Should Beyonce headline Glastonbury Festival 2011?
Two hacks argue out the biggest issue of the day
YES says Chris Eustace
And so it looks like Beyonce will grab that third headline spot at Glastonbury 2011, with U2 and Coldplay seemingly shoe-ins already. The twitterati are out in force, moaning that she's "not Glastonbury material", that it "sums up what Glastonbury has become" et cetera et cetera. Really?! Are we still doing this? How, after the forces of boredom were defeated by Jay-Z in 2008, do these kind of complaints keep cropping up every year?
If we're "keeping to Glastonbury's traditions", then Hawkwind would be headlining every year, would that be preferable? There's been dance, rock, indie, pop, hip-hop, ska, reggae and probably even Peruvian nose-flute music at Glastonbury for about as long as it's been on. Is it not good for a festival that, for every John Peel stage indie sensation, dubstep DJ set or folkster on the Park stage, there could be a pop behemoth elsewhere?
Of course people are going to want to comment on the headliners. It's a national sport. Tickets sell out without the line-up being announced, testament to the festival's popularity, and the notion that there's always something worth seeing there. But are we saying that though we know all kinds of music across all genres will feature, only certain types of music or artists are seen as "headliner material"? What kind of message does that send out? While there's no problem having probably the two biggest bands in the world headlining, it's a masterstroke to have Beyonce as a glamorous, fun flipside to the earnest stadium rock of U2 and Coldplay.
If anything, Beyonce is far more well-known than her husband was when he topped the bill. Those singles read like a directory of the biggest pop songs of the last 10 years – ‘Single Ladies’ (I guarantee you people will turn up to Glasto in black leotards and not much else in homage to this one, they're practicing the moves as we speak), ‘Irreplaceable’, ‘Sweet Dreams’, ‘Halo’, and that's even if she doesn't decide to do some kind of Destiny's Child medley.
Booking Bey also throws up lots of tasty duet possibilities. Will Jay return to the Glasto stage to do his rap on the titanic ‘Crazy In Love’? Leylines may totally change course with the reaction that will get regardless, but it would be pretty much perfect if all were present and correct. Maybe Gaga will drop in for a blast of ‘Telephone’, Shakira could turn up for ‘Beautiful Liar’, perhaps friends Coldplay will appear for some kind of one-off cover.
So we'd get other-worldly celeb stardust, but not only that, it'd be the most daring and unpredictable headline set of the weekend. We more or less know which songs the other two will play; their fans know every word and probably any new material as well. They may never dream of paying to see Ms Knowles in the "real world", but this is Glastonbury and with heart-stopping anthems and ballads ready to be belted out - plus the "will they, won't they" factor that no other artist on the bill can match - they'd be well advised not to miss it. Zane Lowe's riposte to whinging tweeters says it best: "she would tear that place up. And anybody who doubts it will be embarrassed."
NO argues Chris Swindells
I’m not Noel Gallagher – a philistine who loathes each and every musical note that deviates from the three chords troubling his head. I still don’t want to see Jay-Z’s better half close Glastonbury 2011.
Glastonbury closing sets are made for history book rewriting, the ‘where were you?’ moments. Not an encore of ‘Video Phone’ with a pre-recorded bit of ear-bothering nonsense from the songs co-starlet Lady GaGa.
Beyond ‘Crazy in Love’ and a few solo re-workings of Destinys Child’s (remember them?) back catalogue, what has Beyonce Knowles got to give? Up against Stevie sign, sealing and delivering it, and Blur’s universal appeal in 2009 it’s quite ridiculous the 29-year-old could be up as the closing note of the festival.
Those shouting ‘hurray’ for a result over ‘bland’ guitar rock, are you really cheering on the ‘eccentricity’ and ‘experimentation’ of Beyonce Knowles? She’s a vocalist not known for pushing the envelope in musical dimensions. Reworking the musical style and accomplishments of Diana Ross with more songs about camera phones and jelly isn’t putting you on an artistic pedestal with the other favourite rumours for Glastonbury, Bjork and Prince.
I don’t want to exclude pop’s 21st century diva but, as Shikaira discovered last year, a late-afternoon warble can galvanize a festival crowd. With the pressure off and the sun on, Beyonce would thrive. Wait a few hours later and as the Gorrilaz found out no amount of cinematic tricks or animated pistol throwing can save those who have prematurely shot the gun with waiting their turn to headline.
Three albums and four UK number one songs aren’t going to get you there either. Westlife managed three times as many but the world doesn’t want to see them near Somerset that weekend. Beyonce’s debut solo album ‘Dangerouslyinlove’ spent four weeks at number one but still won’t be remembered in the same sentence, paragraph or major literature work as The Verve’s ‘Urban Hymns’ or Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’, or maybe Paul McCartney’s ‘Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band‘?
Both sides can agree one thing though; unlike the corporate celebrations you can witness at V and Isle of Wight Festival, the headliner at Glastonbury is really irrelevant. Even when T Rex strolled up to play the very first one in 1970 you get the picture a couple stood under the tree in front of the Pyramid Stage whispering to each other: “20th century whatever – T. Rex my arse! Want to see what’s going down in Arcadia or Trash City? Or just take these hip new ‘acids’ straight down to Stone Circle?”