I began this review last year and never got around to finishing it. Here it is. Better late than never.
Two week ago today, I and most of #Blacktwitter were preparing our souls for 2013’s final episode of Tiwtter-juggernaut Scandal. After being dismantled by Mama Pope’s White House strut of a vengeance, I began to recoup for a good night’s rest. Usually this involves countless scrolling on tumblr, twitter and other after dark sites – but I digress. Just as I set to close my laptop, someone posted an image of grand curiosity. The iTunes dashboard splattered with images of Beyonce and the words “visual album.” As this is Tumblr and Photoshop is a couch potato’s Rembrandt, I was highly skeptical. But to my surprise, the Creole one did the unimaginable and released an album unbeknownst to most existence like a thief in the night. Without hesitation I clicked “purchase,” relinquished my 15.99 and caught a second wind as sleep became an afterthought.
Fourteen songs, seventeen videos and a week later, the world is just now catching up with the experience that is BEYONCE. Her fifth straight studio album to debut at #1 is a declaration of grown womanhood. Like the janet. album, Mrs. Carter relinquishes inhibitions in love, sex and social commentary, whether the masses agree or not. It’s a stretch of pure and unadulterated growth from her previous works. While 4 aimed to be a collage of sounds and feelings, it never seemed focused. The self-titled LP feels nuanced in honesty and auth enticity. This is Beyonce’s strongest effort to date.
Each song possesses a strength, a hint at Bey behind the carefully crafted veil she manufactures for the public eye. The opening track “Pretty Hurts” is a vulnerable ballad examining the price people pay in the pursuit of so called happiness. A pageant child herself, Beyonce exudes the complexity of beauty in society beautifully in the accompanying video, claiming that it’s the “soul that needs the surgery.” “Hurts” is followed by the dramatically produced “Haunted,” a dance track of scary love from one being to another.
This love can be felt in the Jay-Z-assisted “Drunk in Love.” As one of the first singles, Bey coos of her inebriation over a hypnotizing Indian-themed beat. This romp leads to the 70-inspired Pharrell/Timbaland gem “Blow.” Dripping in innuendo Ms. Knowles begins unzipping that shroud of innocence she wore. We saw a hint of it on “Video Phone” and could feel her intentions on “Kitty Kat” but she never went all the way. She plows all expectations when the beat changes and she blatantly demands for him to “tear that cheery out.”
This is only foreplay for what comes packaged in the “Yonce” interlude and the seething voyeurism of “Partition.” Masking themselves from the paparazzi, Bey and her him indulge in some mobile fellatio. With lines like “He Monica Lewisnky’d all on my blouse” listeners get a ear shot of what two happily married individuals partake in when no one is looking. The naughty song is only matched with the beautifully-sensual “Rocket.” Penned by Miguel Beyonce sets her assets all on a intricately-woven Prince-esque instrumentation. “Rocket” is a baby maker.
The next set of songs, to me, is the most perfect run of the album. “Mine” is a beautifully written song featuring Drake and production from Noah “40” Shebib. The balance between the serene ballad and Drizzy’s cadenced-hook is mesmerizing. It gives strong 808s & Heartbreak vibes. This abstract love song is followed by the moving aura that is “XO.” Clearly Coldplay-inspired, Beyonce soars on cascades of synths and bleeps that are so rich I swear you can see the sound. The song is commercial ready, if that makes sense.
After our waltz down love’s lane, Bey regulates on the fantastic femme anthem “***Flawless.” Starting with her Star Search footage, the song tells a tale different from what many perceived from “Bow Down” months ago. Midway the song goes left with audio from Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. Excerpts from her TEDtalk evoke questions on how girls are orchestrated to aspire for marriage over everything: success, ambition. The song is a clear ringing of Beyonce’s own feminist views, whether we want to define her as one or not.
Her semi-activist theme continues on the strongly-written “Superpower.” Featuring Frank Ocean the Pharrell-produced track feels like nothing else on the album. It’s authentically soulful, yet feels completely refreshing. With its message of unflappable love, it’s wholly an anthem of unbridled grit against the odds.
“Heaven” is a sorrowful song of loss that opens up for the beautifully poignant tribute aptly-titled “Blue.” No other song embodies Bey’s joy of motherhood more perfectly. One can’t help but smile when hearing Blue Ivy’s cooing.
Beyoncé – the entire experience – is a transition in Ms. Knowles Carter’s life and career. Recently helmed as the highest-earning black artist of all time, Beyoncé has reached a peak in music history only shared by two Jacksons and a Prince. She’s cultivated a legacy that will be remembered years from now. Despite the rumors and detractors, one cannot deny her influence and the sheer labor it required to be lovingly crowned Queen B.