Super Bowl: Beyoncé takes centre stage at big game

From The Toronto Star:

It’s hard to imagine that a nipple slip once overshadowed Beyoncé Knowles.

That was nine years ago. Knowles, now 31, was preparing to leave Destiny’s Child for a solo career following the release of her debut album, Dangerously In Love.

There it was, Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” at the hand of Justin Timberlake during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. The incident dwarfed Knowles’ singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to open the game, a lifelong dream she’d had since seeing Whitney Houston’s 1991 (lip-synched) rendition.

Dangerously In Love, meanwhile, went four times platinum. It was a statement album from Knowles that earned five Grammys, was the precursor to her onstage alter-ego Sasha Fierce and gave birth to the Beyoncé brand.

This time around, Knowles is the halftime headliner at Sunday’s Super Bowl in New Orleans. And while there’s talk of a much-rumoured reunion with former Destiny’s Child bandmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, make no mistake, this show is all about the Queen Bey.

Knowles’ recent $50 million, multi-year and cross-platform deal with Pepsi has paved the way for a new kind of artist, explains Eric Alper, CTV’s music correspondent and media relations director at eOne Music Canada.

“They’re not just a musician who records an album and goes onstage and performs; they’re a brand,” Alper said, adding the deal is both an endorsement for advertisements and millions in support of Knowles’ selected creative projects.

“It’s multi-millions, multi-faceted and it’s worldwide.”

When she took the stage in 2004 to sing the U.S. national anthem, Dangerously In Love had already gone platinum, twice. “Crazy in Love,” a song that featured future husband Jay-Z was on its way to turning gold and while Destiny’s Child was winding down, Knowles was just getting started, on her own terms.

Knowles now owns her every likeness: from her unattainable figure to her face on a can of Pepsi, and everything in between. And with more than 75 million albums sold, she’s not shy about stating just that.

“I’ve worked so hard during my childhood to meet this goal: By the time I was 30 years old, I could do what I want,” Knowles said in a recent interview with GQ. “I’ve reached that. I feel very fortunate to be in that position. But I’ve sacrificed a lot of things, and I’ve worked harder than probably anyone I know.”

The 2004 Super Bowl was a homecoming party for Knowles, a chance for her to shine in her hometown of Houston. Destiny’s Child’s run was coming to an end. Destiny Fulfilled, the group’s final album, dropped in late 2004 and, by 2005, the split was official.

A symbolic casting of Knowles as the lead actress in 2006’s Dreamgirls, which was likened to Diana Ross rising out of The Supremes, took her solo act to the silver screen where she earned a pair of Golden Globes, including Best Actress.

In 2008, she married rapper Jay-Z, cementing the pair as an American power couple that also owns a piece of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.

I Am. . . Sasha Fierce, Knowles’ third solo album, also debuted that year at the top of the charts. It included the hit “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” and was a revitalization effort of sorts for Knowles that allowed her bring out her performing alter ego, Fierce: one she’s said to have had since she first started to dance as a child.

“With Sasha Fierce particularly, it protects Beyoncé when she’s onstage,” Alper said. “So that you really are watching Beyoncé, but you’re watching another side of her that maybe personally can’t be brought out unless she thinks of maybe something else or that she was somebody else when she was onstage.”

Building on 2008, both Knowles and Jay-Z performed at U.S. President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. Knowles sang “America the Beautiful” before performing “At Last,” a song popularized by Etta James, for the first couple’s first dance, at the Obamas’ request.

The notoriously private star moved slightly out of the spotlight after her 108-date “I am…” world tour brought in $119.5 million between 2009 and 2010, according to Forbes.

Her father and then-manager, Matthew Knowles, was going through a divorce with her mother, Tina, in 2009. Knowles would eventually professionally drop her father as manager in 2011, and took time off to have her daughter, Blue Ivy, at the beginning of 2012.

But she didn’t stay out of the spotlight long. The January release of the first Destiny’s Child single in eight years, “Nuclear,” sparked reunion rumours.

And when the dust settles from the Super Bowl madness, Knowles will continue to control her image with the release of her Life Is But A Dreamself-financed and self-directed HBO documentary Life Is But A Dream. She pulled clips from her own library of footage, both professional as well as diary-style webcam entries, for the film. Knowles shows you what she wants you to see about her life, giving an answer to where the megastar is headed next.

“Wherever she wants to go,” Alper said.

“When she finishes up this Super Bowl, which could very well be the most watched Super Bowl in history because everybody’s going to want to see what she does, how do you top that? If there’s one thing that’s for certain, don’t ever count Beyoncé and her team of Beyoncé and Jay-Z out.”