Nobody tells Beyoncé what to sing. Or wear.
But the NFL, FOX, and Dallas Cowboys tried back in 2004.
Charlotte Jones Anderson, the Cowboys executive vice president and chief brand officer, who has spearheaded the organization’s relationship with the Salvation Army for nearly 30 years, said a consortium of network and NFL execs asked Beyoncé to omit eight words from the lyrics the group was planning to sing.
“They circled many words in her song set that they were not going to let her sing,” Jones Anderson said in recalling the 17-year-old story while on KTCK/1310 AM “The Ticket” Wednesday night. “She was here for rehearsal, literally the night before, and the league said ‘No, these are the eight words she needs to remove from her lyrics.’”
Destiny’s Child’s manager looked at Jones Anderson and said, “I’m not about to tell her. You tell her,’” Jones Anderson recalled. “And she calls [Beyoncé] up on speaker phone and says, ‘The Cowboys have something to tell you about your music.’”
Jones Anderson said the league and network were extra sensitive about the halftime entertainment because the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction in which Justin Timberlake inadvertently exposed Jackson’s breast during the Super Bowl halftime show occurred earlier that year.
“They would hardly approve the Mormon Tabernacle Choir,” Jones Anderson joked. “That’s actually when we had to begin all of this serious scrutiny of what the lyrics were.”
Beyoncé’s reaction to the lyrical edits?
“You need to tell them to get their minds out of the gutter, that is not what my song means,” Beyoncé said, according to Jones Anderson, who added, “Artists are very sensitive to the lyrics that they put in their songs so that was an ordeal, needless to say.”
Jones Anderson said Beyoncé needed convincing that it was more about the current climate and not about her.
“She agreed on a few [changes] and then you go live,” Jones Anderson said. “And guess what? You’ve got a live mic and you have no idea what they’re about to do. I’m not sure she changed all of the lyrics when she was singing live.”
The NFL and network also required approval of what Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams wore during their performance. In fact, Destiny’s Child had performed at the NFL’s season-opening game earlier in 2004, when they wore matching, iconic white suits.
“Everything was beautiful, everything was perfect, [they were] covered, all of those things,” Jones Anderson said. “By the time they got to Thanksgiving, I think they were tired of those white suits.”
Jones Anderson said the Cowboys, with the nudging from the league and network, “gave them the [wardrobe] parameters,” including some modesty, with everything covered, she said.
“They show up Thanksgiving morning at the stadium and they’ve all got mid drift [tops] on and everything is kind of barely there,” she said. “I looked at them and was like, ‘this is not what y’all were approved [for]. You have to cover up.”
Beyoncé suggested furs, Jones Anderson said. Specifically, white chinchilla furs.
“I’m running around, pulled one fur vest out of my closet,” she said. “I called Neiman Marcus and they send a security guard down to the vault at Neiman Marcus.”
Eventually, a Neiman Marcus security guard escorted three furs to Texas Stadium for the performance.
”They put them on. All I can think of is that white fur is going to have makeup all over it and I’ve just bought myself a chinchilla vest,” she joked.
The fur idea, however, didn’t quite work the way Jones Anderson was hoping.
“Here they come out, and the music starts and they’re all covered up in those furs and Beyoncé goes, ‘Hit me!’ And then she yanked that fur off and tossed it across the field and out she came out on that stage,” she said.
“I didn’t know whether to worry about what she was wearing or that chinchilla fur was on the field being trampled by all these people,” she said. “It was a crazy thing but that’s a live performance for you.”
Nothing scandalous happened and, of course, the Houston-born Beyoncé became one of the biggest recording artists in the world. But for a few moments, Jones Anderson was sweating.
“I don’t know who is going to scream at me worse, Neiman Marcus or the league fining me for whatever we did wrong on that day,” she said. “Or my dad. OK, who’s going to yell the loudest?”