Dear Beyonce: Stop Stealing Other Artists’ Work!

Dear Beyonce,

I am a huge, HUGE fan of yours. I get giggly and excited every time you come out with a new single or video. I will watch even the most boring and endless award show if it means I can catch a performance of yours. And I gush to anyone who will listen about how great you are.

You’re one of the defining artists of my generation. I grew up with you during the Destiny’s Child days, and loved your badass girl power vibe. And you’ve only gotten better. You are a magnetic performer. I am constantly blown away by your incredible energy and your ability to engage an audience. Not to mention your talent for singing and dancing. You don’t fake it the way many pop stars do.

It’s for these reasons that I am so disappointed that you have developed a habit of copying other artists’ work. The most dramatic example of this problem came recently, when Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker pointed out that you had copied much of the choreography in your “Countdown” video from her earlier works Rosas Danst Rosas and Achterland. And not only choreography – you used costumes and camera angles that are almost identical to those in films of De Keersmaeker’s work. This video puts shots from “Countdown” and footage of De Keersmaeker’s company side by side:

It’s obvious from these clips that you weren’t just “inspired” by De Keersmaeker. You copied her choreography, move for move, step for step. When you use other artists’ ideas, without permission and without giving credit, it’s stealing. Plain and simple. While I can’t deny that your performance in this video is incredible, it’s heartbreaking to see you shamelessly duplicate another artist’s vision.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time you’ve been caught stealing. Earlier this year, you got called out as a copycat after your performance at the Billboard Awards. This video shows that the similarities between your performance and an earlier one by Italian singer Lorella Cuccarini are too close for comfort:

You admitted that you were inspired by Cuccarini after being accused of stealing from her. And your creative team claimed to have taken inspiration from many other sources. That may be true, but anyone who watches your performance alongside Cuccarini’s has to admit that some of the images projected on the screen behind you are almost identical to those in Cuccarini’s display. But you gave no credit upfront to Cuccarini or her collaborators.

And these weren’t your first missteps. You’ve been sliding down the slippery slope into creative robbery since 2007. Many of the moves in your “Get Me Bodied” video were taken directly from “Rich Man’s Frug,” a number from the musical Sweet Charity. The piece was created by iconic Broadway choreographer Bob Fosse, and you failed to give him any kind of credit.

And then there was “Single Ladies.” The video that, thanks in part to Kanye West, no one will ever forget. Once again, it was pointed out that you had taken moves directly from a Fosse piece, this one called “Mexican Breakfast.” You confirmed in an interview that you had been inspired by Bob Fosse. Why, then, didn’t you give him credit in the first place? You wouldn’t allow someone to sample one of your songs without permission. So why is it acceptable for you to sample someone’s choreography without at least acknowledging them?

Critics are even calling you out on your new video for “Love On Top,” saying that it is too similar to New Edition’s video for “If It Isn’t Love”. I don’t think the similarities are quite as glaring here, but one thing’s for sure – there’s nothing new about this. You’re borrowing from the past, instead of doing something fresh.

As a dancer and choreographer myself, it makes me sick to see you steal. All artists deserve to receive credit for ideas that they have generated.

One of the most upsetting things about your artistic thievery is the fact that you are profiting from it. You are a business, Beyonce. A brand. Each video you make brings in money. You are banking on creations that are not your own.

I’ve heard people say that all this may be the fault of your creative team. Personally, I don’t believe that an artist as established as you are could have so little control over their own image. But if it’s true, then you obviously need to ditch the people you’re currently working with. You have the ability – and the money – to hire collaborators who have dynamite ideas of their own, and don’t need to pilfer from others.

I get it, Beyonce. You can imitate these iconic performances because you’re good enough to do it. You have the dancing chops and stage presence to pull off just about anything. But I would rather see you do something that only Beyonce can do. True artists create work that is completely original. And I believe that you have the talent to do that. You are too gifted to waste your abilities on imitation. So please, Beyonce, stop stealing other artists’ work.



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