“What is Beyoncé the name of?
: this is a bit the question posed, until February, by a hair-raising seminar given at the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris.
Because the pop star with 200 million albums sold worldwide has become a real object of study for the very serious street school in Ulm – and it's a hit, given the crowded lecture halls.
The ambition of this program?
"Apprehend in a multidisciplinary anchoring the issues raised by the artistic orientation of the singer, both in the history of art, contemporary literature, the history of thought and philosophy."
In video, Break My Soul, the clip of Beyoncé
Here in Europe, starting from a pop icon to reflect, for example, “on the notions of culture and representativeness” seems relatively new in the academic world.
This is not the case in the Anglo-Saxon world, where
are widespread – a legacy of the postmodern approach of
(Michel Foucault, are you there?).
Lately, courses on pop stars are flourishing in academic institutions across the Atlantic.
In early 2022, singer Taylor Swift was the subject of a course at the Clive Davis Institute at New York University.
And, in this month of January, Texas State University is offering twenty lucky people the opportunity to discuss the epistemological issues in the life and work of British singer Harry Styles... What if Beyoncé, Taylor and Harry indeed allowed to decode our contemporary world?
Better, if, using us as models, these celebrities gave us keys to move forward, upgrade, disrupt?
Personal development roadmap in the style of the stars.
Boost your empowerment
Who better than Beyoncé to inspire us?
Since 2014 and her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards (in which she appeared on stage in front of the word FEMINIST in giant letters), Beyoncé has never ceased to claim the heritage of feminist struggles, borrowing in particular from the Nigerian militant writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (on his title
, in 2013).
Adored, powerful, she has become the incarnation of the pop version of this fight, putting back, thanks to her media firepower (286 million followers on Instagram), the word feminism at the heart of debates and in the ears of the youth.
Thanks to Queen Bey, feminisms are no longer the prerogative of academic and militant spheres, everyone can seize it.
At the risk of only doing
"Beyoncé is constantly reinventing herself, it's an insanely relevant object of study."
Kevin Winter/ AFP
This is not the opinion of Joël Zouna, a student in the second year of geography and a master's degree in geopolitics, at the origin of the ENS seminar (with Valentine Truchard and Victor Kandelaft).
For this big fan of the American singer, “we cannot freeze Beyoncé in an analytical framework… A reading only Bourdieusian or
would not be suitable, because Beyoncé is constantly reinventing herself, it is an object of study of insane relevance.
Barthesian mythology, artist as well as brand, its influence radiates throughout the world and consecrates it as a metonymy of the modern and capitalist world”.
And a real source of emancipation for young girls today, for whom the notion of empowerment (a concept born in the United States in a context of social struggles, and which designates the seizure of power by individuals for them -same, Editor's note) no longer holds any secrets.
“Who runs the world?
(“Who runs the world? Women!”), as our feminism teacher, Beyoncé, would say.
Read alsoBeyoncé, Miley Cirus, Taylor Swift… Are feminist pop still credible?
Take control of your love life
In terms of “lose” love, Taylor Swift, American singer with 50 million albums sold worldwide, arises there.
On his list, just about everything that American pop culture has of handsome, muscular and popular kids.
Judge for yourself: Taylor Lautner (seen in the
saga ), Joe Jonas (from the Jonas Brothers group), Harry Styles (One Direction period)… Non-exhaustive list.
However, each time, the relationships fizzle out.
Heartbroken little Taylor Swift, 33, uses this tear material to write her revenge hits.
Jake Gyllenhaal paid the price (in the title
All Too Well,
released almost ten years after their brief relationship).
Accused of being toxic, the actor of
is then "trolled" from all sides on the networks by the hysterical fans of the singer.
Because Taylor is a real
for those who are unhappy in love, the "swifties" even using the lyrics of his hits to sort out their future appointments on Tinder!
In video, Taylor Swift hears her song for the first time on the radio
Last November, a trend emerged on TikTok, the favorite app for 12-25 year olds.
We see short videos featuring exchanges of messages between a Taylor fan and a
In order to be sure that the boy is sensitive and intelligent, the girl sends him excerpts of lyrics from songs talking about feelings or deception… It's up to him to complete with the rest of the verses!
Those who understand the process are likely to "match", the others are zapped...
Admit your weaknesses to become stronger
We know that stars are winning machines – well, not only.
In a recent documentary available on Netflix (
, 2020), Taylor Swift opens up about the eating disorders she suffered from for years, finding herself “never thin enough”.
She also evokes a toxic entertainment culture for young girls, especially via social networks.
His sincerity doubled the power of his message.
For Jean-Victor Blanc, doctor-psychiatrist at Saint-Antoine Hospital in Paris, teacher at Sorbonne University and author of the book
Pop & Psy
(Éditions Plon, 2019), stars can play a key role in media coverage and acceptance of mental illness – we think of Britney Spears or Selena Gomez, who helped bring bipolar disorder to light.
“Taylor Swift doesn't glamorize the subject of anorexia and eating disorders at all.
And in doing so, she shatters the myth of the perfect star.”
For him, there is a “real emotional connection between the star and his fans, a phenomenon of identification.
When a beloved person carries a taboo subject like that of mental health, it will change the way in which we apprehend it.
And that's very positive."
Memo: the superwoman does not exist.
Fork to find your true self
At the start of the year, a university in Texas is offering a course called “Harry Styles and the Cult of Celebrity”.
For Louie Dean Valencia, the history teacher specializing in youth cultures and counter-cultures behind this original project: "If the Beatles can help us understand the 1960s, Harry Styles is a key to deciphering our The contemporary world."
Inclusivity, personal emancipation, but also clothing style: thanks to our young wick singer, everything lights up.
The course will review all the lyrics of Harry's songs, but also his public appearances in concert, and put them into perspective.
Louie Dean Valencia: “Harry Styles is a good case study.
For young people, it represents the possibility of a more democratic space of expression,
The pop star, who has become a sought-after actor, appears in non-gendered outfits signed Gucci, without necessarily having to justify himself.
Let it be said, fashion is political
"He is a committed and intelligent artist, and this will allow us to talk about a lot of subjects, such as the right to dispose of one's own body - whether for the LGBT community or for women, in terms of abortion , for example – but also feminism or… Brexit!
Because let's not forget that Harry Styles is a Brit."
Also on the program, his readings (he is a fan of Haruki Murakami as well as the feminist Susan Sontag, author of the founder
Notes on Camp
, in 1964).
For the academic, the positions taken by Harry Styles are a way of sparking conversation and reflection.
And even to rethink notions of contemporary masculinity and debate “gender fluidity.”
Since the One Direction years (the boy band of his debut which he left in the mid-2010s), our Harry has asserted himself and emancipated himself.
Today, the pop star, who has become a sought-after actor, appears in non-gendered outfits signed Gucci, without necessarily having to justify herself.
Let it be said, fashion is political.
"If the Beatles can help us understand the 1960s, Harry Styles is a key to deciphering our contemporary world."
Getty Images for ABA
Rotate and aim for independence
“Pivoting” is a term often used by startuppers and/or users of the LinkedIn platform.
Basically, it means taking inspiration from your failures and throwing everything to the nettles to move forward.
And that's kind of what Taylor Swift did.
At the start of her successful career, the singer-songwriter distinguished herself in a very codified and very profitable genre: country.
Sensing that she can conquer new markets, Taylor Swift changes gear and heads for pop.
For Albéric Tellier, professor of innovation management at Paris-Dauphine University and author of
Inspired by rock, pop and hip-hop stars to innovate
(Éditions EMS, 2020), Taylor Swift is a textbook case: “From 2011, she decided to completely renew her teams and her working methods.
All this generates tensions in his entourage, but the results will be incredible.
Read alsoModesty, the new ostentation on Instagram
Better still, our little queen of pop (she would be, according to
at the head of a fortune of 570 million dollars) turns out to be a formidable negotiator.
In the 2010s, Taylor Swift engaged in a showdown with streaming platforms, including Spotify, demanding more respect for artists and better redistribution of copyright.
She withdraws her songs from catalogs, and even signs a column in the
Wall Street Journal
, claiming that “labels and their artists will one day decide the price of their albums for themselves”.
In 2018, the pop star demanded ownership of his “masters”, that is to say the original recordings which are used for any future exploitation.
And negotiate step by step with Spotify.
For Albéric Tellier, “Taylor Swift perfectly understood that the robustness of a business model comes from the possession of key resources and a relevant economic equation”.
Taylor Swift, personal management teacher, who would have thought?