It’s the battle of apostrophes versus accent agous, y’all.
It has taken me all of these days since Ms. Beyoné Giselle Knowles-Carter decided to drop her “visual album” on us. While I think it’s audacious as hell act that I have to applaud, I have to agree with my dear friend Andrea Swanson wrote for The Current; only someone in her position and her clout could pull this off. Audacious? Of course, and brava to her and her colleagues for keeping this on lock till it dropped on Friday. Ground Breaking? Not really in the fact that, again, she is one of the few artists that has the clout to pull this off.
But is it any good? Well we have to look at it two way; the album itself, and then the 17 videos that make up the “visual album.”
Right then: Album First.
I’m of two minds on this album. First off, it’s the rawest album that she has put out in her solo career, in terms of sound and content. It’s grittier in sound and tone (and I mean that as a compliment: it’s refreshing to see her less concerned about sounding so perfect, even though are times that she sounds like she’s undersinging). It’s also her most adventurous going from chilly electro to full on disco to gangster (for her). And it says something that her collaborators are all on their A game with some surprising choices from duetting with Drake (on the deliciously chilly “Mine”) to Frank Ocean (on the fantastic “Superpower”, which makes you want more of these two together because they have that same sonic electrical charge I get when I hear Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell – and yes Mr. Ocean would be Miss Terrell in this case) to go along with those with her husband and daughter.
As for the content: I have absolutely no problem with her getting her freak on, especially because she does it in a way that’s artful and playful. While “Drunk In Love” is explicit about the love she and Jay-Z have it’s only a so-so track (even though you can tell the two of them are having a blast together). Stronger by far are the delicious retro-disco beat of “Blow” and the slinkiness of “Partition” which extol the virtues of cunnilingus and sex in the limousine respectively, while “Rocket” might just be the female equivalent of D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel).” Even better is when she steps away from the perfectness of her life in “Jealous” and “Mine” which hint at some of the strife she has gone through and the heartbreaking “Heaven” about her child miscarrage; both of which allow her a rawness of delivery that we haven’t seen from her in a while.
If there’s any… I don’t want to say misstep because it all works as a piece when taken in one fell swoop (especially the “visual album” – more on that in a moment), but there is a slight disconnect when examining two of the standout tracks. “***Flawless” is a rallying anthem of accepting yourself complete with the meme-worthy chorus..
and a sample from Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s famous TED talk “We Should All Be Feminists.“
When you’re alone all by yourself
And you’re lying in your bed
Reflection stares right into you
Are you happy with yourself?
It’s just a way to masquerade
The illusion has been shed
Are you happy with yourself?Yes