Album review: Beyoncé - Beyoncé

Album review: Beyoncé - Beyoncé | Random J Pop

I have always liked Beyoncé, but have always felt that her albums have never been up to par with a woman of her vocal dexterity. Her best releases have been as part of Destiny's child. Every album of Beyoncé's has felt inconsistent, contradictory and un-focused. Dangerously in love is widely regarded as a classic in Beyoncé's discography, but it was strongly pronged by well chosen singles, something which would become a theme for Beyoncé's albums up until the release of 4; where it all went a bit wrong and the one song which could have been a smash single got released late into the albums' cycle at a point when nobody cared about it and Beyonce was too heavily pregnant to promote it or care.

Beyoncé's self-titled album is one of her first to feature a re-occurring theme, which is her journey from a young girl, to star, and into motherhood. The album opens with her speaking at a beauty pageant, is littered with interludes of her as a child and is bookended with her daughter singing her name - this album is a series of snapshots of Beyoncé's life as a whole. Given Beyoncé has never been the most open person and seems to be the most scripted personality in pop today, this sounds like a recipe for one of the most forced albums from one of pop's most spoken about but guarded pop stars. But what becomes evident as you listen to this album is that despite this thread which runs through most of the songs, the album as a whole is just as unfocused as everything she's done before. The interludes serve a purpose to try and tether the songs together, but there's still a strong element of randomness to the album. It sticks together, but just barely.

Beyoncé marks the first album in her entire career where I feel she has something to say and it feels some-what genuine. As great as Beyoncé has been able to scream, belt and hit every note on the octave scale for the past 10 years - she's had bugger all substantial to say for the majority of it, which is a bit of a shame given that she can sing most of her peers and the up and comers under a bus. On this album, Beyoncé opens up on everything from how she feels about the industry, her marriage, her fans, her childhood, how people feel about how good / terrible a feminist she is, and This album is confirmation that Beyoncé is not oblivious to what people are saying about her. She knows...and it's great that for the first time in 10 years she finally speaks on it. There's still a carefully placed filter between Beyoncé and us, but it's a lot more perforated than it was before, in comparison to the days where it felt like Beyoncé was singing from inside the steel housing of Cerebro and was spouting nothing but ratchet nonsense, which she of course still does for at least a third of this album.

Whilst Beyoncé's self-titled set is one of her most 'honest' (about as honest as she can get, she's still taking credit for writing songs she clearly didn't) and inviting albums, it is also her her raunchiest. Despite being a God fearing woman who thanks God more than her fans (gurl reco'nise - God didn't crash iTunes to buy yo' shit) Beyoncé evokes sex by simply existing. If this wasn't enough, she opens her legs in leotards and booty shorts and turns away no opportunity for a pussy pop. But this album marks the first time Beyoncé has sung about sex so explicitly and leeaves nothing what-so-ever to the imagination. The Pharrell Williams produced "Blow" (which features a beat switch courtesy of Timabaland) is a song about having her pussy eaten: comparing the act of cunnilingus to eating skittles and sucking on lollipops. "Partition" is a song about sex in a limo which features the nasty ass lyric 'He Monica Lewinski'd all up on my gown'. "Rocket" is a song about passionate sex which compares Beyoncé's pussy to a waterfall and her body to a set of mountains - which indicates that Beyoncé is truly 'the one' Amazonian empress from the kingdom of lost wigs and that the land of Amazonia may be her vagina. "Jealous" is a song about wondering why your man would not come home to you when you cook his dinner naked. "Haunted" is Beyoncé's homage of sorts to Madonna's "Justify my love" - a darker take on sex which points to BDSM and possibly sexy with a ghost, although I have no idea how that would work, as the film with Patrick Swayze taught us that shit just ain't possible. The Jay-Z assisted "Drunk in love" is about drunk sex. With Beyoncé semi-rapping ratchet nastiness and Jay-Z making her sound like a complete ho. Blue Ivy may want to give this song a skip when she's old enough to make sense of it all, unless she wants intimate details as to how and where she was conceived. If the song is autobiographical, then Jay-Z pinned Beyoncé up against his Warhol painting, pulled her panties to the side, hit that thang and then left her weave sweated out on the kitchen floor. I have no issue with Beyoncé singing about sex. But we didn't need it across a third of the album. Hearing her sing so explicitly about sex also feels odd, because it feels forced. When Rihanna sings about wanting some dick I believe her because she genuinely seems thirsty for nothing more than being dicked down by some thug from Craigslist. When Beyoncé sings about the physical act of sex I find it hard to imagine. It's strange given Beyoncé is so damn sexy and exudes sex in so much she does. But a large part of Beyoncé's titillation is that she never explicitly speaks on it. She lets her body and beauty do all of the talking. So to suddenly hear her singing about wanting to get her pussy eaten and sucking her husbands dick until her voice is hoarse is odd to take. The only redeeming factor is that each of the songs sound completely different to the other. Despite Beyoncé being as frisky as she is on stage, I have a hard time believing that sex with her would be all that interesting.

When Beyoncé attempts to make a grand statement on this album it always feels at odds because the message taken out of the song isn't always the right one. Album opener "Pretty hurts" is an interesting way to open the album as it isn't an obvious opening choice. It's a great song which is an ode of self acceptance, with a roaring chorus which sticks like glue. But what has been taken out of this song and video is the likes of 'What would Beyonce know about this when she's THAT gorgeous!?' 'OMG, she looks so flawless as she throws that trophy'. 'Even when she's throwing up in the toilet, the weave looks on point'. The message of the song becomes secondary. "***Flawless" features the song "Bow down" which was called out for being derogatory and going against Beyoncé's status as a feminist when it was released last year, but in its full form the song has more context. Once Beyoncé is told telling every bitch to bow down, a speech from Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is played - in which she speaks about the lines which blur feminism and how a girls and women are taught to be a particular way as not to go against the grain of society or challenge a man who is able to do whatever he likes because society just accepts that he can because it is seen as his duty as a man. It's a beautiful speech, which gives "Bow down" a greater context and makes you think 'Ahhhhh, I see what B is trying to do here'. But then this section is followed by Beyoncé singing about how her diamond is flawless and that she wakes up looking as stunning as she does in the music video. You could argue this is Beyoncé playing the misogynistic role men play in songs to prove a point that women can do it too. Or the 'I woke up like this...flawless' lyric itself could be in reference back to the album opener "Pretty hurts" which focused on the pursuit of physical perfection. That it takes work and effort to look good and that it is seen as a woman's prerogative to constantly look her best to get anywhere in life. The song sparks a debate, but what is a shame with this song is what fans are taking out of it, which are not Chimamanda's words, but the lines where Beyoncé sings about how free of flaws she is and taking this literally. It's a shame that two of the most thought provoking records on the album may end up being reduced to nothing more than just facets for how amazing Beyoncé herself is and not that these songs are a projection of how individuals need to see themselves.

I honestly can not tell whether Beyonce doesn't know what she's doing with these mixed messages or if she absolutely knows and is doing it deliberately because she knows it will fan the flames which have been burning ever since Destiny's child released "Independent women (Part 1)". It's debatable. Beyonce IS a pop star. She says no more or no less than her peers, yet seems to be criticised harsher than any of the others. Maybe it's because Beyoncé's status cuts across and transcends so many different social sectors, races and media's than some of her peers. Maybe it's because Beyoncé is a black woman that people feel she has a greater responsibility. I don't know. But the lyrical content of this album and the music videos will keep people talking. What this album will not do however is convince anybody otherwise who felt one way or the other about her. If you couldn't stand Beyoncé's music before and felt she had nothing of note to say, you won't suddenly like it now. If you loved everything she had been doing up to this point, you will be all over this.

The moments on this album which shine outright and pose the less questions are the ones where we get to go behind the veil and the message is at its most honest and pure. The Drake assisted "Mine" is a hauntingly hot song about coming to the realisation that you're in love with somebody and that you can't just leave them when things go wrong. The song opens as a ballad which has Beyoncé singing about doubts she had about her marriage and the ways in which her daughter changed her feelings for Jay-Z. It's a complete left turn from "Drunk in love" and is one of the most open moments on the album in regards to Beyoncé's feelings of love. The entire song is typical Drake from top to bottom. It's evident from the start that he wrote the entire thing (despite the credits listing Beyoncé as a co-writer), but the lyrics feel completely tailored for her.

The album closer "Blue" is dedicated to her daughter. It's a beautiful song which carries a greater weight coming directly after the song "Heaven" which refers to the death of her mother's closest friend. The island vibe of the song feels almost like a lullaby. The final moments of the song which feature Blue Ivy singing a line from the chorus, saying her mother's name and constantly asking to see her daddy - ending the album with one love of her life asking about the other love of her life. It's a moving moment and one of the most fitting closures to a Beyoncé record to date. It's also the purest song on the album where the sentiment and message isn't lost in a web of contradictions.

Oddly, the one song which typifies Beyoncé and really sums her up sonically and lyrically isn't even included as an audio track, and that song is "Grown woman". It's a brilliant song which I like more and more with each listen. One one hand it was a mess for it to have been left off as a track, because it showcases the essence of Beyoncé so brilliantly in one song. On the other hand, for her to leave it off of the album and include it in video form proves the point of the song, that she's is a grown woman who can do what the f**k she likes.

Beyoncé's fifth effort features a lot of smoke an mirrors which come in the form of the music videos dropping simultaneously and also the way in which Beyoncé released it. Whilst this may well be Beyoncé's best album, it is nothing new. It is pretty much a collective of everything Beyoncé has done across her previous albums. The risk with this album is all in how she released it, not with the actual music. Whenever Beyoncé does step outside of her usual musical comfort zone, she pussy pops her way straight outside of it. "Ghost", "Haunted" and "Mine" are brilliant songs, but they're bookended by ratchet anthems which the Bey-hive will probably prefer. There isn't as much growth with this album as there should be from Beyoncé at this stage in her career. Her status propels the subject matter of songs such as "Ghosts", "Yoncé" and "***Flawless". But there are several artists who delivered much better, forward thinking R&B albums than this; Miguel, Janelle Monáe, Frank Ocean, Sevyn Streeter, JoJo and Justin Timberlake with just about every albums he's released. This album feels as though Beyoncé was dancing to the beat of Jay-Z and Kanye's drums as opposed to her own. 'Let's just put out this album, with no singles, f**k radio and f**k mass promo. Let's make it 'artistic' with no real meaning behind any of it'. Nothing about this album is as raw and as spontaneous as Beyoncé would like us to believe it was in conception and execution.

Beyoncé is crafted by a gauntlet of big producers - of whom only somebody of Beyonce's level could pool together and swear to secrecy. Whilst the production is tight, a third of the album feels sedate and boast a selection of songs which don't really go anyway. Sonically the album isn't all that interesting to listen to and if it weren't for Beyoncé's vocals, a handful of the songs would fall completely flat, some of which completely do (i.e "No angel").

This isn't the classic from Beyoncé I've been waiting for and I'm not even sure if it's a step closer. Between this album and 4 I feel Beyoncé is beginning to let her guard down more. But I'm also getting the sense that whilst Beyoncé is becoming more open, she's becoming more of a vessel for her roundtable of writers and producers, than anything else. "Blow" is the typical freak nasty song that Pharrell could have given to Janet Jackson, Britney or Leah LaBelle and it would have been the same difference. "Mine" is a Drake song through and through. "Rocket" which was co-written by Miguel and Justin Timberlake could have equally have been a song on Justin's The 20 / 20 experience or Miguel's Kaleidoscope dream. "XO" could have been a One Republic single. These instances make you question what there is to Beyoncé really and truly. As after 10 years on the surface of it all, she's not really changed or evolved. "Drunk in love" is quite indicative of this, as she is still in that same place she was when she was "Crazy in love".

Beyoncé is a good album. The way it was released was a a marvel and a feat, but as a body of work it isn't as such. Beyoncé still needs to master the art of balancing her different persona's styles and condensing them into one strong, cohesive body of work. If she is going to take a risk, she needs to take it all the way. This will always be the one thing which will have her on the coat tails of her peers, who are all very willing to throw caution to the wind musically and reside well outside of their norms. Even if its just for one album.

Album highlights:
■ Ghost / Haunted
■ Drunk in love
■ Yoncé
■ Jealous
■ Mine ★ J's fave



  2. hahhha indeed so!! nomatter how ayu is flopping and being desperate she she comes across as a person with some kind of personality and isnt' afradi to smile and show emotions and even make fun of herself (nomatter the reason) and that\s where ayu actually is superior to namie!

  3. Okay... I am listening to this album right now and as a long lasting fan of Ayu I really must say you should reconsider your opinion!!! Right off the bat I'm going to point out this album actually has some great bass, and a very clear crisp sound. Her previous albums have always sounded so flat. Colours sounds AMAZING with my subwoofers. Her sound for this album is definitely jpop crossing into american pop and I think its great. The album isn't full of whaling emotional sad music, its pretty much all upbeat. And Angel is fucking powerful! Sure her video for Lelio is whack, but she looks BEAUTIFUL in XOXO. She has sex appeal and girl power and she uses it. You have to admit this album is a breakthrough compared to everything she's released in the past few years!!! Give AYU and chance!!! ;)

  4. Mine is the best song on the album but the album for me was enjoyable while with other Beyoncé album I only ever like are the singles

  5. Are u ever gonna stop trolling thos needlessly on Beyonce? She sings and performs and puts together a better all-around pop star package than any of our other faves or her peers and all we can negatively comment on is her weight and age? I'd think we'd be better than that in 21st century gender equality politics...

    Anyway, Queen B totally brought the heat and other goods with this 1, you should've seriously gave her no less than an 8 here J. Not only is it more cohesive and coherent than any of her previous 4 studio albums, its nearly totally filler free and is more emotionally resonant both as a whole concept and the sum of its parts.

    I do think she'll continue (and should) expanding her genre and lyrical experimentation, but this is more than satisfactory until her undeniable classic comes through. All the vocal and studio production effects are Grade A and groundbreaking enough. And who cares about excessive sex song subject matter when the results are amazing as Blow, Drunk In Love, & Partition? Its nowhere near the best record ever or even of the last decade from a contemporary R'n'B act (I'll vouch for Janelle Monae, Miguel & Frank Ocean being much more innovative and self-guided with their material). But its certainly a moredefinitive statement versus a mere vehicle for of-the-moment hit singles; who the hell else could've pull of the critical or commercial success B did here? Miley, Katy, Britney, and GaGa all tried in the same year and couldn't and probably never will. Genius is just that snd she showed some serious rays of this go-round.

  6. Stan woes? Her having the most critically acclaimed abd commercially successful album of 2013 amd so far in 2014 is woeful stanning? Guess Queen Bee had the last bit of wisdom in sayimg "wherever there is much success there is much negativity"...

  7. It's not the best thing since...a long time but this album does do its job and I think everyone was happy this album hit the fan. The music videos definitely helped it -- of course.

  8. To da left, to da left. Everythang you Stan in a box to da left.

    Not that her big thighs will fit. lol

  9. No, maybe just your lack of self-awareness and barely implicit sexism in that so called box 2 the left (love these incipent song references, they're certainly not PROJECTION or ad hominem of any sort) but haters are gonna hate if they have nothing better 2 do, SO ~_~...

  10. I may or not agree with that first statement in retrospect but its certainly the best thing that came out in the U.S. music industry and by extension, most anything the world over of 2014. It would've been just as good with or without the music videos since they don't always love up to the quality of the music in and of itself (she's not a special effects vangaurd like Madonna or Michael Jacksonor even more recent peers like Lady GaGa but she can hold her own against them in performing and choreography); they just enhance that whole 'visual album' concept she was opting for. In our media obsessed present, itt may not have quite hit the sales apex it had without them or if the album was available a la carte from the get go on itunes but in the end it was truly about quality and the element of surprise. Even the most popular J-pop artists who release a thousand different editions and shoot videos for most if not every track on their albums could've pulled this off at any point without the tunes being THAT above average; Ayu & Koda come to mind and need to be taking notes....:D

  11. If Ya Mad Then Ya Should've Put A Cap On It.

    Don't Be Mad 'Cause Ya See Me Hate On It.

    Oh oh oh lol lol lol lol lol........

  12. i take issue with the insinuation that justin timberlake has done anything good outside of sexyback and recycling cry me a river on every album

  13. Beyonce’s
    ‘4’ and ‘BEYONCE’ albums are to me, the most boring albums she’s ever released.
    I’m still in love with all three of her previous albums because I think they are
    more consistent, compared to ‘4’ and ‘BEYONCE’ being a little bit of
    everything, all over the place. The video’s for this album compared to ‘4’ are
    better and I like them, but they don’t really make me like the songs more. ‘Blow’, ‘Yonce/Partition’, ‘Pretty Hurts’ and ‘Flawless’ are my favorite
    tracks though I wish ‘Flawless’ was still ‘Bow Down/I Been On’.

  14. Yeah, its "radio"; I know this ONLY because I have 3 years of Japanese and can tell you that all "r" sounds become "l" since they decided to leave the former out during its middle ages conception. Sounds silly 2 us gaijin but its all kosher to them Japanese folks....


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