If you’d told me that in 2021 I’d get dragged to the bowels of hell on the internet for saying that I don’t like Beyoncé’s song “Kitty Kat,” I honestly wouldn’t have believed you.
The article, “The 10 Best (and Worst) Beyoncé Songs,” that was published on Glamour on Friday, the day before the singer’s 40th birthday, was supposed to be a lighthearted take on her best and worst songs. I have covered Bey several times over the course of my journalism career. I’ve written about how she’s changed the course of pop music for Teen Vogue, the importance of her addressing police brutality in Lemonade for (the now-defunct) Revelist and how upsetting it was for Taylor Swift to rip off Beychella for The Daily Dot.
I’ve also written about the necessity of how she centered Blackness with Black is King and, most recently for Glamour, I did a Lemonade 5-year anniversary roundtable discussion featuring only Black women journalists and critics. None of these articles broke the internet—no one was interested in finding out my racial identity after these pieces were published. If I had written about the singer so many times before in positive and uplifting ways without it going viral, ranking my favorite and least favorite songs by her would receive the same response, right?
I initially approached my editor at Glamour last month with the idea of ranking Beyonce’s discography with the piece running on September 3. She instead suggested the format be her best and worst songs since it was already a series that did considerably well on the site. I’ve been writing professionally for over a decade and thought an opportunity like this would be a great way to educate readers about the significance of each song on the Best List and why I thought she missed the mark on the Worst.
While “Daddy Lessons” isn’t necessarily one of my personal favorites, she was fighting for Black people to be in the country music space way before Lil Nas X—wasn’t that worth celebrating? On “Formation,” she was intentionally centering Blackness in a way that was so incendiary whole police forces refused to protect her. Shouldn’t that be examined? “Beautiful Liar” had two of the world’s biggest female pop stars—who happened to be women of color—collaborating on one track. Why didn’t that dig just a little bit deeper? Publications have run lists like this for years—I wasn’t breaking the mold in any way. However, the backlash to it was greater than anything I ever anticipated.
Moments after it was published on Friday, a friend informed me that it immediately went viral on Twitter. I’ve never been on the app since I’m a pretty private person and know that it can turn into a cesspool of hate and negativity. When I posted the article to my Instagram page, I received nearly 200 comments in under an hour which prompted me to turn them off. I was all for a spirited, lively discussion about my selection but what I received was disrespect and threats to my personal safety. With the piece getting such insane amounts of attention so fast I tried to figure out why.
It wasn’t until one of the commenters on my page mentioned that the list had made it to The Shade Room that I understood why. The account has nearly 25 million followers, and while I don’t follow the page because of the toxicity regularly spewed, its influence is undeniable. The list I had written had been posted—without mentioning the actual article itself for context—and emphasized the outrage surrounding “Kitty Kat” being labeled as one of Beyonce’s worst songs. The post has received nearly 275,000 likes and nearly 50,000 comments. While I couldn’t bring myself to read any of them, friends and family of mine who did reiterated the one recurring theme among the remarks: that I—and the list itself—were anti-Black.
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I know it doesn’t make any sense: how could a list of songs by a Black woman ranked by a Black woman be considered anti-Black? But it didn’t need to make sense for the virtrol to run wild and for me to understand that I was being punished for having an opinion about a Black artist that went outside of collective thinking. Seeing as the list was published by Glamour—a historically white publication—I understand why the assumption would be a white writer wrote the piece. This is the risk Black writers take when writing for mainstream outlets that aren’t particularly diverse in an industry known for being notoriously white.
This is why when Lizzo retweeted the list saying “SOMEBODY GETTIN FIRED,” it puts Black writers at risk of losing their livelihood. But when it came to light that a Black writer was behind the article, it still didn’t stop people from recklessly hashing out insults. Even a few trusted Black outlets published this as a “story” when all they actually did was lazily summarize random tweets. Blackness isn’t something that can be given or taken away. You cannot perform Blackness when you are, in fact, Black. It doesn’t become invalid because you disagree with something.
While I should tune out the callousness of the internet, people saying that I lost my Blackness is especially hurtful because I am very intentional with how I use my platform. I have written about the abhorrent nature of racism, white supremacy, and actual anti-Blackness. I’ve tackled colorism, hair discrimination, and misogynoir. I published a book centering Black culture and I use every chance I get to advocate for equality. If all of these tweets—and posts and “stories” and comments—are in an effort to protect the creativity and accomplishments of a Black woman, shouldn’t that same courtesy be extended to me?
Candace McDuffie is a music and cultural journalist whose work has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, NBC News, Spin Magazine and Newsweek. Her book, 50 Rappers Who Changed The World, was published last year.