This sassy KCL academic can teach you ‘How to be Beyoncé’
He wears drag as he flips powerpoint slides
Exam season means hordes of us sat in the library, wishing away differential equations or trying in vain to comprehend the meaning of life.
But Dr Madison Moore, a research associate at KCL, offers a very different educational experience: An insight in to Beyoncé.
Speaking about his recent “How to be Beyoncé” series of lectures, Madison says: “The talks provided me with a platform to think critically about art, performance, fashion and popular culture.”
Madison doesn’t like to reveal much about his lecture-performance, or as he likes to call it, a “TED talk meets drag show”, and keeps a lot of surprises back.
Moore followed the advice of his thesis advisors at Yale University, who encouraged him to manipulate the confines of academia and combine his “lighthearted LOL side that just wants to wear sequins and think about Beyonce”, with his more serious “deeply nerdy” side.
After all, who’s to tell you the Kantian Ethical theory and Taylor Swift don’t go hand in hand?
Why Beyoncé? Madison has followed her career since Destiny’s child “No, No, No (Part 1)” and according to him she is unquestionably “the most talented artist” of our generation.
He said: “People who were making music with her in the late 90’s and early 2000s – Justin, Britney, Christina – have pretty much slid off the face of the earth in terms of relevance, no shade. But Beyonce has just gotten better.
“I know this might sound strange but since I grew up listening to her I somehow feel like I’m part of the party. I’ve seen her develop and change and at this point I’m pretty sure I’ve seen all her wigs, too.”
Nobody else, Madison believes, has the “extra terrestrial” talent which allows them to perform with such urgency or performance power, “not even Lady Gaga who comes on stage wearing an obelisk”.
But the recent popularity of the event at UCL proves without a doubt you’re in for so much more than a timeline review of Beyonce’s dress attire at the Met Gala (incidentally, 2015’s red carpet look was definitely not a fashion faux-pas).
“I always like my talks to feel like a cinematic experience, so I always dim the lights, and I use a lot of images and pictures of her from album covers and a lot of song samples too. Songs will play throughout and my whole approach is to make the lecture feel fun.
“People can ask questions and I’ll ask questions throughout about the lecture; I think it can be kind of boring to just sit there for an hour.
“I did a lot of shows at universities in the U.S., but every lecture changes and I think of it like a show. It’s funny but it’s also smart, I bring in, like, critical theory and compare it to 2015, it’s fun. Someone might ask a question which completely changes the course of the whole thing, or she might do something too.
“It’s kind of like a little travelling show, like an hour and a half performance piece. It’s about race, the music industry, pop culture, queerness and blackness.”
“Basically I move through talking about, for example, her most recent record in December 2013 and how fans reacted to that. It triggered all these internet memes and people were freaking out and making gifs and stuff.
“Then I move in to talking about what the record means for the music industry. We don’t consume albums anymore, we consume singles and that’s the ‘iTunes effect’, so with that record you had to buy the whole album before the single was released which taps in to the impulse thing where, if you like Beyoncé, you’re going to buy the whole thing ‘right now’, and it sold 800,000 albums in one week – which is a lot.
“So it’s kind of talking about her as a personality, but also what she means for the music industry, the way that we listen to popular music and so on.
“One thing I talk about is how many different Beyoncés there are, there’s the ‘pop Beyoncé’ and then there’s the sort of ‘ratchet Beyoncé’, or ‘good Beyoncé’, and they all seem like different characters but actually they’re a way of tapping in to different markets.
“It also does a historical thing too, so I relate her to pop stars like Elvis and Michael Jackson and also images of black women’s bodies from the 19th century, and racial stereotypes and how she played in to those”
“I think she’s a really strong business woman. One of the questions that people always ask me in Q and A’s is ‘she’s still on Columbia records, and she’s probably managed by white suits or whatever who are in charge of her career and she has no real power right?’ But I think you have to remember that she is so in charge of her own labour, she’s the one doing all the singing, she’s the one doing all the dancing, she’s the one drinking hot tea between numbers to help her throat, so no matter who the suits are who are like giving green lights or whatever, it’s still all of her labour and I think that’s the most important thing to think about.
Madison explains: “Anyone can make something sound unnecessarily complicated. The real finesse is in taking difficult, abstract concepts and making them seem easy and cool.
When he’s not educating us about the “Drunk in Love” diva, Madison can be found DJ’ing, hitting up the club scene (preferably in a “shitty, dark, smokey basement with banging underground techno”), and writing for highly esteemed publications.
“One of the things I’m working on is building a name for myself in London. I played my first party at a bar in Shoreditch back in February. It was so much fun.”
Moore will also be launching his upcoming book on fabulous-ness in pop culture: “The Theory of Fabulous Class” (a must read if you share the same ambitions of a “ghetto-fab” lifestyle).
His next talk will be held on the 19th of October at the Arts and Humanities Festival at Kings College London, where he promises a number of new “sexy changes” have been made.
Moore has also promised to be actively involved with the ‘Yoncé Appreciation Society’ at UCL next year.
We can’t wait.