The Queen. If you ever doubted it, now you look stupid and are just forced to accept it. Last Thursday night, as all of Twitter was gearing to go to sleep and reminisce about the epic ‘Scandal’ mid-season finale, Beyonce decided it was time for her to release her 5th album. And she did just that. She released ‘Beyonce’ at midnight with no warning, and instantaneously, Twitter and Facebook went into a frenzy. We, ourselves, stayed up until 5am trying to soak in the tear-worthy moment. 14 Songs. 17 Videos. All amazing. All Grammy-worthy (well, most). Features from Drake, Jay Z, Frank Ocean….video appearances from Chanel Iman, Jourdan Dunn, Jessica White, Joan Smalls, Luke James, Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams, Drake, Harvey Keitel, Pharrell, Jay Z, Mama Tina, Solange, Blue Ivy Carter…the list goes on. Beyonce amazed us all; no hate was in sight all night.
Fast forward to this week, and Beyonce has already sold 1,000,000 copies of the albums, though it didn’t officially hit retail store shelves until this morning. The hype and the buzz for the album has been absolutely incredible, as Beyonce has pioneered her own legacy with a move that only she could have pulled off so flawlessly. Every news publication in the world has praised Beyonce for her amazing business move, and it’s flaw-free execution. But what about the music?
Beyonce starts the album off with “Pretty Hurts,” which is written by Sia Furler. It’s a song that Beyonce has said in interviews that she would’ve fought to get it on on her album (though she didn’t have to because, she’s Beyonce). The song is about the struggle for girls, and guys, to be perfect. It’s about imperfections; how the road to becoming what society dictates as pretty, hurts the soul. You can tell the song means the world to Beyonce, as she sings the song with such vigor and passion. In the video, you see Beyonce acting out being a contestant in a beauty pageant. She also alludes her own childhood of competing in pageants, instead of being a normal child, when she goes to destroy all of her trophies. A super personal, pop anthem that we see being a huge single in 2014.
“Haunted” is Beyonce like we’ve never heard her before, the first two minutes sees Beyonce rap a robotic verse, very much like you’d hear from Andre 3000. She talks about not trusting her record label, and how her soul isn’t for sale; another personal moment. The production then transforms into something other-worldly. It’s tribal, it’s post-apocalyptic, it’s very alternative. If you’re a fan of Dawn Richard’s Goldenheart, this song might remind of that type of material. Genius production and vocal arrangements from new produce Boots (who’s signed to Roc Nation). This is one of the best songs Beyonce has ever released in her career; it’s so left field from anything you’d expect from her.
After “Haunted” the album gets really ratchet. “Drunk in Love”, produced by Detail, has already been serviced as Beyonce’s lead urban single, and rightfully so. The song, which also features Jay Z, is the definition of a club banger. It’s Beyonce’s attempt at making a record that fits perfectly within the trends of today’s urban radio, while still maintaining an epic presence only Beyonce could deliver. She’s still singing hard on this record’s chorus, albeit the ratchet, nasty rap-sing lyrics of the verses…only Beyonce could pull it off. And the production, again, is just filthy. So hard, so heavy-hitting. Expect to hear this infiltrate your car sound systems for the next few months.
“Blow” comes from Beyonce’s studio sessions with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake. The song is also co-produced by Pharrell, a trio which proves to be the “dream team” for Bey throughout this project. “Blow” is a light, fun, funky throwback number. Though, the lyrics see Beyonce at her nastiest once again. But, it’s a classy nasty, the kind of nasty you like, but would be weary of little kids singing. The visual for the song is perfect, with Bey, Solange, and co have the time of their lives at a super colorful, glossy skating rink. Neon colors and booty shorts everywhere. Good times. The second half of this song is the best part, and was totally unexpected.
“No Angel” probably is our least liked song on the album. If there’s one flaw in these 14 songs, it’s this song. Though, some people say it’s their favorite, so I guess it’s a matter of taste. But, “No Angel” sees Beyonce do her very best Prince, Alicia Keys live vocal impersonation while reminding us that nobody’s perfect. We’re no angel either. I guess a little way to say “sorry, not sorry” for how naughty some of this album gets. We’re not a fan, but it’s still not a bad track.
What we are a fan of; however, is “Partition.” “Partition” is Beyonce at her sluttiest, but she’s a married woman, so she’s allowed to be slutty for her husband. It’s not really slutty since we know who she’s talking, but damn, this song is filthy. “Driver roll up the partition please, I don’t need you seeing Yonce` on her knees”. That’s the opening line of this epic urban banger. The song is about how Beyonce wants to be the girl Jay Z loves, so she’s doing everything in her power to make sure she keeps their marriage interesting, including giving Jay some “play” while they’re on the way to the club. Jay “Monica Lewinsky’s all over her dress and forgets to bring a towel, so they can’t go into the club. Filthy, but we love it. Oh, and the video! Jesus, the video is amazing. And by amazing, we mean incredibly sexy. Timbaland is an absolute fool for the beat on this one. Whoo!
“Jealous” is a continuation of “Partition”, but a much different song. It’s a pop mid-tempo about jealousy (go figure). Beyonce paints the picture of herself being naked in her penthouse, cooking for Jay, while he’s no where to be found. She’s jealous because she’s not receiving all of his attention. She then switches gears to talking about her ex, and how she sees him out one night (while she’s in her freakum dress, no less) and consciously tries to make him jealous of everything he’s missed out on in life. Ouch! Another future single possibility.
Every song we’ve listed thus far has been pretty amazing, especially “Haunted” and “Partition”, but no song on the album comes close to the genius that is “Rocket”. Written by Miguel, Justin Timberlake, and Bey, “Rocket” sees Beyonce channel D’Angelo’s “Untitiled” for a filthy, vocal rollercoaster of a slow jam. Soul music; this song brings Beyonce back to her roots, back to her Dangerously In Love days. This, will be the song my first child is conceived to, no doubt. It’s THAT sexy. Words can’t do it justice. I’m getting chills just thinking about it. “Rock it til water falls” Beyonce sings and coos, before climaxing later in the songs with some epic high notes and begging to be punished by her equivalent. And the video….!
Never will we underestimate Drake’s ability to write great a R&B song. He’s done it for Alicia Keys, for Melanie Fiona, for himself, but never as well as he has done with Beyonce on “Mine.” Like a lot of the album, “Mine’s” structure isn’t typical; Bey starts off singing with a piano about her personal life, then the real song starts, then the structure changes again for Drake’s personal rap verse. After the introspective intro, “Mine” transforms into dark, tropical, tribal R&B jam produced by 40. It’s “Take Care’s” (f/ Rihanna) older cousin. At first, this track wasn’t one of our favorites, but the more we listen, the more we love it. Damn Drake and his clever, catchy melodies.
“XO” has been named Beyonce’s lead pop single, and rightfully so. The song is an anthem. It’s Beyonce’s stadium anthem, ala Coldplay’s “Viva La VIda.” It’s New Year’s Eve bottled up into 3 minutes. When I listen to the song, I see fireworks. That’s what makes this song so amazing. It’s an epic love song that makes me want to find me own Yonce` and get married tomorrow. Huge props to Ryan Tedder and The-Dream for this one. A definite standout, one that will hopefully see Beyonce receive her next #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. This song could be MASSIVE in 2014. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
“Bow Down/Flawless” is another one of the weaker moments on the album, but it’s still a great banger. It just feels like it’s almost beneath Beyonce. The “Bow Down” intro, we heard back in March. I loved it back then, and I still do. It’s bold, it’s abrasive, it shows Beyonce thinks of her haters the same way we do. She’s human. That intro segues into a genius excerpt from Chimamanda Ngoza Adiche’s recent TED Talk about feminism. It’s a genius move from Beyonce, somebody who always gets flack from feminists for saying she’s a feminist, though her music and persona is degrading to woman at times. Everything Chimamanda says in her speech shuts down those feminists, before Beyonce then launches into the most ratchet moment of the album “Flawless.” Not our favorite, but we have to respect how she delivered this track.
Frank Ocean has been in seclusion ever since his channel ORANGE album was released, but he came out of hiding long enough to get into the studio with Beyonce & Pharrell, and create this masterpiece of a song, “Superpower.” We love the song, it’s lyrics, but mostly, the epic video directed by Jonas Akerlund.
Beyonce closes with two deeply personal tracks, “Heaven” & Blue. Both were penned by Boots and Beyonce alone, and both see Beyonce in her most vulnerable state. “Heaven” is about a loved one who has died too early in life, leaving many Beyonce fans to believe the song is about the miscarriage she suffered before getting pregnant with Blue Ivy. “Heaven’s got a place for you, so go on, go home” are just some of the lyrics you hear in this song where Beyonce is close to tears. You can hear it in her voice, and see it in the beautiful video. It’s a very sad song, one that is bound to bring you flashbacks of loved ones lost.
“Blue” obviously is an ode to her 2 year old daughter, Blue Ivy Carter. It’s a tropical, tender way to close the album. And the last 20 seconds, feature Blue Ivy and all her cute glory, delivering vocals and laughs.
All in all, this album is the closest thing to pop/R&B perfection that we’ve had in years (sorry JT). Beyonce brought us back to her early days with songs like “Blow” and “Rocket”, moments some fans have been waiting for for years on end. She gave us the uptempos like “Drunk In Love” and “Partition”, which she’s become known for over the years. She gave us the powerful pop moments like “Pretty Hurts” and “XO”, to remind us she’s not just a R&B singer, she’s a worldwide icon. She even took a step into the future with “Haunted”, blending genres she’s never touched before. This album’s sound stretched from Beyonce of the 1990’s, all the way to 2013 & beyond. It’s her. It’s Beyonce. The topics are highly sexual at points, but that’s part of Beyonce. Even though some might not like it, every adult is sexual in nature, why should she have to hide it, as a 32 year old married woman? Beyonce sees Beyonce delivering her real self: the conscious, vulnerable sexual, fun-loving pop icon we’ve grown to love over the years. We’d say this is her best work yet. It’s her most complete album since her debut. And for that, we thank her.
Standouts: Heaven, XO, Mine, Partition, Drunk In Love, Jealous, Rocket, Haunted, Pretty Hurts
Rating: 4.7/5 (It’s not perfect, but pretty damn close)