THE BEGINNING

Stuart Stubbs found Beyoncé hiding in his TiVo box and he didn’t like it

beyonce

For all their pricking about, Richard Branson and David Tennant fail to point out a vital piece of information regarding the Virgin Media TiVo box – that it’s a fucking joker. That neat selling point about how you can tell it what you like and it’ll record similar programs for you automatically – yeah, that’s balls. What TiVo does do is whatever the hell it likes. ‘Oh, I see you watched The Sky At Night’, TiVo thinks, just before it series links The Midnight Beast. It’s very Demon Seed, like that – I think it might be plotting to do me. God forbid if you ‘like’ an American sitcom of any kind – Friends is on 200 times a day. I know because I now own every episode, including ‘The One Where TiVo Is Laughing At Me Behind My Back’. Oh, and you’re blissfully unaware of all this shit-mining until you find your ‘Suggestions’ folder, which is buried beneath the shows you’ve chosen to record yourself; there, dormant for months, series after series of Have I Got A Bit More New For You? gushing in. TiVo can do little right in that respect, even when the sarcastic square head reels in something I genuinely like, like BBC documentary series Imagine. This is how I realised I can’t stand Beyoncé. Cheers TiVo.

Up until the point of finding Beyoncé: Life Is But A Dream in ‘Suggestions’, I was still on factory settings where Knowles was concerned. I liked her, just like everyone else. There was no reason not to, but since when did that ever stop us picking holes in celebrities, especially ones as fucking massive as Beyoncé Knowles? Rhianna: too crass. Madonna: too desperate. Britney: too mental. Beyoncé has always been the porridge that’s just right, universally so, and for the last 15 years straight. She is decorum in a world where it doesn’t fit, resolutely private in her love affairs with the biggest rapper in history, the good, Christian, all-American gal who’s only ever wanted to sing. And she sang ‘Crazy In Love’, so, y’know, all hail Beyoncé for at least another 20 years.

Jay-Z: He Came, He Saw, He Conquered was the peak of Imagine’s third series back in 2008. Where else would you see Alan Yentob standing side of the Pyramid Stage while a rapper worth $500 million lists his 99 problems to 100,000 people? Yentob gets into places deemed impossible, and now, for his greatest trick of all, he was going to infiltrate the clandestine Knowles camp to see just how straight-and-narrow a scandal-less megastar can be. WRONG! Yentob is a tacked on cameo in this ‘Imagine Special’, which was bought in from HBO. He introduces it on a damp London street and then roll VT, post the inadvertent warning, “This is a film made by Beyoncé about Beyoncé”, which is a bit like the disclaimer they put at the beginning of Made In Chelsea to let us know that it’s all lies. Here, Beyoncé is credited as Producer, Director and Writer of Life Is But A Dream – a 90-minute brand presentation. By the end she also makes a point of adding Additional Camera Work to the list, for all the iPhone confessionals we’ve been subjected too. I’ve taken this to mean that I too can add Camera Operator to my CV, for skills learned Skyping my brother once a week. Beyoncé, it seems, is a little bit of a control freak. Who knew?

The logic behind producing your own warts’n’all documentary is only lost on idiots, but it’s a highly flawed notion. Sure, you can make it less warty, or completely wart-free, should you wish, but people aren’t fools – everyone knows Spencer is taking the piss, right? There’s no calling foul play when you so blatantly made it yourself, either, and by the end of Life Is But A Dream you have to think, if that was Beyoncé’s A-game, if that was her self-edited to the person she wants us to see, then, well, no wonder her dad kept film crews at bay for all the years he was managing the Knowles mega brand.

Beyoncé doesn’t come across as a douche or anything. She’s diligent, deservedly in control, a vital female role model and as impassioned (albeit quietly so) as an Alabama church congregation. Her video diary is a stomach-churner, though, cropped at bleached-out, extreme close up to intensify Bey’s most earnest musings, which she whispers like the troubled ghost of Michael Jackson. It’s mostly cliché drivel about what God has planned for us. Contradictions are a plenty, too, which is something I imagine is a recurring theme in Knowles’ life – the performer who can follow “The rock I’m rockin’/I bought it” with “If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it” in the space of 5-minutes onstage.

Life Is But A Dream is contrary in itself, featuring the personal home movies of two celebrities that until recently refused to acknowledge the existence of the other in interviews. In a more confined way, it features one excruciating scene at Sony Music where a boardroom of strategists listen to Beyoncé’s new record in front of her, furiously nod out of time to a pretty pony ballad I’ve not heard anywhere else and give her a standing ovation as the head of the table declares it to be “an absolute bar-raising record” that “sounds like nothing else”. Everyone whoops and Beyoncé looks happy. Later on some inner circle drill sergeant called Frank assures us that Knowles is done with surrounding herself with “brown-nosers”. Frank is going to get pissed!

Aside from this nit-picking, what Life Is But A Dream really does to damage the myth of Beyoncé Knowles is unearth just how utterly dull she is. Not Jess Ennis dull, but close. The fact is that we don’t like or love Beyoncé; it’s her performing alter ego Sasha Fierce we’re into. To her credit, Knowles has always insisted that she isn’t the woman she is on stage, but we always thought that false modesty. It’s not. You would no more want to go for a drink with her than you would with David Beckham. She is lovely and sweet and savvy and quietly ruthless, I’m sure, rich to the point of vulgarity, which is only matched by her drive and her talent, but have you never thought how chillingly abnormal it is for a celebrity so huge, so young to hold it all together? It is, quite simply, because she doesn’t have the personality to freak out; the biggest wart of all in showbiz, and one that Life Is But A Dream featured in ill-advised close up for 90 dreary minutes. TiVo, you’re killing me!dot

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