So after marveling Beyonce’s live performance of “Run The World (Girls)” at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards (watch it here), the twitterverse was suddenly up in arms when the following video hit YouTube a day or two after Beyonce’s performance was posted online:
Typical comments were:
“Oops, Beyonce’s epic Billboard Awards performance wasn’t so original.”
“I was really disheartened. that was the BMAs, fer cryin’ out loud. oh well.”
“I was in total awe of ur Run The World perf, Beyonce. But this is totally not cool.”
I won’t begrudge those who were disappointed with the side-by-side comparison. But what’s curious is that when I showed the comparison video to my colleagues (who are in the broadcast industry), their reactions were mostly shrugging and quips like, “Oh, I suppose Beyonce hired the same supplier!” What gives?
In the realm of the performing arts, it’s acknowledged that artists get inspiration from other artists and the works that came before them. Of course, copying is frowned upon especially if it’s an exact lift, whether word for word, note for note, or move for move. It’s as if the copying artist didn’t need to think; he just used someone else’s hard work. But it is all right if one uses someone else’s work, builds on it and creates something new. That’s not mere copying; there’s an additional amount of creativity and work put into it when they add and build on the original.
Then there’s the case of being the first artist to bring a work to a mainstream audience versus being the first to “invent” the original work. Take the case of two dance moves, the moonwalk and vogueing. Michael Jackson did not invent the moonwalk; but he was the first who, on a Motown special, debuted it on US national television. Vogueing had been an underground dance move, seen mostly in fringe gay dance clubs; Madonna heard of it and appropriated the moves on a song and music video. The rest, as they say, is history.
Maybe someone from Beyonce’s camp saw the staging of Lorella Cuccarini and thought that it would be great if she can pull the same thing off for the Billboard Music Awards. Maybe they contacted the same team which produced the original staging. Maybe they thought, heck, not too many people know about Lorella Cuccarini’s staging. And maybe they thought that since the Billboard Music Awards has a bigger audience, then the “dancing with the video” technique would have its worldwide debut with Beyonce.
But the problem these days is YouTube. Thanks to a single side-by-side post, people found out at download speeds the similarities of both numbers. During Michael and Madonna’s time, it took months, even years, before people found out that it wasn’t Michael who created the moonwalk, nor was it Madonna who invented vogueing; but by that time Michael was already The Moonwalker, and vogueing was attached to Madonna.
I supposed years from now no one’s going to associate Beyonce with “dancing with the video” technique. But who cares cuz she owns the power shoulder shrugs. Take that, Lorella!