20 minutes into the opening act of Beyonce and Jay-Z’s OTR II Buffalo concert, my best friend texted me an intriguing proposition. “If I got us $40 tickets, would you come?” There’s only one way to respond to a question like that: to put on a pair of cargo pants, a crop-top, Air Force 1’s, a questionable amount of highlight and to get your ass out the door.
We got to our seats an hour and a half after the show started and just in time to catch Bey and Jay making their grand entrance onto the stage.
The show was flawless. I was out of my seat for the entire concert, dancing full out and singing at the top of my lungs. We sat in the 300 level where the crowd was drunk on adrenaline, excitement and just plain drunk. Bey and Jay’s chemistry was magnetic, their energy infectious and their sheer beauty: intoxicating. Drunk in Love indeed.
Beyoncé teased the audience, displaying her sweet and coy side one moment and transforming into her sultry, powerful, take-no-shit, alter ego Sasha Fierce the next. But was Sasha Fierce even needed? Beyonce’s raw and unadulterated emotion transcended the context of a show that’s meant to be edgy, sensual and exciting and made for something truly special and intimate. Well, as intimate as a stadium filled with thousands of people can be.
In the middle of the setlist (that boasted nearly 50 songs between the Carters), Beyoncé walked slowly down the length of the stage wearing a grandiose orange, Valentino Haute Couture gown and graced us with “Resentment” from her second studio album, “B-Day”.
Understanding that this song was still relevant for her to perform spoke to the hardships that she’s endured since the inception of her relationship with Jay. When she sang, she sang with clarity, strength and unapologetic agony, knowing all the while that the person who caused her to feel this way was listening backstage. Her pain, her struggle, and her insecurities were all palpable and visible in her body as she was seated close to the audience clutching her thigh and swaying to the swells in the music.
You could have told me that you wasn’t happy
I know you didn’t wanna hurt me
But look what you done to me now
I gotta look at her in her eyes
And see she’s had half of me (you lie)
How could you lie? (you lie)
As you’re watching Beyoncé tear up as she delivers perfect runs (and somehow keeps her makeup perfectly intact), you can’t help but think to yourself: how can this goddess of a woman who just had the entire stadium buzzing with empowerment during ‘Ring the Alarm’ be made to feel this level of anguish and rejection from some man? And if Queen B had to deal with marital discord and infidelity, what hope is there for us mere mortals?
What Beyoncé reminded us at that moment was that she too is a human woman, susceptible to the same afflictions of bad romance. This realization has made me admire and respect my long-time idol even more for her candor, unwavering strength, and immense courage. And also, that outfit. Damn.
After the emotional detour, we needed some hyping up and Jay delivered again and again. N***** in Paris was a crowd favorite that had everyone up and screaming the lyrics. While most of Jay’s songs were bumps, he too ventured into the realm of drama and catharsis with “Song Cry” and most importantly “The Story of OJ”.
“Song Cry” deals with Jay’s refusal to allow himself to show emotion back in his days of hustling. I watched his interview with the New York Times where he reveals how much he and the people around him had to numb themselves of feeling as a means of survival. He explained that outwardness of emotion aside from anger just didn’t exist. Numbing was a necessity, a tool that he utilized to leave his past behind.
I can’t see ’em comin down my eyes
So I gotta make the song cry
“The Story of OJ” caught me off guard and made me a little uncomfortable but, the best and most important art tends to do that. The use of the N-word in mixed company is something I desperately try to avoid, but in this situation, it was inevitable.
The music video was displayed behind Jay as he effortlessly flowed through his bars as smooth as rushing water. I’ve provided a link to the video below so that you can watch it for yourself.
In a way, I thought I’d become immune to the word; I didn’t think that it had such an effect on me anymore. But when Jay’s repeated use of the word in the song, which was, of course, strategic and highly calculated, I realized that the use of the word still troubles me. I didn’t realize that I was going to take something so profound away from Jay and feel the need to investigate why I had such an unexpected response.
I highly recommended watching the New York Times interview that I mentioned previously to hear Jay’s thoughts on the track and what it means to him. It helped me to understand Jay’s intentions and the implications of the track that weren’t clear to me initially. Leave it to Jay to have you screaming “Ain’t nobody f****** with my clique” one moment and have you questioning your attitude towards race relations in America the next.
This show was so much more than I expected it to be. I knew that I was in for a night of incredible showmanship, beautiful vocals and getting lit af, but I didn’t know what a lasting impact this show would have on me. What Bey and Jay are doing is truly unprecedented: they are uniting people through music and making grand statements about the socio-political climate of our day, all while looking flawless and giving us life.