SZA’s “The Weekend” is a sensual track bearing the same content overlooked in the pristine vocals of the late Whitney Houston in “Saving All my Love” (1985). A contemporary rendition of the ode to the other-woman, SZA resurrects the seemingly long lost sound of rhythm and blues. The Weekend’s popularity proves that popular music does not have to be soul-less, but requiring a displacement of black souls in one of many degrading caricatures. In this particular song, the black female assumes the caricature of the female hyper-sexual counter-part to a misogynist.
Though, to the listener seeking substance, the topic of the song proves a backdrop to soothing vocals and the sound of actual instruments and not a technologically-produced melody. Yet the presence of hyper-sexuality and black female devaluement as present in the song’s lyrics, exposes the cost of black visibility as deeming the black female body the literal weekend, or understudy of not just the music industry, but the world.
The silver lining to this video comes in the black female form as gaze and subject. So while an eventual feast of the oppositional gaze, “The Weekend” marks a combative initiative the media bound black body can take to ensure that the video rendition of our music is not a showcase not a sacrifice. Yet despite the feat of sisterhood shaping the black female form in white media, the SZA video debuted to a sour reception.
This sour reception does not resent the display of SZA’s body in what some would deem revealing outfits, but resent that SZA did not use the video to embody “the weekend” or displace the black female body as “the other woman.” Given the song references what the contemporary climate calls the side-chick, it is beneficial to the black female image that SZA not play this role in a video. The video, as is, also spares the black male the demonized hyper-sexuality aligned with the side-chick image—an ever-pervasive image in the white media.
I, like many, stumbled into SZA’s musical catalogue after her numerous features on Issa Rae’s HBO series Insecure. Although not featured on the series, SZA’s “The Weekend” proves the soundtrack to Insecure’s supporting character Molly (Yvonne Orji) who embodies “the weekend” in her affair with a married man. This portrayal, although a negative reflection of black male-female relationships and black male-female sexuality—failed to receive the outrage dispelled onto the SZA video.
While disappointing, this reaction is anything but surprising.
The upset featured in the video seems to stem from the desire to see black bodies in a negative caricature that has become typical in black representation in the white media. Negative portrayals of black bodies have not only become standard but a means of enjoyment.
In The Racial Psychopath and Other Essays, Dr. Bobby Wright sites black suffering as a
way of life, a point that substantiates why negativity remains a veiled joy for the black collective. Namely, it is not that these images truly bring joy to blacks, but that it grants stagnancy to an anticipated suffering (in varying degrees) associated with the black experience.
Thus, it is a mental espousal to the degrading and demeaning that prevents many from enjoying the plurality of a black female beauty embodied in the Solange directed SZA video.
Accurately featured in the video, the black female form is natural, untouched, and graceful. Her placement alongside grungy images, deftly personifying the rose that grew from concrete–a too often forgotten mantra of the black female narrative.
Furthermore, despite debuting to a caustic reception, SZA’s video for “The Weekend” succeeds in depicting the black female form as central and not only spotlight- worthy, but a spotlight in and of herself.
P.S.: If I would have directed the video, SZA would have been dressed like a Kemetian Queen. The referenced man would have been married to the movement and sleeping with success–SZA would have personified both “the movement” and “success–” illustrating the same black woman as the wife and girlfriend, the main-chick and side-chick, because black love can and does exist. And not just on the weekdays…
Black Power ❤