From blandly cute child stardom to booty-licious, cold isolationism to diva-level, so-in-luv obsession to pan-media omnipresence — that's the trail former Destiny's Child centerpiece Beyoncé Knowles has blazed, and whether any of these poses/phases were sincere seems almost beside the point today. Knowles' career has been such a master class in the cultivation of pop mystique — the "exclusive" interviews that give the illusion of transparency, the winky-yet-emphatic denials of a romance with Def Jam prez Jay-Z (despite tons of paparazzi-procured evidence to the contrary), the tabloid rumors allowed to run rampant — that her CDs almost take a backseat to speculation, movie roles, and makeup commercials. Why, one could be forgiven for totally forgetting that B'Day (her second solo album) even dropped last year and was a juicy slice of hip-hop-fluent R&B cantaloupe. A lot to like, there: the minimalist klaxon histrionics of "Ring the Alarm," the juke-joint, kept-man funk of "Suga Mama," and the monied sincerity-feint kiss-off of "Irreplaceable." Sure, the sentiments expressed readily fed on and played into certain rumor-mill narratives, and the liner photos could've doubled as a catalog for Ms. Knowles' fashion line. But as a society, we're pretty far removed from the day when sex appeal and a few expensive hooks were enough to keep anyone in the public's good graces, let alone its collective memory.


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