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Beyoncé faces backlash for performing private show in Dubai

'Ditching her own progressive values, she put a money-grabbing pay cheque before human rights'

By Tom Skinner

Beyoncé wears a sparkly blue suit on stage
Beyoncé. (Picture: Wikimedia commons/ J.ébey)

Beyoncé has faced criticism for accepting a reported $24million (£19.4m) to perform at the launch of a luxury hotel in Dubai.

The pop star played a 17-song set to mark the opening of the Atlantis The Royal in the United Arab Emirates city on Saturday night (January 21). It marked Beyoncé‘s first headline show since late 2018.

Various influencers and journalists had last week been invited to the private event, which was promised to be a “once in a lifetime” experience.

But many fans soon took issue with Beyoncé’s involvement. Homosexuality remains a crime punishable by death in the United Arab Emirates, with some people noting the singer’s positioning as a supposed LGBTQIA+ ally.

Additionally, the star did not perform any tracks from last year’s Renaissance – an album that celebrates queer artists, people of colour and other marginalised groups. In a four-star review, Rolling Stone UK wrote: “[Beyoncé is] using [her power] to inspire women, Black people, and the LGBTQ+ community at a time when their rights are being stripped away.”

One reaction to last weekend’s gig on Twitter read: “No beef but I’m struggling to understand why Beyoncé, who has half a billion dollars, would accept 20 million dollars to make her debut performance of the Renaissance album, a record which lifts heavily from queer culture, in Dubai, a country where LGBT rights aren’t recognised.

“I get it, everyone wants their coin, but when you’re THAT rich, is it THAT worth it?”

Over on Reddit, another fan wrote: “There is nothing iconic about Beyoncé getting paid an ungodly amount of money to promote a country that is so brazenly anti-human rights.”

A third person said: “Beyoncé doing a paid for press tour in Dubai doesn’t sit well with me, especially with the influences for Renaissance being queer ballroom culture. It’s illegal and a death sentence to be gay in Dubai.”

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, meanwhile, tweeted: “Beyonce performs in #Dubai’s homophobic dictatorship.

“Ditching her own progressive values, she put a money-grabbing pay cheque before human rights. And sang no songs from [the] Renaissance album, to appease anti-LGBT+ regime that has death penalty for gay sex?”

You can see that reaction and more below.

However, some fans have pointed out that the private show was staged in partnership with IAM Entertainment – a live events agency founded and run by Middle Eastern Women, with whom Beyoncé is reportedly collaborating.

The set list for the pop star’s recent Dubai concert included classic songs such as ‘Crazy In Love’, ‘Halo’, ‘Drunk In Love’ and ‘XO’ – see it in full here:

‘At Last’
‘Flaws And All’
‘Ava Marie’
‘Brown Skin Girl’ (with Blue Ivy Carter)
‘Be Alive’
‘I Care’
‘Beautiful Liar’
‘Crazy In Love’
‘Naughty Girl’
‘Drunk In Love’

Beyoncé is yet to comment on the controversy.

Late last year, various artists and entertainment figures distanced themselves from the FIFA World Cup 2023 in Qatar in protest of the country’s numerous human rights violations.

Dua Lipa was forced to deny that she had “ever been involved in any negotiation to perform” at the tournament’s opening ceremony, explaining: “I look forward to visiting Qatar when it has fulfilled all the human rights pledges it made when it won the right to host the World Cup.”

In other news, Beyoncé revealed last October that she’d be embarking on a world headline tour at some point this year. No dates have been officially confirmed as of yet.