Beyoncé dazzled audiences on Saturday with her first live performance in five years with a gig at the opening of a new luxury hotel in Dubai — though not all of her fans were impressed.
The exclusive performance at Atlantis The Royal only seated 1,500, with the audience comprised of specially invited influencers, celebrities, and other industry figures. Though there was a strict no-phones policy, footage of the elaborate performance quickly circulated online.
Beyoncé showcased several classic songs such as "Crazy in Love" and "Beautiful Liar," including a performance of "Brown Skin Girl" which her daughter Blue Ivy joined her for. The pop icon also covered Etta James’ 1960 hit, "At Last."
While the show marked a long-awaited comeback for Queen B, many of the artist's LGBTQ+ fans were disappointed in her choice of venue, given Dubai's strict laws against same-sex marriage.
As an icon and ally to the LGBTQ+ community, music journalist Abigail Firth said that Beyoncé's music is "indebted to LGBTQ+ culture."
"It seems like a really misguided choice from her," she told the BBC, adding, "People feel a little bit reluctant to give Beyoncé any kind of backlash because of how appreciated she is by the LGBTQ community. But she doesn't necessarily get a free pass."
Beyoncé's latest album, Renaissance, famously drew inspiration from several Black, queer artists, paying tribute to dance music from queer icons, as well as drag ballrooms in 1800s Harlem, New York. She reportedly did not perform any songs from Renaissance at the show.
Firth added that Beyoncé was supposedly paid $24 million for the performance, noting, "She didn't really need to do this, she didn't really need the money. That's probably where some of the backlash is stemming from as well."
While Dubai, which is part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has a harsh history of human rights abuses, some say that Beyoncé's decision to perform at the location was a progressive statement, despite its elitist circumstances. Beyoncé notedly performed with the Firdaus Orchestra, an all-women group featuring instrumentalists of 24 different nationalities.
Aaron Carty, a drag queen from the Beyoncé Experience, praised the artist for her decision, and said that her support of the LGBTQ+ community has not changed.
"Beyoncé performing in Dubai is a statement in itself. We are only going to make a change by talking about it," he said. "She loves us gays. She loves the LGBT community."
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