If you have a Facebook, Twitter, or any type of social networking, you were probably bombarded this weekend by ecstatic updates about Beyoncé Knowles’s newest self-titled album Beyoncé. Hinting that she planned on releasing something in 2014, Beyoncé surprised her fans by dropping fourteen new songs and seventeen music videos on iTunes Friday December 13th without prior notice. The record which features husband Jay Z, Frank Ocean, Drake, and Beyoncé’s daughter Blue Ivy, has since sold over 400,000 copies worldwide.
My roommate bought the album immediately and I was lucky enough to get to experience what has been deemed a “visual album”—a record in which all the songs are accompanied by an artistic music video. Taking on the task of making over an hour’s work of music videos and quality tunage without falling short on creativity is seemingly difficult for most artists, but Queen B proves once again that she might possibly be superstar of the century.
Not only does the pop star offer breath-taking vocals and enough film for a feature length movie, but she incorporates feminist messages of empowerment for women and for just about anyone to love themselves and embrace whatever they choose to be.
Beyoncé opens with her ballad “Pretty Hurts” in which she displays a behind-the-scenes view of a beauty pageant, the girls striving for model perfection. Beyoncé sings “thinner is better” as an example of what women are exposed to through mass media, urging society that their “souls need surgery” rather than their physical appearance. As the first track of the album, we know Knowles means business.
The following tracks are “Ghost” (an album-only video) and “Haunted”. “Ghost” is a short sing-talk song, the video consisting of contrasts between black and white and manipulation of shadow, Knowles’ silhouette blurring the line between human and ghost. The piece is eerie and strides along to a booming bass line. The song seems to set up the listener “Haunted”, a sexually-driven vintage scene carried forth on subtly smoky vocals.
“Drunk in Love” features Beyoncé’s hubby Jay Z. The video is simple, mixing together scenes of Knowles playfully roaming a beautiful beachfront and the couple embracing and interacting. The focus is the natural, comfortable state of unconditional love upon raw emotionally accessible vocals.
“Blow” is basically a musical instruction book about, well, how Queen B would like to be… pleasured. ‘Nuff said.
The next track in the album is “No Angel”, written by Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek. It features Knowles on a breathy soprano-driven voice part and the video showcases scenes of daily inner-city life. This specific song is down-to-earth and comes as a short vacation from the previous intensity of the prior tracks.
“Yoncé” is yet another short interlude and is an album-only video featuring Beyoncé rapping with a small group of dancers.
The following songs are series videos in which the pieces directly address one another. “Partition” fantasizes Knowles as a Monica Lewinsky-type character—a mistress in a steamy political affair. “Jealous” imagines the mistress jealous of having to be shared with Beyoncé expressing “I’m just human, don’t judge me”, delving into the emotions of a female being used.
The next song, “Rocket”, is what I’d like to deem as “sex song of the century”. Employing intense runs, strong impeccably accurate vocal technique, images of running water, and rocking beat, Beyoncé leads us through the perfect orgasm. Yep, I said it; she sings us to her peak and takes us down with a content “damn”.
“Mine” featuring Drake addresses personal matters of long-term relationship, Knowles expressing that she needs to “stop making a big deal out of the little things”. The video uses strobe-light lighting, flowing interpretive dance, an image of Beyoncé as a mother figure. “Mine” highlights the singer’s smooth contralto range, a present for the ears.
“XO” appears to be a love letter to her fans. The song is incredibly grounded in playful, laid-back vocals and a video of Knowles and her friends enjoying a local carnival and interacting with adoring fans. The song seems to purposely contrast the previous track in order to incorporate balance within the range of songs.
“Flawless” is perhaps is perhaps the most prominent track on the album. The song features a sample of feminist writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie revealing that women are conditioned from a young age to aspire to nothing more than marriage and servitude. The song deals with the fact that women are expected to meet the physical standards of beauty the patriarchy has constructed in order to please men. The singer highlights the fact that women are even expected to be “flawless” when they wake up in the morning. The song is a feminist anthem for the ages, pushing society to be critical of the unfair expectations women face and the inequality of genders in the communities we live in.
“Superpower” featuring Frank Ocean is an apocalyptic video, prompting revolution. “Heaven”, the following track, is a song of mourning, set in a cathedral with a kneeling Knowles. The song seems deeply personal as her vocals are raw and beautiful.
The last song of the visual album is “Blue”, an ode to her daughter Blue Ivy. The track features Blue Ivy speaking, giggling “mommy, can we see daddy?”. The video shows the singer in an island nation (which, I’m not sure of), interacting with the locals and playing with her daughter.
In the end, the album is fantastic. It’s not every day you find a pop star that can create a full length album with flawless musicianship, a video to go along with every song and a strong feminist message. I’d say Queen B has engrained her place in history as of 2013 (if she hadn’t already). Beyoncé deserves five stars hands down.