Sometimes, a Sex Song Is Just a Sex Song

by Bill Brenner on February 3, 2014

Columnists have gone nuts since Beyoncé and husband Jay Z performed “Drunk in Love” at the Grammys. The song is about them having steamy, drunken sex. Nothing more, nothing less. Yet we can’t help pontificating about what it says of their marriage.

Here’s the Grammy Performance:

Here’s the official video, which is dirtier:

Debate over this song illustrates how we tend to overthink things.

Alyssa Rosenberg raved about the powerful case Beyoncé and Jay Z made for marriage in a Think Progress article:

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Jay-Z got on the Grammy stage last night and did what conservatives have been dying for someone to do for ages: they made marriage look fun, and sexy, and a source of mutual professional fulfillment.

Missing here is the fact that marriage is about much, much more than sex. It’s important, to be sure, but it’s not enough to make a marriage go the distance. Have all the steamy moments you want. If two people can’t fill the gaps in each other’s souls, nothing else matters.

On the other hand, New York Post writer Naomi Schaefer Riley declares that Jay-Z is a shitty husband:

For years, these award ceremonies have pushed the envelope; Beyoncé’s booty-shaking was certainly no worse than Miley Cyrus’s twerking or any number of other performances by Madonna, for instance. But there’s something particularly icky about doing it while your husband looks on approvingly.

“Honestly, I didn’t want to watch Jay Z and Beyoncé’s foreplay,” says Charlotte Hays, author of “When Did White Trash Become the New Normal?” Indeed, the happy couple seems to have completely blurred the line between what goes on in their bedroom and what happens on national TV. So much for the woman that Michelle Obama has called “a role model who kids everywhere can look up to.”

Too much information? Maybe. Does it prove Jay Z is a pig whose idea of a strong marriage is exploiting his wife? Not really. Long before these two hooked up, they were performers who never shied away from controversy. Riley suggests Beyoncé is a victim. She doesn’t give the singer nearly enough credit for controlling her image and destiny.

Another line of debate concerns this lyric from Jay Z in the song: “Eat the cake, Anna Mae.” Beyoncé joins in on the rap, which alludes to a scene in the 1993 Tina Turner biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It? where abusive husband and musical partner Ike Turner forces cake on his wife in the prelude to another violent blow up:

Is one line of a song proof that he espouses domestic abuse? Hardly. Since the beginning of time we’ve heard musicians sing of love publicly while being abusive in their relationships. We’ve also heard musicians talk tough in song and be anything but offstage.

The thing is, sometimes a sex song is just a sex song.

beyonce and Jay Z

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