Beyoncé consolidates her gains in smashing surprise album
In her smashing fifth solo album, Beyoncé proves there’s more to pop music than potent hooks and perfunctory themes about love, sex and heartbreak.
The release of “Beyoncé” is unique, not only because it sold over 430,000 units in just over one day after its surprise Dec. 13 bow on iTunes, but also because of the music videos that accompanied each track! (In contrast, Katy Perry’s “Prism,” heretofore the biggest release by a female artist this year, roared its way to No. 1, selling 286,000 copies on its first week.)
The songstress consolidates her gains as she offers an immersive musical experience in an era of instant self-gratification. As she explained to Billboard’s Andrew Hampp and Jason Lipshutz: “These days, it’s all about the single and the hype. People no longer invest in the whole experience (of listening to an album)—they only listen for a few seconds!”
But, you need not see those videos to appreciate the merits of Beyoncé’s new album, which aims to demystify the 32-year-old diva—from the soul-baring “No Angel” (“Underneath the pretty face is something complicated/ Would you rather that I be a machine who doesn’t notice when you’re late or lying?”) to the haunting slow jam of “Mine” (with Drake), where she discloses her fears and the imperfections of her five-year marriage to Jay-Z: “I’m not feeling like myself since the baby/ Are we even going to make it?”
With irreverent references to Monica Lewinsky, the revelations get more intimate in the explicit two-parter, “Partition,” the retro-soul number, “Rocket,” and the raunchy “Drunk in Love,” her duet with Jay-Z. She garnishes the loose structure of her melodies with slinky harmonies that will keep you craving for more!
If you find those songs too personal for public consumption, it’s because Beyoncé believes in gender equality and female empowerment, best conveyed in “Flawless” by a spoken clip from Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche: “We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or accomplishments, but for the attention of men/ We teach them that they cannot be sexual beings in the way boys are.”
In “Pretty Hurts,” the singer rails against the objectification of women in beauty pageants. She shares some heart-warming moments with her giggling, 1-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy, in “Blue.”
In “Haunted,” as Beyoncé recalls her “Star Search” past, she reminds listeners that “my soul is not for sale!” And her sassy, emotive voice sparkles as it glides over “Heaven’s” elegiac melody, with a stirring epilogue capped by a Spanish prayer!
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