Wednesday, October 4, 2023

What Beyoncé’s Covid Beekeeping Has to Do With ‘Break My Soul’


The Beyhive has an official beehive: Beyoncé is now a beekeeper. Did it help her pen her new hit single “Break My Soul”?

Quarantine changed life for all of us, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter was no exception as is evident in her new single, “Break My Soul.”

The song touches on the last two years in an all-hell’s-gonna-break-lose beat, with lyrics that address the Great Resignation/Unionization as well as the stress of lockdown, and, even, the stress of the last several weeks as SCOTUS ruled in favor of looser gun laws, stricter laws on women’s bodies, and just this week, fewer regulations on heat-trapping emissions linked to global warming.

“’Break My Soul’ is Beyoncé as an SSRI, her attempt to assuage widespread depression and crushing stress, while acknowledging the predicament in which many of her non-zillionaire listeners find themselves,” writes Matthew Strauss for Pitchfork.

With lyrics like “I’m takin’ my new salvation, And I’ma build my own foundation,” the Queen of pop “tough-loves us out of our pandemic hovels, physical and mental,” Strauss writes.

“During quarantine, I went from overindulgences to creating positive rituals drawing from past generations and putting my own spin on things,” the 28-time Grammy Award winner told Harper’s Bazaar in an interview last year.

The singer found salvation in one of the unlikeliest places: a real life Bey hive—one filled with actual bees, though. She’s now working on a hemp and bee farm with about 80,000 bees. “I’ve even got hives on my roof!”

The hives and hemp were part of a journey of self-inquiry, she says, as the wife, mother, and entrepreneur neared her 40th birthday. Beyoncé has three children with husband Jay-Z (Shawn Carter).

Quarantine life

Longtime New Yorkers, Beyoncé and Jay-Z purchased a home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Bel Air in 2017. Carter recently confirmed Los Angeles is now the couple’s permanent home.

“I intend to keep my primary residence in Los Angeles, California, and do not intend to move my primary residence to another state. I pay California state taxes. In light of these facts, I consider myself to be domiciled in Los Angeles, California,” the rapper said in recent court filings.

Quarantine and nearing a milestone birthday forced Beyoncé take stock of her life and the pressures of being a multi-hyphenate woman in today’s world.

“I’ma let down my hair ’cause I lost my mind, Bey is back and I’m sleepin’ real good at night,” she sings in the new hit.

“I think like many women, I have felt the pressure of being the backbone of my family and my company and didn’t realize how much that takes a toll on my mental and physical well-being,” she said.

“I have not always made myself a priority. I’ve personally struggled with insomnia from touring for more than half of my life. Years of wear and tear on my muscles from dancing in heels. The stress on my hair and skin, from sprays and dyes to the heat of a curling iron and wearing heavy makeup while sweating on stage. I’ve picked up many secrets and techniques over the years to look my best for every show. But I know that to give the best of me, I have to take care of myself and listen to my body.”

Return to nature

Part of that healing came by way of the discovery of CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in hemp that’s said to bring stress relief, aid with sleep, and reduce inflammation.

“I discovered CBD on my last tour, and I’ve experienced its benefits for soreness and inflammation,” Beyoncé said. “It helped with my restless nights and the agitation that comes from not being able to fall asleep.”

Cannabis interest runs in the family; Jay-Z is behind the luxury cannabis brand, Monogram. It launched in 2020 with $50 hand-rolled joints. The 1.5-gram joints are rolled by “highly trained artisans” using small-batch produced cannabis, and retail for about double the average product.

Image courtesy Monogram

The Knowles-Carter clan is embracing a return to nature, like other celebrities, including another power Hollywood couple, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, who grew their own food during lockdown on their solar-powered property.

“And now I’m building a hemp and a honey farm,” Beyoncé said. “I’m so happy that my daughters will have the example of those rituals from me. One of my most satisfying moments as a mom is when I found Blue one day soaking in the bath with her eyes closed, using blends I created and taking time for herself to decompress and be at peace.”

Declining bee populations

Beekeeping has become more than a trend in recent years, it’s a vital means to keep these critical pollinators thriving. Populations have been steadily declining over the last half-century. According to the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Survey, the total number of managed honey bee colonies decreased from 5 million in the 1940s to about 2.66 million today.

“There are many factors that may have contributed to this long-term slide, a number of them economic or cultural through the 1980s,” the USDA says on its website. “These may have included a drop in the number of farms, especially small farms after World War II, accompanied by increasing opportunities for off-farm jobs for farm wives who often sold honey and honey products. In addition, drops in prices of honey started the downward slide in the number of colonies. In the late 1980s, the onset of Varroa mites and other bee health issues played a role in another drop in numbers of managed colonies. Typical average annual losses jumped to about 15-22 percent of managed colonies.”

Image courtesy Kunal Kalra on Unsplash

But it’s the recent surge in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)—a mysterious affliction that leads bees to abandon their hives and die suddenly—that has led to an uptick in backyard beekeeping. Losses from CCD have been estimated as high as 30 percent of all recent hive declines.

Without bees, food prices would skyrocket as they work for “free” to pollinate about one-third of our fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Rooftop and backyard beekeeping has become a trend for Millennials along with other DIY projects like home-brewing and making kombucha and granola.

A healing journey

But for Beyoncé, the hemp and hives are much more personal, a part of her own healing journey.

“In the past, I spent too much time on diets, with the misconception that self-care meant exercising and being overly conscious of my body. My health, the way I feel when I wake up in the morning, my peace of mind, the number of times I smile, what I’m feeding my mind and my body—those are the things that I’ve been focusing on,” she said.

“Mental health is self-care too. I’m learning to break the cycle of poor health and neglect, focusing my energy on my body and taking note of the subtle signs that it gives me. Your body tells you everything you need to know, but I’ve had to learn to listen.”

And like she sings in the new single, “I’m tellin’ everybody.”


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