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Crown Too Heavy: The Pressure Of Being Dubbed 'The Next Beyoncé'
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Crown Too Heavy: The Pressure Of Being Dubbed 'The Next Beyoncé'

"I don't have to prove anything to anyone. I only have to follow my heart and concentrate on what I want to say to the world. I run my world." – Beyoncé


As someone who has followed the arc of Beyoncé’s career since I was 10 years old and saw the excitement my brother and his best friend expressed in seeing Destiny’s Child perform at Alabama A&M in 1998, I’ve always known in my heart Beyoncé was destined for greatness. We’ve all watched her evolve as an artist, woman, wife, and mother, but we often forget the major steps she had to take in order to gain control of her career and life.

Beginning in 2010, Beyoncé launched Parkwood Entertainment, a film and production company, record label, and management firm. Then, in 2011, she decided to end her management arrangement with her father Mathew Knowles. She’s limited the number of interviews she does and has taken full control of her life’s narrative and her art through the various documentaries she's released via Parkwood.

As we all watch in awe, Beyoncé continues to break records: the most awarded singer in Grammy history, headlining one of the highest-grossing tours of all-time, and most recent Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé, the film documenting her latest world tour, became the first film in 20 years to cross the $20 million mark on its opening weekend following Thanksgiving.

As Beyoncé raises the bar higher and higher, there is much conversation centered around who “the next Beyoncé” will be. Some have proclaimed it’s Victoria Monét, others believe it will be Normani, and many have stated Chloe Bailey is next in line to take the crown.

These conversations of “who’s the next….” aren’t new; even when Beyoncé first launched her solo career in 2003 with the album Dangerously in Love, people said she was the next Michael Jackson or Tina Turner.

This mindset begs the question: do we value individuality in artistry, or do we simply want to recreate clones of the artist we already love? How can we expect artists to keep the integrity of their work when labels, managers, and the public want to pigeonhole them into a space they deem appropriate?

When we center our expectations to juxtapose someone else’s success, we are inevitably setting up and coming artists like Victoria, Normani, and Chloe to fail. This by no means is taking away from the clear talent each of these singers has, but it’s boxing them into a space where their opportunity for personal and creative growth is stifled.

Additionally, when we take a further step back and look at the music industry from a bird’s eye view, we see how Black artists have been confined to the musical genres of R&B, gospel, and hip-hop, which further limits their space for growth and crossover success.

The systemic racism in the music industry caters more toward white artists and limits the exposure of Black artists, especially in predominantly white genres. We consistently see white artists given the space and opportunity to explore a variety of musical genres, while Black artists are expected to stay true to one genre for the entirety of their career.

This generation tends to want artists to produce quality music at a rapid pace, but then mercilessly judges when it isn’t what we want or expect it to be. An example of this would be both Chloe and Normani’s debut as solo artists.

As I mentioned both these artists have been deemed “the next Beyoncé” at one point or another in their career, and the parallels are obvious. They were both in groups prior, Chloe with her sister Halle and Normani with Fifth Harmony. They’re both talented performers and beautiful young women, and they both very evidently have the “It factor.”

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Chloe’s first album, In Pieces, was released in March 2023 and had only sold 10,000 copies as of April 10, 2023. Many fans called the album "a flop" and even DJ Envy suggested it was Beyoncé's fault for the low sales as Chloe is an artist on her label. Beyoncé once said, “The reality is, sometimes you lose. And you're never too good to lose. You're never too big to lose. You're never too smart to lose. It happens."

Chloe must have taken these words to heart because despite the negative feedback she received, she took everything in stride and proved critics and fans wrong by selling out shows in the following months.

Something to understand and consider is that artists like Chloe have a younger fan base who are less likely to buy albums and more likely to listen to their favorite artist’s music on a streaming service, which does impact sales. Though streaming numbers are included in album sales, it doesn’t consider the à la carte nature of the process and how hard it is to reach one album sold. Success for artists likely Chloe is going to look very different than her mentor Beyoncé, and as the music industry evolves these young artists are having to adapt to that evolution in real time.

Normani on the other hand has taken her time with the release of her debut album, which many fans have been waiting on since the release of her single “Motivation” in 2019. Some fans have even gone to Twitter to share their thoughts about the delayed album, with opinions echoing the sentiment that she’s lost her passion and motivation to create music. Normani responded to these claims with a very clear, “Just shut the f— up.” She also shared in an interview with Bustle, that had she rushed to release an album in 2019, “I would’ve put out a body of work that I wasn’t confident in.”

Despite the negativity these two artists have had to endure in the shadows of Beyoncé, they’ve both taken a page from her book by staying true to themselves and the music they want to produce. Upon the release of her album, Chloe tweeted, “In pieces was about letting go & trusting myself. i’ve enjoyed every moment of it and i love everyone who listened to it.” Normani also shared, “I’m very, very prideful of what I do and the art. It means a lot to me and I’m heavily involved in literally every single aspect.”

Though the vast majority of us love and sit in awe of Beyoncé, we must also question why we feel the need to place other Black women artists in her shadow to recreate a career that she’s uniquely shaped for herself.

There is a subconscious bias many of us have fed into that tells us, Black women in music can only be seen and digested in a certain way, and because of this, we project that onto newer artists such as Victoria, Normani, Chloe, and others.

Even Beyoncé, though she always pays homage to her predecessors such as Jackson and Turner, has been very clear on the reality that she’s not trying to be anyone other than herself in her music or life. Her success has been based on the fact that she does things her way, and because of this, it uniquely penetrates millions of people’s hearts around the globe.

It also goes back to the reality that she’s taken full control of her career and holds her destiny in her own hands. This same autonomy should be given to the young women who follow in her footsteps.

"Do what you were born to do. You just have to trust yourself." – Beyoncé

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Featured image by Giphy

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