It should come as no surprise that the world is still talking about BEYONCÉ, the unsuspecting fifth studio and visual album from Beyoncé Knowles-Carter that has rocked the music industry and has already set records in sales and social media trends. Upon the release of her Pepsi commercial that features her boastful, Afrobeat inspired “Grown Woman”, we (suggested) that Bey (as she is affectionately called by her fans) do the unprecedented and just release her album out of nowhere. Maybe she saw our suggestion? After nearly a full year of hype and anticipation (the Presidential Inauguration, Super Bowl perfomance, The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, countless rumors and delays) her fans just accepted the fact that 2013 wouldn’t be the year for a new album. That is until Friday the 13th when Beyoncé exclusively released her album along with 17 videos to iTunes merely saying “Surprise!” on her Instagram account before returning to post pictures of vegan cupcakes. The nerve of her to create a pivotal point in music history then continue with her life as if nothing happened. Now with new music and accompanying visuals, the world responded rocketing the album to #1 in over 100 countries and selling over 80,000 copies in three hours.
BEYONCÉ ushers in a Beyoncé we have yet to see–a new complex, sexually free and gracefully confident being. Much in the vain of Beyoncé’s old alter ego Sasha Fierce, the new album gives us Yoncé who looks to completely tear away the sweet, polished image of one of the world’s most renown megastars.
Throughout her career each of Bey’s studio albums could be seen as conceptual. From the variety and soul inspiration of her debut Dangerously in Love, the retro and loudly boastful B’Day, the emotional folk inspired and ballad heavy I Am…Sasha Fierce to the reminiscent ode to traditional R&B of 4, her new album is where we see a beautiful mix of the current progression of the R&B genre. Working with a slew of collaborators (Justin Timberlake, Miguel, Pharrell, Timbaland, Drake, Sia and newcomer Boots to name a few), each piece of the album oddly fits with the style of her collaborator’s works but with Bey’s touch. The mostly subdued album focuses on emotive vocals, broken song structure, and lyrical substance.
Beyoncé has always had a talent with creating bodies of work that move its listeners to be passionately and relentlessly in love, this album is no different as each track inspires a different feeling.
The album’s opener is one of the closest moments of the entire work that is reminiscent of the Beyoncé we have grown to love. The “Halo”-ish tracked penned by Sia is a statement of self acceptance and self doubt as Bey takes on the pressures of perfection, beauty and image. It’s a statement piece with lyrics like “It’s my soul that needs surgery.”
Easily one of the strongest, experimental tracks of the album, “Haunted” comes in two parts. The first is a spoken-word like Beyonce frustratingly giving insight to how she chooses to run her business and her lack of desire for commercial success. The minimal yet tribal beat invites a completely new sound before it develops into the second part where we find the perfect blend of concept and production. Collaborator Boots really did a number with this one.
Drunk In Love
“Why can’t I keep my fingers off it? I want you” boasts a lustfully drunk and freely in love Bey. Earlier this year we got a sequel to her and her husband Jay-Z’s original collaboration ” ’03Bonnie and Clyde” and in the same respect, ten years later we get a sequel to “Crazy In Love”. Although it’s easy to see how things have progressed for the musical couple, “Drunk In Love” is a sexually laced song of devotion gliding over powerful synths and coupled with a great verse from Jay.
Nowadays no female urban album is complete without a song referencing a certain special act. Pharrell, Timberland, Justin Timberlake, and Jerom “J-Roc” Harmon collaborate to bring this fun gem. Similar to the popular songs of 2013 “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky”, Pharrell’s infectious ode to Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson can be heard on this as Bey unleashes some of the most subtle and well, not so subtle sexual innuendos we’ve heard all year. “I can’t wait for you to get home and turn that cherry out.” Enough said.
The synth heavy, electronic R&B slow grinding jam finds Bey exclaiming her acceptance of her loved one based on their imperfections. Think of it as a sensual response to “Flaws And All”. The song itself is one of the best vocal moments of the album. Transitioning from a beautifully strained falsetto to a powerfully ethereal belt, the tracks creates an atmosphere for its listeners. This is a track that could easily be overlooked by listeners but actually is one of the album’s strongest moments.
“Heeeeeeey Mrs. Carter”, a command call from her current world tour starts off the album’s infectious two-part club banger. After the chant the infectious “Yoncé” finds a confident and arrogant Bey who exclaims “I sneezed on the beat and the beat got sicker.” on the gritty bass heavy beat before transitioning into the overly sexual “Partition” where we hear some of the most sexual explicit lyrics to ever be heard on a Beyoncé track. “Driver roll up the partition please, I don’t need you seeing Yoncé on her knees.” The track is pure sex and indulgence. The visuals for both parts are separate but visually are exciting treats. “Yoncé” features three of the most prominent African American/Latina models of the fashion industry (Jourdan Dunn, Joan Smalls, and Chanel Iman) while “Partition” is a saucy visual that must be experienced.
If “If I Were A Boy” were an urban/contemporary track it would be “Jealous”. The dark horse of the album that quickly is becoming a fan favorite. The track sees an insecure Bey face doubt and her own raw emotions. The chorus sings “If you’re keeping your promise, I’m keeping mine.” This track is an example of the album’s turn to frank, honest lyrics coupled with emotive vocals and equally stylized and crafted production.
“Let me sit this ass on ya” coos Bey on her most sensual track to date. The track (a collaboration with Miguel and Justin Timberlake) is a direct reference from Prince and D’Angelo. It makes her previously sensual tracks “Speechless” and “Dance 4 You” seem tame in comparison. The track is the R&B lover’s dream. Retro-soul, baby-making, vocally driven, lyrically hitting, and excitingly teasing–this track is pure perfection. There are no other words.
A collaboration with Drake and his producer Noah “40” Shebib, “Mine” sees another vulnerable Beyoncé laying her doubts out over a hauntingly piano driven production before shifting into a subdued tribal beat. The collaboration sees Drake comforting Bey and reassuring that her doubt in herself, a relationship, and her place in her man’s eyes should not be given a chance to manifest. Leave it to Drake to even save Beyoncé on a track. It’s definitely an album highlight and a great collaboration.
The Ryan Tedder and The Dream penned, Hit Boy produced love anthem is easily the album’s most radio-friendly track. It’s a beautifully light track where Bey is ultimately enveloped in love. “Your face is everything, I give you everything, baby love me lights out.” It’s infectious and pop.
Earlier this year Bey surprised her fans with the gritty, cocky “Bow Down/I Been On” which stirred a lot of controversy. Well the song finds a home on the album in the surprisingly effective feminist anthem “Flawless” . Opening with footage of her Star Search appearance, gliding through “Bow Down” the track is interrupted with a powerful speech on feminism by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie before the explosive “Flawless” where Bey encourages empowerment and camaraderie exclaiming “I woke up like this…flawless.” The track then ends with Girls Tyme losing on Star Search to an all male act further going on the idea that despite talent, confidence, and success women are seen as not equal and that it must be changed.
The Pharrell penned and produced, Frank Ocean assisted track is a subtle one relying on lyricism and created atmosphere. With a subtle futuristic doo-wop in the tracks background, it’s a track with so many layers it begs for multiple listens to be fully appreciated. The track could find itself on Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange album and is a beautiful new take on a love song. It’s a masterpiece of a song with Ocean’s vocals effortlessly enhancing Bey’s already powerfully soulful yet sweet tone.
Another “Halo” like record, “Heaven” is the album’s most insightful song. The song is piano driven where Bey has every chance to unleash her Gospel pipes but keeps the vocals relatively restrained to drive home the lost felt in the message of accepting death. “Heaven couldn’t wait for you, so go on home” expresses the singer in another anthem like song that will be sure to comfort many during hard times. As the track proceeds the next song which is dedicated to her daughter, it’s widely speculated that “Heaven” touches on the miscarriage she faced. Beautiful track.
This is just an adorably sweet track. Dedicated to and featuring her first born daughter, Blue Ivy, Bey’s joy resonates on this song. It’s just a pure love song and might induce a few people’s biological clock to start ticking. It would be no surprise if little Blue Ivy could be a Grammy contender for this song in 2015 because we know Bey will definitely submit this beautiful little gem.
Overall BEYONCÉ has managed to usher in an innovative way of presenting art and Bey’s own artistic progression. With this album she has started a movement, rocketing her own name to cemented relevancy putting her well on track to legendary status. Her bold declaration of ignoring rules coupled with her undeniable talent, musicality and visual accompaniments make this one of her most interactive, cohesive, and progressive albums to date. It rivals it’s predecessor 4 as being her most expressive body of work and will prove to be her masterpiece. Job well done Yoncé.
What are your favorite tracks from BEYONCÉ?