Now that I’ve stopped running around screaming her name for the better portion of a day, I’ve actually had a chance to sit down and really listen to the album we all freaked out over yesterday. Yes, as everyone and their grandmother knows, the Queen B unexpectedly dropped a bomb on the music industry with the surprise release of her fifth studio album, the self titled Beyoncé.
After a year of album releases from our pop princesses that were “just okay”, Beyoncé has served up a game changer in every sense of the word, just in time to ruin everyone’s end of year lists. Normally I’d talk about the highlights and low points of the album, but on an album with no filler, no remixes of the lead single or a previous hit, a track-by-track review is in order.
The album opens with the anthemic “Pretty Hurts“, a collaboration with one of my other favorite ladies, Sia Furler. Anytime Sia’s name is thrown in the mix, you know the songwriting quality just went up a notch. The song touches on the beauty industry with B singing. “Perfection is a disease of a nation / Trying to fix something you can’t see”. “Haunted” is next, and I have to say I died a little when the announcer at the beginning of the track called out “Beyonce” sans accent. B plays with some very experimental sounds on this track, building layers upon layers and the effect is actually quite stunning.
“Drunk in Love” brings it back to a smooth hip-hop beat with husband Jay Z collaborating on a Caribbean inspired pseudo sequel to “Crazy in Love.” “Blow” is a favorite of quite a few of my friends but I found the oral sex metaphors on this funk-laden track to be a bit of a turn off for me. “I can’t wait til I get home so you can turn that cherry out.” Like no, honey, I don’t want to turn your cherry out. Next!
“No Angel” is more of a groovy interlude than a real song but it shows some of Beyoncé’s incredible range, with her hitting some stunning, breathy falsettos. “Partition” is my personal favorite track on the album, and the one song with a lot of promise as a single. Beyoncé channels some more Caribbean flavor into this track, which grows into a thumping electro banger, sure to be a club hit. If any song is going to drag you out of your seat and onto the floor, this is it.
“Jealous” continues the heavily sexual nature of the album as B opens the track singing, “I’m in my penthouse half naked / I cooked this meal for you naked.” The song is heavily layered as it progresses building and building but unfortunately fails to reach that diva moment I was hoping for.
Justin Timberlake and Timbaland are credited as co-writers on “Rocket,” which is another sexy down tempo track, and at six minutes and thirty-two seconds, is the longest track on an album full of lengthy songs.
If the first half of the album was for experimental sounds and sexy seductive tracks, the last half of the album returns to classic Beyoncé with some incredibly well chosen guest spots. The first of which is Drake on “Mine,” which starts as a piano ballad and transforms into an up-beat hip hop track. It’s kind of like a candy that changes flavor as you suck on it and the result is just as sweet.
“XO” sees B teaming up with hit maker Ryan Tedder for a classic pop anthem. There’s nothing overly groundbreaking here, but it’s a great song nonetheless. *** “Flawless” has our girl at her empowering feminist best on top of a hard-hitting hip hop beat.
The next collaboration, “Superpower,” is another gem on the album, which one might expect with collaborators like Frank Ocean and Pharell. One of the most beautiful things about a powerful voice is the ability to show restraint. I’m looking at you Christina. B proves here she doesn’t need to belt out in 5 different keys to prove she’s got it. We already know she’s got it.
“Heaven” is the only purely piano ballad on which B is her most vulnerable singing some heartbreaking lyrics about the loss of a loved one. While on Superpower, her restraint was welcome, I feel like “Heaven” could have used one of those bigger moments that give you goose bumps and while the song does build up towards the end, it never really seemed to climax for me.
The album closes with “Blue,” featuring Blue Ivy, which is so cute it actually makes me want to vomit.
Even though it’s hard to pinpoint many stand out singles on the album, with the majority of the tracks topping the 5-minute mark, the self-titled Beyoncé is a work of art. While the norm until this point has been to release an album full of singles to drive your tour, Beyonce set out on “The Mrs. Carter World Tour” without a new album to support it and then dropped an album more personal and less commercial than anyone would have expected and changed the game entirely. Why? Because she can.