage in the world.
But that’s only one conversation Beyoncé started with “Formation.” She also continued steering the subject toward the shifting power dynamic in a relationship, specifically when it comes to romantic intimacy. “When he fuck me good I take his ass to Red Lobster, ‘cause I slay,” she spit-sings on the second half of the song. The line became one of the most socialized, and meme-able, lines from “Formation.”
Bey dedicates an entire verse to being in control, to flexing her power, in and outside the bedroom, “‘Cause I slay.” Yes, she caters to her man, but she also dominates; if treated right, she’ll reward–but that’s a big if. “If he hit it right, I may take him on a flight on my chopper…Drop him off at the mall, let him buy some J’s, let him shop up,” she snarls.
In a time where Twitter timelines are flooded with conversations (mostly led by men) about how women want to be taken on $200 dates, Beyoncé comes through to remind you that she’s got this. She possesses total ownership of her sexuality.
It’s not the first time Bey’s done so, either. If anything, “Formation” is a logical conclusion to her 2013 self-titled album, where she gave us an intimate and emotional glimpse into the Carter marriage. In a decade-plus relationship, she still controls her body, her image, her mind and herself.
“There is unbelievable power in ownership, and women should own their sexuality,” Beyoncé told OUT Magazine in 2014. “There is a double standard when it comes to sexuality that still persists. Men are free and women are not. That is crazy. The old lessons of submissiveness and fragility made us victims. Women are so much more than that.”
One of the most powerful lines in the standout “Formation” verse is the last: Bey shifts from “You just might be a black Bill Gates in the making” to “I just might be a black Bill Gates in the making.” This is a mental change more than a physical one. It’s not about a man, it’s about you—you succeeding, you getting what you want. Two lines later, she reiterates that power: “I grind ’till I own it.”
“Formation,” with its surprise release and Super Bowl live debut, has been getting a ton of attention this week, but another woman that’s calling the shots on what she wants, when she wants it and how she wants it is Rihanna on her eighth studio album, ANTI.
The newly minted No. 1 album features Rihanna satisfying her loneliness, quelling her longing and seeing how something fits, whether it be a temporary fix or a late, drunken phone call. There’s power in her powerlessness, like on “Higher,” one of the best songs on ANTI. The two-minute song, along with the entire effort, is raw, honest and vulnerable without any filter.
Post-break-up Rihanna still holds all the strength, exuding confidence when calling an ex-lover and talking shit with no chaser, as on “Woo” and “Needed It.” Continuing to keep it 100 on “Yeah, I Said It,” Rihanna tells you, “I want you to homicide it. Go in slow, but I want you to pipe it.” When many believe that a proper title makes or breaks a relationship, Rihanna throws restraint out the window when adding that she “don’t need” one.
Rihanna has always attracted followers by living her life the only way she can: unapologetically. (No pun intended.) If you don’t, she makes you want to. If you do, she makes you want to more. Eight albums in, she continues to dominate by possessing her own story.
The duality of Bey and Rih’s power is essential, because it’s human and honest, and that’s empowering. Both women encourage other women to be satisfied, mentally, emotionally and physically, on our own terms.