The Subtle, Unexpected Importance of Beyoncé’s Tour Merch
If you’re a concert freak like myself, you probably noticed that artists have seriously stepped up their merchandise game lately. Alongside a slew of badass clothes and a foam middle finger, Rihanna sold a pillow and beanie featuring Rhenna, her hysterical Instagram stick figure, at the Anti World Tour (I have both and feel no shame about it). Yeezy opened a pop-up shop filled with high-end Pablo merch, and Britney has a permanent Las Vegas storefront, also known as my happy place, featuring everything from flip-flops to old-school lockets.
As artists, both new and legendary, rely more on touring and merch to make a living, the pressure is on to create innovative and eye-catching lines that fans will pay more than a pretty penny for. Leave it to one certain Queen B to not only raise the stakes in great tour merch, but also create a line with empowering social messages.
Before Beyoncé even took the stage Wednesday at the opening night of her Formation World Tour in Miami, the Internet was already collectively flipping out over a specific piece from the tour’s merch range. The shirt has only two words, but what two words they are: “Boycott Beyoncé”. Take a deep breath and soak that in again. Beyoncé herself is selling shirts, and matching phone cases, that spread the message to damn boycott her. Are you on the floor in sheer awe yet?
Of course, the Internet reactions were hysterical, as people were bowled over by Beyoncé’s sense of humor and utterly fantastic pettiness. But what seems like an ironic joke for laughs and cash is actually an incredibly important statement on control and ownership. After her Super Bowl Halftime Show earlier this year (what is a Coldplay? Is Bruno Mars a planet?), Beysus caught backlash (gasp!) for alleged anti-police sentiment displayed during the performance of “Formation.” The song’s visual, which featured Bey atop a drowning police car amid powerful Black Lives Matter imagery, didn’t help matters. In response, police unions in cities like Nashville publicly refused to provide security for their Formation Tour stop, and other ignorant white people, like TV host and public nuisance Tomi Lahren, called to boycott the superstar. Her response? Try. I dare you.
When I saw #BoycottBeyoncé trending I thought the police 🚨 were back at it again LOL turns out it was Beyoncé being genius! 🤓💵
— Terry J (@TerryJOnAir) April 27, 2016
By selling the “Boycott Beyoncé” merch, Bey took absolute control of the situation, dismissing the message by completely embracing it. Like us sane people, she knows the backlash is ridiculous and unwarranted, yet it caught on faster than cronuts. What better way to respond to it then by magnifying its ridiculousness on some merch and make some bank on it? Beyoncé not only exposed the critics’ desperation, but she outsmarted them and beat them to the punch. Now she’s profiting off their message. Talk about taking back control of your image and message. As the saying goes, “If you can’t beat them, join them”. Beysus somehow did both.
Even though it’s the main thing making headlines, “Boycott Beyoncé” is not the only essential merch on sale at the Formation Tour: simple white t-shirts and sweaters emblazoned with “Beyhive Boys” are also available. At first glance, they seem like simple shoutouts to the men in her fanbase, a cute but insignificant notion. In reality, this merch is so much more than that.
As a male pop music fan since I was literally a fetus in my mother’s stomach, I have gone to as many shows as I could since childhood, and buying inhumane amounts of merch has always been one of my favorite parts of the experience. The one caveat–a lot of it was made for and marketed exclusively to women. It’s not a bad thing at all, because not everything is made for men, as it should be. But it did make guys, especially younger ones, feel subordinate when they were left with the typical tour date t-shirts to choose from. Hey girls, you have male fans too.
Beyoncé is a powerful feminist figure, and everyone should applaud her for using her stage to support female dancers, musicians, and women in general. But the fact that she made a small shoutout to the male members of the Beyhive and created something specifically for us, but something that women can still wear because why the fuck not, speaks volumes. Women dominate as they rightfully should in many areas, including in many fandoms, but it feels nice to simply be acknowledged as a male pop fan. Inclusiveness is everything.
And because Beyoncé is always empowering, it comes as no surprise to see some merch that encourages everyone to be their best selves every day. The “Slay All Day” tee is not only a play on lyrics from “Formation”, but a simple reminder to ourselves, and others, that we need to embrace who we are and stay confident. Because we do slay. All day. We slay. We slay. We gon’ slay. gets carried away.
Tour merchandise is usually only made because gullible fans are guaranteed to spend top dollar. But with the Formation World Tour, Beyoncé redefines the purpose of merch and shows the power that it can hold. It can make fans feel encouraged. It can make fans feel included. It can make artists themselves take control of their image and create a unique connection with fans. I’m guilty of dropping hundreds on merch that I hold as my most prized possessions, but they don’t hold nearly the same importance as Beyonce’s newest range. She proved that merch can have a message, and I can’t wait to support her message at my Formation show in July. My poor wallet.
Images via E!, PopSugar and Noisey.
Stay tuned to Milk for more Beyoncé, because we love her and also do not wish to incur the wrath of the Beyhive.