Preface: this is a review of the album audio, not the visual element. Although… brief music video summary: they’re all awesome; Beyoncé is a goddess and does weird things sometimes. But hey, she’s Beyoncé and she can do whatever she wants… she’s a grooown woooman.
Friday December 13th, 2013 will be known as the day in history that transformed Friday the 13th from the most superstitiously unlucky day to the best day to ever exist (at least for Beyoncé fans). With no warning, a simple video was posted to both Facebook and Instagram that divulged the unbelievable news: 14 brand new songs and wait…what? 17 music videos!? And thus, Beyoncé’s self-titled fifth album was presented to her undying fans as the most fantastic early Christmas present imaginable, wrapped in minimalist beats, sensuality, and dat ass.
It’s been a long, patient wait for Beyoncé fans, as her previous album 4 was released eons ago in June 2011. One wondered whether a post-baby-delivering Beyoncéwould be more soulful, tender, and focused on motherhood. Nope. BEYONCÉ is the artist’s most overtly sexual album to date, making previous singles like “Naughty Girl,” “Video Phone,” and “Dance for You” sound like foreplay to BEYONCÉ’s big O. “Partition” takes the cake with blatant sexual imagery, telling the story of backseat limousine playtime layered over what sounds like a long-lost Ying Yang Twins track. “Rocket,” “Drunk in Love,” and “Blow” also follow suit with sex sex sex, the latter offering a funky, sexy beat produced by Timbaland and Pharrell Williams (who I’ve officially named 2013’s King of Funk). Some lyrics leave things to the imagination while others lay it all out. “Rocket” leans toward awkward with the continual metaphor of mountains, rivers, peaks and waterfalls; Thanks Beyoncé, I’ll never be able to look at Mother Nature the same again.
Beyond the lusting and thrusting of most tracks on BEYONCÉ, she continues to offer genre-bending soundscapes with flawless production ranging in content from love to reality to heartbreak to fantasy. The album’s opener “Pretty Hurts” attempts to relate to women with body image and self-esteem issues, but the message falls flat coming from the most gorgeous woman on the planet. “Heaven,” “Haunted,” “No Angel,” and “Mine” are all an excellent showcase of a newer sound for Beyoncé – utilizing scarce beats and flowy rhythms creating a modern, minimalist R&B sound. The featured artists on the album are also great additions; Frank Ocean provides soothing harmonies while Drake does what Drake does best – whine in that sexy little voice.
“XO” is an album highlight and the most radio-ready song on the album. It is Beyoncé’s most sing-able, uplifting track behind “Halo,” and will be a hit in no time. It only helps that it was produced by the immensely talented and continually underrated Terius Nash (aka The-Dream) who helped craft the catchiness that is “Single Ladies.” Here’s to hoping these two continue to work closely together.
With this surprise album, Beyoncé continues to be the most talented woman in contemporary pop music, staying five steps ahead of the game and making sure you know it. You may even be wondering why the only thing I’ve compared her to this whole write-up is herself – that’s because trying to compare Beyoncé to another pop music artist is like comparing a seven-carot diamond to the rhinestone dangly earrings you got from Claire’s 13 years ago; it’s just not fair. BEYONCÉ may fall short lyrically and sometimes the message gets lost with inconsistency, but more importantly this album is unpredictable, provocative, and continues to lead us on this ever-curious journey through Beyoncé’s psyche.
Article by Lauren Dargus