Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Album Review: Beyoncé - Beyoncé...

I know everyone has been waiting for this review, but I wanted to give 'Beyoncé' more listens before expressing an opinion on it. I'm glad I did though. The visuals really do bring the songs to life and I may not have liked half of the songs had I not watched the visuals. That's the beauty of a visual album. It tells a story and draws you in. Besides, I needed a distraction after Paul Walker's untimely death knocked me for six. The review is very lengthy (it took me several days to write) but that's because I commented on some of the visuals and there are several stuff I feel strongly about. I hope you enjoy reading it.


1. Pretty Hurts: 
Written By: (Beyonce Knowles / Sia Furler / Joshua 'Ammo' Coleman) 
Produced By: (Joshua 'Ammo' Coleman / Beyonce Knowles)

Chiming pop ballad with a preachy female-empowering message. It scolds a tyranny beauty industry for holding young girls to a standard of "perfection". No, it's not a fresh concept for her ('Story of Beauty' anyone?) but she visualizes this so wonderfully. Most Sia songs sound like imitated demos but with such a strong vocal, Bey makes this song completely hers.

Rating: 4/5

2. Haunted: 
Written By: (Beyonce Knowles / Boots) 
Produced By: (Boots / Beyonce Knowles)

With its spacey, indie-pop beats, this looks and sounds like something from Madonna's 'Erotica'/'Justify My Love' period, except in colour. And she has the woman's legs on top of the TV thing from 'Hollywood' too. Parts of the 'Ghost' video also resembles 'Frozen', such as the cloak scene. I see this as a clear homage to Madonna. Her people better own it and not act clueless. Though, it's not the type of song I would listen to on the regular. It's still stirringly hypnotic to the ears, and her falsetto is everything. Columbia is loving her right now, but catch that shade she throws on them: "I don't trust these record labels". Makes you wonder just how much input they had on this historic iTunes stunt she pulled on us last week. She is a damn shark when it comes to her business. Pimp Daddy Knowles taught her well, and she's picked up a lot from Jay Z, too.

Rating: 3.5/5

3. Drunk In Love (feat. Jay Z): 
Written: (Beyonce Knowles / Noel 'Detail' Fisher / Shawn Carter / Andre Eric Proctor / Rasooz Diaz / Brian Soko / Timothy 'Timbaland' Mosley / Jerome 'J-Roc' Harmon) 
Produced By: (Noel 'Detail' Fisher / Beyonce Knowles)

I find Jay Z's over sexualization of his superstar wife really creepy. His rap was majorly disrespectful and he is rapping about his WIFE as if she's a random. Now I'm definitely here for an explicit sex track and I think the production is hot. I live for that bass and those hearty trap beats. However, I just can't get over how wack Jay Z's verse is. He raps about liking Beyoncé's breasts for breakfast, and his need to slide her panties to the side for quick penetration. But that's not even the worst of it.

Jay Z, who looks at Rihanna like a daughter, glorifies violence against women. Bey has often hailed the legendary Tina Turner as her idol. So, for her to basically co-sign, through silence, this despicable verse about "eat the cake, Anna Mae" is really a slap in the face (no pun intended) to Tina. It also shits on Tina's legacy as a domestic abuse survivor, and displays major hypocrisy on Bey's part. They've performed together, she's tributed Tina at her Kennedy Center Honors and they've praised each other, so this is really trifling. I feel strongly about it because I've watched my mother go from one abusive relationship to another and I myself have been there also. I can definitely see her people refusing questions about it. I mean, you proclaim yourself a modern feminist and yet you distribute these kinds of messages to the masses? SMH. Now I find myself jamming to the non-Jay Z version which is now out there.

I know, I should have created a rant topic for this but since we're reviewing songs, I'd decided to put it out there.

Rating: 4/5

4. Blow: 
Written By: (Beyonce Knowles / Pharrell Williams / James Fauntleroy / Timothy 'Timbaland' Mosley / Jerome 'J-Roc' Harmon / Justin Timberlake) 
Produced By: (Pharrell Williams / Beyonce Knowles / Timothy 'Timbaland' Mosley / Jerome 'J-Roc' Harmon)

"Turn that cherry out". Is this freak bitch really singing about getting her pussy eaten? *screams* It sounds like Pharrell and Timbaland were trying to recreate that vintage sound with the heavy Robin Thicke/Justin Timberlake teas. Disco-flared urban songs were definitely the rage this year but I feel Pharrell has done way better "throwback" sounding songs than this. I like it, but I'm not in love with it.

Rating: 3/5

5. No Angel: 
Written By: (Beyonce Knowles / James Fauntleroy / Caroline Polacheck) 
Produced By: (Caroline Polacheck / Beyonce Knowles)

I use to skip this song with fervor. I didn't care for it at first and it took me a couple of listens before I could truly embrace it. The production is very minimalist with a sexy, melancholic vibe to it. I mean, it's very down south 90s and her falsetto really soars over those euphoric synths. I'm so into those flaw free Prince inspired vocals! The end is just like a breezy summer night. Just swayin' all in my feelings. I like the message behind it too. No one's perfect.

Rating: 3.5/5

6. Partition: 
Written By: (Beyonce Knowles / Terius 'The-Dream' Nash / Justin Timberlake / Timothy 'Timbaland' Mosley / Jerome 'J-Roc' Harmon / Dwane 'Key Wane' Weir) 
Produced By: (Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley / Jerome 'J-Roc' Harmon / Dwane 'Key Wane' Weir / Justin Timberlake / Beyonce Knowles)

“He Monica Lewisnky’d all over my gown”. Ow! “Driver roll up the partition please I don't need you seeing Yoncé on her knees” Whaaaat?!?!?! Review OVER! Seriously though, I'm mad that lady thug anthem 'Yoncé' is an interlude. It should have been a full song because the beat is absolute bananas. And did you know that Justin Timberlake is the one drumming on a bucket in the background?! The birth of this new alter ego is something serious. 

That "Yoncé all on his mouth like liquor" is so damn catchy. I want to strut around in some killer heels and chew some gum. As for the Hip Hop driven 'Partition', this has to be the most sexual Bey has EVER gone lyrically. It's an ode to backseat fucking in a limo and yeah, it's one of my favourite songs on the album. It gives me this inordinately unshakable urge to get on somebody's pole in clear heels and bring great shame to my mama. Not to mention her freestyling gives Nicki Minaj a run for her money. She apparently freestyled most of her verses on 'Partition'. No pen or paper. Bad ass.

Rating: 5/5

7. Jealous: 
Written By: (Beyonce Knowles / Noel 'Detail' Fisher / Andre Eric Proctor / Rasool Diaz / Brian Soko / Boots) 
Produced By: (Noel 'Detail' Fisher / Beyonce Knowles)

The brooding production works well here only because she's in a dark place. It's kind of Lana Del Rey-ish in its haunting, atmospheric senses. She's struggling to cope as the spurned lover and she's fuming. I enjoyed the visuals though but something was off. I know what it is. She sits there brooding, while singing "I'm in my penthouse half naked, I cooked this meal for you naked" and it cuts to a table with nothing but grapes and apples. Byyyyeeeeee! Where the food at?!?!? They could have put a piece of chicken or something on that table. For the most part, I enjoy the song.

Rating: 3.5/5

8. Rocket: 
Written By: (Beyonce Knowles / Miguel Pimentel / Justin Timberlake / Timothy 'Timbaland' Mosley / Jerome 'J-Roc' Harmon) 
Produced By: (Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley / Jerome 'J-Roc' Harmon / Beyonce Knowles)

Beyoncé is crossing 'Fifty Shades of Grey' territory with this silkily seductive D'Angelo-inspired sex jam. She's happy to play the submissive ("Punish Me Please", "Let me sit this ass on you", "tell me what you're going to do with all of this ass all up in your face"). Just when you thought the album couldn't get any more risque. When I first heard it on December 13th, the first thing I thought about was how much it sounds like 'How Does It Feel' with a little bit of 'Speechless' vibes going on. So it came as no surprise when Bey publicly announced that the song was in deed paying homage to D'Angelo's 'Untitled' era. Love it.

Rating: 4/5

9. Mine (feat. Drake): 
Written By: (Beyonce Knowles / Aubrey 'Drake' Graham / Noah '40' Shebib / Jordan Kenneth Cooke Ullman / Sidney 'Omen' Brown) 
Produced By: (Noah '40' Shebib)

'Mine' is awesome. I love Drake's part on the alt-urban cut. He effortlessly floats on this song. I also love how she talks about not feeling like herself after having the baby and how that can change a relationship. Despite her cursing all through the album, I notice that 'fuck' is bleeped out but I assume it's because she probably felt it was too strong of a curse word to be used over and over in a hook. Vocally, I've always enjoyed Beyoncé's lower range and her effortless flexibility with it on 'Mine' fits perfectly with the ethereal nature of the song.

Rating: 4/5

10. XO: 
Written By: (Beyonce Knowles / Terius 'The-Dream' Nash / Ryan 'Alias' Tedder) 
Produced By: (Ryan 'Alias' Tedder / Chauncey 'Hit-Boy' Hollis / Beyonce Knowles)

This carries the weakest visuals on the album but the feel-good ballad really delivers. I don't aspire to watch the snoozefest video again, but the song is very stadium sounding and grand. It makes me think of fireworks and world cup tournaments. It's very commercial driven and appears to be her most radio-friendly song to date.

Rating: 4/5

11. '***Flawless': 
Written By: (Beyonce Knowles / Terius 'The-Dream' Nash / Chauncey 'Hit-Boy' Hollis / Rey Reel) Produced By: (Chauncey 'Hit-Boy' Hollis / Rey Reel / Beyonce Knowles)

Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delivers a feminist empowerment speech while Beyoncé yells “Bow down bitches” over the dirty beat. She probably felt the urge to add this because the song received such a negative reaction when it dropped back in March. She was heavily berated for looking down on other females who weren't on her level. The preachy feminist speech kind of pulls that back but I don't really care. This is MY song regardless.

Rating: 4/5

12. Superpower (feat. Frank Ocean): 
Written By: (Beyonce Knowles / Frank Ocean / Pharrell Williams) 
Produced By: (Pharrell Williams / Beyonce Knowles)

I don't like it. Although, Beyoncé is singing, I cant help but hear Frank Ocean through her voice. His music is boring and his album was offensively overrated. His dreary impact is rubbing off on Bey. The doo-wop-tinged production is boringly lazy and the "do do do do do's" in the background annoy me. The song is like a slow drip as it has no build up. It's the only song I don't care for. I'm really angry that 'I Been On' got ditched for this. It would have fit the album perfectly.

Rating: 1/5

13. Heaven: 
Written by: (Beyonce Knowles / Boots) 
Produced By: (Boots / Beyonce Knowles)

I think 'Heaven' has a double sword meaning, such as her miscarriage, but in the video it's Ashley/the best friend that dies. All the fun things we see them do together were part of a bucket list before she passed on. Bey always has a talent for letting that compassionate side hit you up side the face. Despite all of its sad creepiness, I really like the track.

Rating: 3.5/5

14. Blue (feat. Blue Ivy): 
Written by: (Beyonce Knowles / Boots) 
Produced By: (Boots / Beyonce Knowles)

A mother's love for her child is unconditional, and Bey pours all of her love for the baby girl she gave birth to on the vocally-charged ballad. Baby Blue makes her second musical debut and closes out the song with her highly reverbed baby banter and sweet giggles. In the visual, Bey strolls along Brazilian beaches with Blue in her arms. This was a very heartfelt way to close off the album, although a tad bit out of place for obvious reasons.

Rating: 3/5

Conclusion: 
I never thought I would see the day a Beyoncé album gets slapped with a parental advisory sticker. The album is practically Sexyoncé on steroids and her ass is quite prominently displayed in all but one (or maybe two) of the visuals. But I get it. She just had a baby, her body snapped back and she probably feels sexier and wants to show it off. She's spent half her life being the cookie cutter pop star. Now she's more mature and sexier than ever, but it's a grown woman sexy. I like how her sexiest video features her husband as the leading man.

This album is like her answer to Madonna's 'Erotica' and Janet Jackson's 'Janet'. Notice how those two legends didn't explore sexual overtones until they got to their fifth studio album (interesting). Well voila! This is Bey's fifth studio album too. It really is for the grown and sexy and it's a very cohesive body of work. The songs flow seamlessly with one another. She's doing the alternative R&B/ratchet urban and it blends so well with the pop tracks.

I also notice that she doesn't really go in with the vocals on this album like she did on '4'. I really enjoyed the more subtle vocal approach she took with these songs. But perhaps her voice just got tired since she was touring and filming all these videos while recording the album. The visuals are stunning as well (they shit on the ones she did for 'B'Day'). There is no catchy choreo (sans 'Grown Woman'), but you don't even miss it because of the stories being told.

Dropping her album on iTunes like that without warning was the trump card of all trump cards. She did that shit, and even now I still can't believe her ass. I feel like this album is to Bey what 'Thriller' was to Michael Jackson and what 'Confessions' was to Usher. If she tried to pull a stunt like this again, she would only embarrass herself. Massive stunts like this are good for one time only. If she tried it again, the reaction won't be met with awe but annoyance. She needs to understand that this won't work in the same way second go 'round. I also don't think she will ever top this era but it doesn't even matter. The historic impact this has already had has gone down in the record books. Boss bitch's mission has been thoroughly accomplished.

Overall rating: 4/5
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