Beyoncé – Beyoncé: Album Review

December 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

BEYONCE

On December 13, Beyonce had the entire world in a media frenzy as she dropped a musical bomb – her fifth, self-titled album. After a year filled with constant confusion, endless snippets and unanswered questions, the singer finally shut everyone up with the release of a surprise record. What makes Beyonce so special is the combination of the flawless execution (zero promotion, zero announcements) and the music, which is arguably the best she has ever recorded. Beyonce has come into her own as a person and an entertainer, as she has found the balance between mother, wife, artist and woman.

The album opens up with “Pretty Hurts,” a heartfelt testament to the cruel world that women live in as they struggle to keep up with society’s idea of perfection. Beyonce has always been about self-empowerment, but what saves this tune from becoming another cheesy anthem is its more personalized turn – thanks to its hints about the singer’s own experience with pageants: “Mama said, ‘You’re a pretty girl. What’s in your head, it doesn’t matter’.” Following is “Haunted,” one of the more overlooked songs on the album due to Beyonce’s departure from generic R&B sounds.

The mysterious, trip hop-meets-PBR&B inspired mid-tempo is truly haunting – as it begins with Beyonce denouncing the “boring” media and record labels in a refreshingly new spoken word flow that echoes inspiration from Andre 3000. The song then transforms into a “Justify My Love” for the new generation, complete with weighty bass drops, chilling 808s and Beyonce’s seductive vocals commanding the listener to slap, kiss and bite her.

Beginning in 2003, Beyonce and Jay Z have been “Crazy In Love,” Dangerously In Love” and now in 2013 the power couple is happily “Drunk In Love.” Producers Detail and Timbaland lay out a smooth trap beat for Beyonce to rap (yes, she’s rapping!) about how she’s going to give it to her man using naughty, made-for-Instagram entendres (wood graining and the ubiquitous surfboard).

Beyonce takes it back to the carefree, feel-good B’Day era with the innuendo-laden “Blow.” The tune continues the sexually liberated Beyonce as she discusses oral sex, which is masked underneath an insanely catchy disco-ready, funk beat courtesy of Pharrell. Following is the ode to Houston – “No Angel.” The singer channels her inner Prince as she uses her vocals as an instrument to create breathy and beautifully pitchy sonic tics in all shapes and sizes.

The club-ready, bouncy “Partition” is another dedication to Houston…and sex. The singer uses her thick Southern drawl to describe her ultimate fantasy of getting it on in a chauffeured limousine. With lines like “He Monica Lewinsky’d all on my gown” and “He likes to call me Peaches when we get this nasty,” Beyonce shows no sign of hiding her new-found sensual confidence after the birth of her daughter. The song is downright naughty and will definitely make you blush.

On this album, Beyonce is more revealing than ever – discussing infidelity in “Jealous,” post-partum depression in the delicate, Drake-assisted “Mine” and pleasing her man on the lustful, D’Angelo-inspired “Rocket.” However, she makes no hesitation to return to her anthemic roots with the the stadium-ready “XO.” The Ryan Tedder-penned love song is bright, passionate and could definitely replace the tired “Halo” as one of the singer’s concert signatures. Unlike “Halo,” “XO” challenges its radio-friendly pop core by adding zingy synthesizers and electronic effects that make it all the more interesting.

The boastful “Bow Down/I Been On” shocker that was released back in March has now become “***Flawless,” which includes a powerful excerpt from Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which leads to the girl power chant of being flawless: “I woke up like this!” Honestly, it’s quite paint-by-numbers feminism and takes away the strong message that Adichie was trying to convey. It’s no secret that Beyonce strives to empower women, but if she kept and remastered the original “I Been On” snippet then the tune could have strayed away from being thematically redundant.

Beyonce finishes off the album with a song that shows why she created this record in the first place. “Blue” – a dedication to her daughter Blue Ivy – is the perfect summation for an album that was birthed by the singer’s change in womanhood and how she has finally become unafraid to express herself. The airy, island-tinged mid-tempo surrounds the ears with warmth and hope – not to mention the adorable feature from Blue Ivy herself towards the end of the song. It’s a great transition into the new, more confident than ever, “Grown Woman” Beyonce.

Beyonce is not a typical “hits” album, but does the singer really need that at this point? Beyonce has always been very sonically commercial (yes, even with 4) but with this new album she finally gets to stretch her artistic wings and take a long-awaited dip into the minimalist, confessional, avant-garde world.

Overall Rating: 4.3/5

Songs On Repeat

“Haunted”
“Drunk In Love”
“Partition”

Songs To Skip

“Superpower”
“Heaven”

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