Friday, December 13, 2013
Track By Track Album Review: Beyoncé - Beyoncé
So this bitch decided to keep the world waiting for 12 months by teasing with snippets and full versions of songs without ever releasing them. Then, last night, with no prior announcement or warning, her 5th studio album dropped on iTunes, with each track getting their own music video. Since this is being described as a visual album, I will not only review the song, but the accompanying music video as well.
Pretty Hurts: When a woman as beautiful as Beyoncé releases a track called "Pretty Hurts," she has your attention from the very beginning. The video portrays an out of control beauty pageant, showing Beyoncé repeatedly running to the toilet to vomit, cut between scenes of her at home, backstage and on stage. When asked what her aspiration in life is, Beyoncé replies, with much thought and hesitation, "to be happy." The song and video make a statement that no one wants to acknowledge in mainstream media, that just because you're pretty, skinny, successful, you can be unhappy, and there is justice in feeling that way. The drum propelled song itself could become an anthem for struggling girls everywhere (a demographic Beyonce constantly appeals too for better or worse).
Ghost: Not a track on the audio portion, but a video and song on the visual portion. It's definitely very creepy, Beyoncé contorts and twists herself around painted black, while overlapping vocal tracks give off a haunting vibe. It creeps me out too much to give it a grade, and I don't have any desire to watch it again.
Video: Creepy as hell.
Song: Also creepy as hell.
Haunted: So this song is creepy also. Shot with a vintage tinge, Beyoncé enters a mansion, with an occasional glimpse of a camera shot looking straight at her. As she proceeds up the stairs and down a massive hallway, Beyoncé looks into 12 rooms, each room showing a different group of people. There's a room with what looks to be strippers, gamblers, and a lot of nearly indescribable people. It's interesting, at least more so than Ghost.
Drunk In Love (Feat. Jay-Z): The video opens with a black and white scene of a beach, with Beyonce almost stumbling along with a trophy, similar to the ones she destroyed in the Pretty Hurts video. You would think there would be a statement made here, nope. The video is the most bland so far, she's just dancing uncoordinatedly on the beach. And when Jay-Z comes in you feel like you've been Punk'd. They've made this statement together 478 times on 478 different collaborations: They love each other. That's cool, but now you've become that High School couple that everyone wants to just get a room. And to make matters worse, the song and video both feel like album fillers.
Blow: I pray for Blue Ivy's sake that she NEVER has to listen to this song. This isn't like Kesha's Blow, where she plans on igniting the club; Beyoncé's Blow is much more…. sensual. The references are so blatant, it made me so uncomfortable, that I had to play S&M to make myself feel pure again. It has a smooth production that's as glitzy and glamorous as the roller rink music video, but it is still just… Gross.
No Angel: A lot of falsetto, a lot of cars. What's the statement here? What's the point? The track and the video are both equally ambiguous as they are pointless.
Yoncé: The second video that isn't accompanied by a song on the albums tracklist. I feel like this will be her Birthday Cake, a beat that Beyoncé "sneezed on and the beat got sicker,"should've been on the tracklist, it seems to have more single potential than most of the other material seen (even though it is just short of two minutes in length). This will be a fan favorite for sure.
Partition: Up until now, I haven't seen much in the way of stand-out singles (excluding Pretty Hurts). Partition is definitely very sexual, perhaps a bit too sexual for pop radio, but the beat and production seem to go right in line with what Pop is eating up right now. The video pushes a lot of limits, Beyoncé slides up and down all around wherever she can, showing the inner-thoughts of a very regal woman desperate for some attention.
Jealous: The Partition video segways directly into the video for Jealous. The video shows this same woman, regal and and focused as the one before. As the Lana Del Rey-esque intro begins, the video soon portrays Beyoncé as a woman very jealous of the freedoms of her significant other. She trashes a dinner that she "made naked," plays pool in a club, walks down a New York street before she is found by the one she's been singing of. It's a beautiful video, with an interesting message. The message here seems to be that sometimes, she's jealous of everyone else.
Rocket: Smooth R&B with sexy lyrics. Been here, done this, at least 47 times across 5 albums. We get it, can we move on please?
Mine (Feat. Drake): Beautifully shot video, a lot of stunning scenes and images presented here. It's fascinating and invigorating to watch, and the demanding statement "f*** what you heard, you're mine, you're mine" presents a stronger message than most of the other over sexualized ones we've seen thus far. Though I wish Beyoncé would have made the song match it's infectious Drake led elecrto-chorus, I feel fairly satisfied with this one.
XO: Powerful, moving, there isn't a proper word nor a multitude of words that fit this. Masterpiece is pretty close. Wow. Wow. Beyoncé, you killed it here. You took a fun pop song and made it feel moving and beautiful. Bravo.
Video: The best of 2013.
Song: The best of 2013.
***Flawless (Feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche): Having actually studied Ms. Adiche, I find it very interesting that Beyoncé used her as the bridge for her revamped "Bow Down Bitches." The proclamation of power in the first chorus is followed by Adiche's speech, which very casually dismantles sexism and sex shaming. This speech would've served better as an interlude or introduction into this album, because the speech speaks so heavily to the content on the rest of the album. Beyonce changed what many presumed to be an attack on women with Bow Down, to once more a female empowerment anthem with just a simple change of lyrics and name to ***Flawless to justify the bowing.
Superpower (Feat. Frank Ocean): The video can only be described as the People Like Us video and any end-of-the-world-action-movie having a baby. Here, the misfits of the world, the lovers, rebel and trash a post-apocalyptic world. Beyonce is joined in the video by Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams and Pharrell to show off this second proclamation of power. However, the song is pretty boring and dull, and feels like a lackluster soundtrack to its video.
Heaven: I'm going to caution you now, if you're sensitive to quick flashes of light, don't watch this video. The video apparently shows Beyoncé comforting a friend after her husband suddenly passes away. We see them jumping into a pool and getting tattoos, cut between scenes of the two mourning in a church and cemetery. It's a beautiful song and video, but it seems to get lost in the shuffle of the rest of the album.
Blue (Feat. Blue Ivy): Blue's feature isn't anymore astonishing then her feature on her father's track last year, but after Beyoncé paints the scene and sets the stage for this to be a real gut wrencher, it comes off as effective. It's a sweet mother-daughter love song, that can be applied to many different relationships. It ends the album on a sweet and affectionate note.
Beyoncé seemed like a pretty boring album title at first, "Ugh the self-titled route? That's so overdone." But Beyoncé nailed the idea and premise of naming an album after yourself, you have to reveal what it means, in this case, what it means to be Beyoncé. For Beyoné, that is being confident, sexy, loving, considerate, and a mother. When most artists claim they're going to be taking a "darker sound," they're usually lying, or they fail at pulling it off. Beyoncé pulls off these darker sounds, and these darker images. While the sexy tones have been a bit overdone by this point in her career, she makes Beyoncé feel fresh with its exposure into her life, and who she is. Beyoncé came down from the stratosphere of fame, to deliver us here on the ground this revealing piece of art.
Overall: Grade: A+