Etta James vs. Beyonce: 'At Last,' the catfight you knew was coming

BeyonceettaIf you love a good celebrity catfight–and really, who among usdoesn’t?–then congratulations, friend! This is shaping up to be a very good week for you. First came the utterlylopsided Faye Dunaway/Hilary Duff tiff, which centered on that bizarro Bonnie & Clyde update and brought both of thoseladies back into the headlines after a long spell of irrelevance. Nowcomes word that 71-year-old soul legend Etta James has turned on noneother than Beyonce Knowles, who so memorably portrayed her in last year’s overlooked film Cadillac Records. I guess all of those platitudes that Etta showered on Beyonce when the movie came out were uttered through gritted teeth, ’cause at a Seattle concert last week, Etta complained about not being asked to sing her signature song, "At Last," during President Barack Obama’s first dance with his wife, Michelle. "You guys know your president, right?" she asked the crowd. "The one with the big ears?" (Rude, Etta!) "He ain’t my president. He might be yours…" she continued, before adding that "that woman he had singing for him…she’s gonna get her ass whipped. The great Beyonce…I can’t stand Beyonce."

WHOA. Look, it’s understandable that James feels slighted, but from a purely economic point of view, the sight of Beyonce–a woman who, rightly or wrongly, is treated as nothing less than a modern-day deity by plenty of her fans–singing to the nation’s first African-American president and his wife was sure as hell going to draw a lot more eyeballs to the TV set than a performance by Etta James. (Sorry to be ageist, but it’s the truth. Also, I’m not sure I’d recognize Etta James if you physically placed her in my living room.) But beyond that, I’m mystified by this outburst. I love when old ladies speak their minds, but this just seems classless and undignified, especially for a verified legend like Etta. As much as she may want to believe it, the President’s first dance–nay, the entire Inauguration–was not about her.

There’s a purported audio clip of the tirade right here. Take a listen, and then tell me if you think Etta was justified. And even if you think she is, do you think she handled her anger in the right way?


Comments (474 total) Add your comment
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  • Kelly

    Amen sistah! Who doesn’t think Beyonce needs knocked down a peg or two? How can you not prefer Etta’s classic untouchable rendition to Beyonce’s overdone, over-sung, as usual over the top, vibrato-crazy version. Beyonce thinks she’s more important than she is. Etta is just saying what everyone else is thinking.

    • Jett Davis

      I second that emotion. Furthermore, let’s get down to brass tacks: despite her success, the sad fact is Beyoncé can’t sing. She’s mediocre at best (certainly not in the same league as Etta James or any other Rock & Roll Hall of Fame diva). Her version of “At Last” is objectively pitiful. I really feel sorry for people who can’t hear the obvious difference. I fear it’s a sign of the decline of melody, popular music, and Western culture in general (not to mention human de-evolution). Other famous females who can’t sing: Taylor Swift, Alicia Keyes, Jennifer Lopez, and Sheryl Crow (they all have that same thin, whiny, non-essential, insubstantial sound).

  • Kristen

    I honestly thought Etta had passed away a few years ago- maybe the President did too!

  • Chad

    I’m sorry Etta but you are wrong baby. First, u don’t diss Obama and secondly u need an old diva and a new diva for the inaugaration,Aretha has the old diva title on lock. Rere will sing for all important political events and naturally Bey gets young diva. Sorry Etta, not everyone can be invited.

    • gigi

      she coulda sang another song. I cant stand Beyonce. Plus Obama sux! why can’t u diss him??? lol. I think obama is bad news.

  • Mel

    I’m just happy I’m not the only person that can’t stand Beyonce.

  • QueenC

    She should have just stuck to knockin’ Beyonce. This whole “he’s not my President,” poking at his appearance stuff most definitely lacked class. It’s just plain tacky, and completely immature.

  • Arwen

    Totally and completely uncalled for. Beyonce did an amazing job and for Etta James not to be flattered at such an amazing job is plain rude. She should feel honored that her song is deemed a classic. The majority of the presidents voters were young, ergo, bring in a young performer. I cant say enough.

  • Stef

    It hardly sounds like a catfight to me, just one-sided jealousy.

  • Rob

    How is it Beyonce’s fault that they asked her to sing the song? What should she have done, turned down the invitation?
    That ain’t even Etta’s song, this just sounds like the irrational rantings of a bitter, senile old junkie to me.

  • Maxwell H.

    I see why she doesn’t like Beyonce, but I don’t understand why she had to take a dig at President Obama.

  • Ceballos

    Obviously, it’s fine if people can’t stand Beyonce.
    But those people can’t honestly be glad to hear rude, childish and inappropriate comments like the one Etta James made in regards to Beyonce.
    Kelly- You said that “Beyonce thinks that she’s more important than she is.” Well couldn’t you say the same exact thing about Etta James with these comments about Beyonce AND our president? Her comments make her sound like a crazy, bitter, batty old woman.
    Just like with the Dunaway flap, I get that Dunaway and James are living legends (though I’m with Kristen in that I assumed that Etta James was dead until around the time “Cadillac Records” came out).
    However, when was it decided that being a “living legend” meant that you can go out, say rude and hurtful things, and expect everyone to just take it?


    I think Beyonce is a very beautiful woman, and a great dancer. I don’t like her as a singer. In fact, I am tired of her egocentric behavior. I love “AMERICA, the beautiful” but she knew how to destroy it. Every single word that Etta said is RIGHT. Beyonce sucks!!! She needs to take a long vacation.

  • PeterBilt The Nature Boy

    Holy criznap!!! Settle down Etta. Its ok, to hate on Beyonce, its ok to hate on the prez if thats what you choose, but come one!! You were all glowing in your praise of Beyonce just a couple months ago. It just proves my theory that Vanessa Hudgens should have sung it. Cause I mean, who doesnt love her pipes??

  • Mike

    Sounds like a typical diva. She didn’t get picked to sing so she lashes out at everyone involved. Maybe if she had a better attitude, people would respect her more.

  • Stephanie T.

    Sorry Beyonce, as strange as Etta is, she’s the originator. In fact if I had as much money as Barack, I’d totally have her sing at my wedding.

  • AshleyBrooke

    Biracial president, please get that right already.

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