Tuesday 17 December 2013


Well. She did it. I’m not sure how, but Beyoncé managed to release her fifth album onto iTunes without any publicity or warning… and nearly breaking the Internet in the process.

As soon as I heard, I, like millions out there, went straight to download my own copy. It was so exciting and I couldn’t wait to be part of it (I’ve got a feeling this will go down in music history as a "where were you when" moment).

I’ve always been a fan of Beyoncé, and consider her a cut above the rest. That was exemplified with the release of this album really; of those I’ve spoken to about the release, some have been awe-struck, and others have been more "Of course she could do it, she’s Beyoncé". It just goes to prove that you don’t need to have big flashy launches and hover-dresses to make music (sorry, Monsters).

The self-titled ‘Beyoncé’ is being marketed as a visual album, so I of course decided that the best way to hear it for the first time would be by watching all sixteen videos back to back. The album is sexy, provocative, and a bit dirty at times, but Beyoncé never does it for the sake of it. When she’s rolling around in bed in Rocket, it’s because she’s talking about sex. When she’s stripping on top of a piano in Partition, it’s because she’s talking about getting her kit off and, guess what, having sex. She’s not prancing about with no clothes whilst discussing the importance of communication in a relationship (and she’s also not flashing her boobs in the name of ‘equality’ either, like someone else we know…)

There’s something quite nice about the fact that, when we see her frolicking in the sand with some guy, we know that guy is her husband, and who wouldn’t want to be Drunk In Love with their other half? And it has to be said, a black and white beach scene is much classier than, I don’t know, a motorcycle and a fake mountainous backdrop (okay, okay, I’ll stop bitching now). Jay Z’s frequent appearances on the album are a good thing in my book; reminiscent of the good ol’ Crazy In Love days, and a clear sign that their relationship is still going strong.

But Beyoncé isn’t afraid to publicly discuss how things have been rocky in their relationship. Many reviewers have said that Mine “revealed some validity to the reports that the couple once considered a trial separation”. Maybe, and the same could be said about Jealous, but in my eyes, with her Mrs Carter tour in full swing, it doesn’t sound like she’s planning on reverting back to Miss Knowles any time soon. Of course they may have gone through a tricky patch, with the tour, the baby, the documentary, and now a full album, and isn’t she brave to come out and just say it? Listen to the whole song, reviewers, and give B and Z’s relationship the respect it deserves. I have to mention here how stunning the video for Mine is, as well as Ghost; Pierre Debusschere has a beautiful eye, making every still a work of art.

There are many sides of Beyoncé character on display in the album. As well as wife we get the first proper glance of her as mother, with a beautiful love song dedicated to and featuring little Miss Blue Ivy. She talks a lot about love, but also loss in the chilling Heaven. There’s pop-y and commercial Beyoncé in XO, Ghetto Chic Beyoncé in No Angel, 70s disco Beyoncé in Blow, 90s trance Beyoncé in Haunted - the video was like Vogue walking through Backstreet Boy’s Everybody, with a bit of The Shining thrown in, but hey, it worked!

It has to be said, there is also a lot of Beyoncé on display in the album too, if you catch my drift, and also a reveal of this darker, grittier alterego, Yoncé. When she’s not walking barefoot in Rio with baby and hubby, Yoncé is a suffragette pussy rioter, taking on the police in Superpower, and grabbing feminism by the balls, so to speak. In ***Flawless, we hear Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, the Nigerian writer, and an extract from her TED talk, ‘We Should All Be Feminists’. As well as the moral upbringing of girls today, Beyoncé also tackles the ongoing battle of beauty and body image, in the opening track Pretty Hurts.

I’ve always thought Beyoncé was one of the most stunning women to walk this Earth, even way back in the Say My Name days! She’s got curves in all the right places, and isn’t afraid to hide them. She works hard for that killer figure, you only have to watch her routines to know that, but that certainly isn’t a body that’s been starved or undernourished.

Both ***Flawless and Pretty Hurts feature flashbacks of little Beyoncé, as does Grown Woman. This has to be one of my favourite songs on the album, and although the video really does make it, I was sad not to see an audio version too. Jake Nava’s clever use of flashbacks and video manipulation made it an absolute joy to watch, not to mention the snippets of familiar faces, including Tina Knowles, Solange Knowles and Kelly Rowland. In fact, Beyoncé roped in quite a few chums to help her out for the album, including Pharrell Williams, Michelle Williams, Frank Ocean, and even Harvey Kietel! How they all managed to keep it a secret is beyond me.

By the time I'd finished watching all the videos, it was like I'd just watched some kind of incredible feature film; instead of witnessing the story of one woman, I'd watched sixteen. I felt emotionally drained yet empowered all at the same time. I've rewatched the album several times now, and that feeling hasn't gone away.

So, a brave move? Yes. But did it pay off? Of course it did. There she goes again proving she really is Queen B and, as she said it herself, she can do whatever she wants ;)

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