After her performance of “Run the World (Girls)” at the Billboard Music Awards last weekend, many fans are wondering: is Beyonce an unoriginal copycat? Or is she showing that she’s Lorella Cuccerini biggest fan? And we’re wondering if she’s really that much different from artists like Jack White and Johnny Cash.
Well, according to this AOL Music quote where Beyonce explains herself, it looks like she was “inspired.”
“My makeup artist showed me the performance of Lorella Cuccarini a year ago, and it inspired me so much,” Beyonce tells AOL Music, exclusively. “I then met with the talented people who worked on it. The technology and concept were so genius. Thank god for YouTube or I would have never been exposed to something so inspiring. I never worked so hard on anything in my life as that performance for the Billboard Awards.”
Is Anyone Really Original?
Yes, thank God for YouTube, Beyonce. Now everyone is questioning your live performance originality.
Without a doubt YouTube is responsible for spreading creative idea like no other media channel in history. But on the flipside it has also forced artist to be even more original, because artist are just a few edits and YouTuber upload away from being held accountable for their unoriginality.
And judging by that quote it appears that Beyonce has never seen Cuccerini live in concert before, so it’s even harder to say that she was inspired by her own personal experience of seeing Cuccerini live.
Sure, Beyonce is being honest about her inspirations, but what does this situation say about the creativity of all artists live performance.
Is anyone really original?
What Do We Really Pay For During A Show?
Do we pay money just to see live imitations that aren’t the artist own?
When have we actually truly seen a live performance that was completely original?
Or better yet, at this point in history, is originally even important? Do concert fans value interpretation more than originality?
And at this stage in live music history, are we okay with being sold another version of the another artist, just as long as what we bought is a little different from the original source?
I don’t have the answers to those questions right now. But I do know that when we’ve explored artist inspiration and fan transformations before, we’ve discovered that creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
We tend to pull from other sources to create our own art. Whether you’re an artist or a fan with hopes to become an artist, when you go to a show you get influenced. You get inspired. And the natural thing is to want to duplicate that which inspires you.
But the hopeful and wishful part of me wants to believe that what I see on stage is “mostly” original.
I hope that when I get blown away by an artist that the part that blows me away is uniquely their own, and not stolen or just ripped off from someone else.
Some of the words I tend to use in reviews of albums and concert when I see signs of other artists coming through is “interpreation,” “channeling,” and “celebrating”.
When I see an artist drawing on their influences and doing something creative with it, I usually use one of those three words to describe what I see. And when the copycat shows up, I call it like it is.
So Is Beyonce an Inspired Fan or a Performance Thief?
Right now, and after watching the video above a several times, I think that Beyonce’s performance is way too close to Cuccerini’s performance to be called original.
There’s a difference between taking elements of an artists performance to create your own interpretation, and completely ripping off someone else. When we do the latter it’s like just putting a different coat of paint on a stolen car, scratching off the VIN number and calling the car your own.
There A Many Other Examples Too
But let’s look at some others for a moment. For starters, when I discovered more of the inspiration roots of Jack White of the White Stripes live performance style in the film This Might Get Loud, I was amazed to see how similar his thrashing and tortured whipping around live style was to Dex Rombweber of Flat Duo Jets.
Now, we are big fans of The Man In Black, but when it comes to lyrics, I’ve always struggled with the fact that Johnny Cash “creatively borrowed” many of the lyrics of “Folsom Prison Blues” from Beverly Mayer and Gordon Jenkins “Cresent City Blues”.
What Would Picasso Tell Beyonce?
Yes, Picasso, or someone like him once said, that good artists borrow and great artists steal. And some other wise person once said that imitation is the biggest form of flattery.
That all might be true, but how does all this sit with you?
Do you lose respect for an artist when you find out where they got their music and live performance inspiration from?
Do you get disappointed when you find out that they not that original and have only ripped off or “creatively borrowed” from some other artist?