Today is the final Friday the 13th of the decade. Think about that. Rather, think about Friday the 13th, December 2013. Do you remember where you were? Do you remember what happened? Of course you do. Because the world stopped.
That was the day the earth not only stood still, but did a back-bend to its heel, whipped its ponytail around, and dropped into a spread eagle.
Friday the 13th has traditionally been considered an unlucky, even spooky day—so much so that there’s even a word to describe the irrational fear of it: paraskevidekatriaphobia. Good luck pronouncing that, sis, but leave it to Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter to turn the unluckiest day of the year into her most fortunate. With her surprise drop of Beyoncé, oft referred to as Self-Titled, she set the music world up for a decade in which she would continuously stun us and surpass our expectations.
So much has been written, said, and screamed drunkenly in gay bars about this album that I don’t need to tell you. It changed the way artists release music and the way we consume music, and it elevated Beyoncé to a completely different stratosphere from any and all other singers regardless of gender or genre.
“Male or female, makes no difference, I stopped the world,” Queen Bey would later brag on fellow bad bitch Nicki Minaj’s “Feeling Myself.”
But one of the most memorable aspects of the whole Beyoncé moment was the internet’s reaction to it. Wigs were snatched, scalps went bald, and edges were endangered. I remember that halcyon Friday morning I woke up in my little studio apartment in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and started checking my social media time lines only to find the gays in a mass hysteria.
The album had surfaced in the early hours of the morning, but it being a Friday, that evening—and for the rest of the weekend—Beyoncé blared out from nearly every bar on every street. It was snowing around that time, as I recall, having dragged myself out into the frozen New York tundra to celebrate my friend Amini’s birthday in the neighboring Carroll Gardens neighborhood of the city’s thoroughest borough. That night is a drunken blur, but the memory of me, back arched, kitty-cat crawling on Amini’s apartment floor to that relentlessly thumping beat from “Partition” is as clear as ever.
We went to the Phoenix bar afterwards in Manhattan’s East Village, determined to brave the snow for a good time, if not a long time, and to hear “Partition,” “Blow,” “Drunk in Love,” and the album’s other bops as they were intended: loudly and with cocktails in our hands, surrounded by fags. Though not as explicit as, say, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé’s music and entire visual presentation have always spoken gay fluently.
It’s her hyper-femininity mixed with her aggressive swagger that led her to adopt the moniker of King Bey; its her references to old school Bob Fosse and the ballroom community and the campiness of “Why Don’t You Love Me”; it’s Dreamgirls, for god’s sake.
Fun fact: Bey’s high pony from “Get Me Bodied” officiated the first federally recognized same-sex wedding. And, naturally, Beyoncé had a lot for the gays to obsess over and love—from the wigs to the lewks to the moves to the sultry lyrics. And the King made sure to collaborate with a few queens, herself. “Superpower” featured a guest vocal from Frank Ocean, while a young Todrick Hall provided choreography for “Blow”—
—which also gave bottoms across the land this mantra to live by:
While she would move more into social commentary with Lemonade, that seminal album’s predecessor represented a significant artistic leap for her, and inspired other artists to create their own visual albums and to attempt their own surprise releases. But after Bey did it, that particular stunt could never really be duplicated, and certainly never topped.
There would be other Friday the 13ths throughout this decade, but it’s safe to say that none have been as impactful, provided as much joy, or given as much life as December 13, 2013.
And we even got a new word out of it.