Beyoncé: Beyoncé

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Posted February 6, 2014 by in Pop
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Rating

Overall
 
 
 
 
 

2/ 5

Details

Genre: ,
 
Producer: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
 
Label: ,
 
 
 
 
Genre: Electro-R&B, pop
 
Producer: Ammo, Boots, Detail, Jerome Harmon, Hit-Boy, HazeBanga, Key Wane, Beyoncé Knowles, Terius Nash, Caroline Polachek, Rey Reel, Noah "40" Shebib, Ryan Tedder, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams
 
Label: Parkwood, Columbia
 
Format: Digital download, compact disc
 
Time: 66:35
 
Release Date: 13 December 2013
 
Spin This: "Pretty Hurts," "Drunk in Love," "Rocket"
 

Pros:

From the point-of-view of avant-garde electro-R&B, it feels like her attempt at Kanye's Dark Twisted Fantasy
 

Cons:

Sing-worthy tracks are practically hard to find; desperation to rewrite the pop formula and forbidden sex romps eat away at crossover factor
 

Avant-garde Bey turns up the volume on her “naughty girl” sexcapades

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Avant-garde Bey turns up the volume on her “naughty girl” sexcapades

Being experimentally edgy and avant-garde usually comes with a price. For Beyoncé, that cost is much more extraordinary. For an artist that has had to carry the lion’s share of creative output for the world-famous R&B girl group Destiny’s Child and to create a whole new entity around a solo career,  the modern-day Diana Ross has gone from strong to “Sasha” fierce in just a decade. Let it be noted that the albums weren’t all that memorable: 2011’s 4 was a career disappointment in the world of sales and in radio airplay. B’Day was ambitious, but sloppy. Nevertheless, Beyoncé triumphs from a singles’ perspective and in the art of catering to her audience. She knows her stans and doesn’t hesitate in giving them the fullness of the Beyoncé experience, which also includes the oddities, the rarities and the naked versions of incomplete studio creations. To a certain degree, she’s only giving her base what they crave, even if the majority of them didn’t show up to collect her 4 album. But dropping an album overnight, without any promotional buzz or without the mere whisper of industry publicity, in a day when leaked albums are hard to avoid, is an irregularity in today’s world. Beyoncé has done that with her self-titled album. How she pulled it off is a science that deserves its own college course. But the album, one that’s billed a visual album due to the sheer amount of companion videos that occupies the iTunes digital version, is where much of the attention should be directed.

Beyoncé creates an opportunity for the naughty voyeur to peruse the thoughts and actions of a more intimate Beyoncé Knowles. As if her documentary wasn’t enough, Beyoncé humanizes her a bit more. With “Pretty Hurts” opening up the conversation about living up to other people’s high expectations and the dangerous focus on the outer appearance (“You can’t fix what you can’t see/it’s the soul that needs the surgery”), Bey serves up a warm stew of self-esteem tutorials that conjures up the “Halo” motif. But everything afterwards is a hodgepodge of vault soundbytes, 808-burdened mixes and songs so intoxicated with innuendos that it appears silly. “Haunted,” which falls right after the calm of “Pretty Hurts,” comes off as a woozy rant on the pains that come with pop life and her internal rumblings on her parent label without even calling out their name: “I don’t trust these record labels/I’m torn.” Then that state of drunkenness implodes all over “Drunk in Love” where the singer worships her “cigars on ice,” gives shoutouts to her “phatty” and devours the nectar of “watermelon.” While in her state of inebriation, Bey’s hubby Jay-Z jumps into the club-laced workout with a cameo rap sporting an embarrassing Morse code dance around Ike Turner brutality (“Eat the cake, Annie Mae”). The Pharrell Williams/Timbaland-produced “Blow” plays like a Vanity 6 romp without the Prince. “Partition,” divided up like Justin Timberlake’s “20/20” features, tries to turn Bey into a miniature Nicki Minaj while she raps “Yonce all on his mouth like liquor.” When the first half ends, Knowles keeps the freaky X-rated lovefest going, even as she reduces her divaness for backroom private dancer: “He popped all my buttons and he ripped my blouse/He Monica Lewinsky-ed all on my gown.” Controversy ensues as last year’s “Bow Down” sneaks into “***Flawless” and sound clips of the 1986 NASA Space Shuttle Challenger takeoff opens up “XO” with her fumbling over a doomed love affair. Much of the music sinks into a less-than-appetizing slump as she tries to develop a pathway for the male-dominated productions inside her sweaty boudoir. “Rocket,” a pleasing Quiet Storm slow grinder that matches some of the neo-soul qualities of D’Angelo’s “Untitled,” may be the best of the rest. Sadly, it rambles too long and easily abandons the exercise of melody for curvaceous vocal runs. Black gospel heads will gleam over the sexy odyssey like it’s a Daryl Coley experiment, but it’s far from ever being a karaoke standout.

Some are saying that if one is interested in earning the full concept of Beyoncé, they must watch the visual interpretations of the songs. And that may be true since video was what initially killed the radio star. But on the trek that Beyoncé is on, she’s dangerously becoming anti-radio. To say that rock and pop stars cannot live without the support of radio is something of a misnomer, especially as artists with longevity are finding other ways to get their product out to the masses. But it is crucially vital to have radio power and to keep it if an artist wants to remain relevant. Beyoncé no longer is the darling child of Top 40 and is becoming a dangerous spectacle in the realm of “hood music.” Once a female artist willfully decides to go into that market, regardless of how much art goes on the canvas, there’s usually no way they will ever recover. Bey used to look like the Diana Ross of our generation. But even Miss Ross wouldn’t dare air her dirty laundry.

 


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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