Last month, superstar Beyoncé released her surprise self-titled album, BEYONCÉ. From the content, lyrics and videos down to the carefully constructed campaign and marketing of it’s every square inch, it’s definitely the best album she has ever released. It’s incredible commercial success only adds to this, from selling almost a million copies in less than three days in the US, to hitting #1 in a massive 105 countries simultaneously within less than 24 hours of it’s surprise release… It’s success has been nothing short of remarkable.
A month on, after intense almost uninterrupted listening, I’ve come to realise that this is the BEST album I’ve EVER heard. I’ll even put that down on record. I love it so much that I even remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when it dropped. On Friday 13th December 2013, I was unquestionably minding my own business surfing through YouTube and Tumblr, when I suddenly happened to check the time – it was 4:00AM. To cut a long story short, I unwillingly dragged my nocturnal self to bed and turned over to check my phone one last time, when I happened to see Twitter going insane. “It can’t be,” I thought in a state of amusement, but I bounded out of bed and ran down the stairs to get my laptop, bashing my knee, stubbing my toe and ripping my favourite pyjama bottoms in the process – just great. But it was not a drill. Beyoncé, my favourite artist, had actually released her album. With no warning, no announcement, no release date, no smoke signal or alarm, just sneaking up in the dead of night to drop her fifth studio offering – complete with fourteen brand new tracks and seventeen videos.
For one, I actually couldn’t believe the sheer audacity and plausibility that had prompted her to do that, but the seemingly never-ending wait for new music, had finally ended once and for all.
Here’s a track-by-track breakdown proving why BEYONCÉ is my most favourite album ever, thus far:
First track I heard was the metaphorical ‘Pretty Hurts‘, a song that resonates deeply within many of us, and discusses the idea of conforming to what society wants, regardless of what you need. The accompanying video is just as insightful and is arguably Bey’s best video to date, with issues such as bulimia and beauty pageants featured throughout. This song was instantly my most favourite (you’ll be reading that word a lot, sorry, not sorry) and had me tearing up, and I can only imagine how amazing it’s going to sound when she sings it live, “Perfection is the disease of a nation.” The omniscient honesty and vulnerability is something anyone can relate to.
Second track on the album is the genre-fusing ‘Haunted‘, a highly creative and experimental offering with a R&B beat to complement it’s eerie echo, standing out immediately as one of the most unique tracks she has ever recorded, especially in regards to her comments about her record label. Next up was ‘No Angel‘, the falsetto-esque track which highlight some of her best vocals on the album, especially in the latter half where she swans off a on a hook, “Tell me do you wanna run,’ something reminiscent of the style of tracks from her third album, ‘I Am… Sasha Fierce.’
‘Partition‘ is probably going to be renowned for it’s beat, whilst Bey spits fast bars over the instruments, advancing into an entirely new territory for her artistry. ‘***Flawless‘ is quite simply, a track that seems to be fervently addicted to my iTunes repeat button. Starting off with the hard-hitting ‘Bow Down‘ a speech from Chimamanda Ngoza Adichie regarding feminism and equality soon arrives, before empowering lyrics follow and hit an instant home run, “I woke up like this, we flawless, ladies tell ’em”‘ she chants, whilst dancing around in a red plaid shirt (that I really want). Bey encourages the girls to remember they’re ‘Flawless’, firmly re-establishing herself as a torch-bearer for the plight of feminism within modern society – we needed to hear this.
Next track I heard was the Ryan Tedder penned ‘XO‘ which was instantly another favourite of mine, immaculately beautiful, it’s a song which will light up the hearts and souls of many at music festivals, with crowds singing along to every word “I love you like XO”, and a visual shot at Coney Island, it’s relatable to all situations connected to one word, love. If there’s one track everyone has to listen to – it’s definitely XO.
The album features three artists, Jay-Z, Drake and Frank Ocean. The video for ‘Superpower‘ which features Frank Ocean, has cameos from fellow Destiny’s Child members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, whereas the melancholy Drake feature, ‘Mine‘ pinpoints vague, yet thought-provoking insecurities within relationships, whilst Drake and Beyoncé’s voices harmonise and create tones with an unwinding sense of clarity. But my highlight is the Jay-Z feature ‘Drunk In Love‘, which has a level of intimacy unmatched, as the powerful couple sing and rap about being blissfully drunk in love, giving a glimpse into their world behind closed doors.
‘Jealous‘ is just classic Beyoncé, it’s as simple as that. It was the first track I played twice, which says something on my part. Bey showcases some of her most powerful vocals here, as she launches into a confessional and truthfully blunt ode about relationships, atmospheric and somewhat reminiscent of tracks such as ‘Start Over’, and ‘Scared Of Lonely.’
‘Heaven‘, is the most traditional ballad on the album, an allude to people that have been lost, with a thought-provoking video to match. The last track on the album is ‘Blue‘, a soft, dedication to her daughter Blue Ivy, who makes a cameo in the video chanting “Missus Carter” at the end, this is one of the best of the album, filmed in Brazil, it features exotic landscapes, vibrant views to match the colourful mood of the track, picturesque images of beaches, palm trees, blue skies and anything else you can name which identifies solidity at the heart of a community.
The final two tracks I listened to were the rather risqué, ‘Blow‘ and ‘Rocket‘ which are two tracks performed in a different style as the rest, Bey’s never done anything like this before – but I actually think it works. It’s a far cry from “all out there” and it’s simply furnished with class. ‘Blow’ is an almost classic bubble-gum type pop song expect with far raunchier lyrics and connotations, whereas ‘Rocket’ is a soulful symphony with heavy R&B influences.
Overall, each track shows a journey, a non-linear story, a piece of her artistry, heart and soul that she’s giving to her loyal listeners, whilst additionally highlighting what it means to be a woman in contemporary society. Bey’s going back to the music she loves, whilst shifting expectations of everything we’re told about marketing, commercial genres and release dates as we know it, in the process – and I just love that. It’s different in so many ways from her last four studio albums, it’s unmatched, distinguishes any similarities and is nothing like anything else that has ever come before, which why BEYONCÉ is my definitely my most favourite (there’s that word again) album of all time.
To download BEYONCÉ on iTunes click here.