Review: 15 Initial Thoughts On Beyoncé's Self-Titled LP
December 13, 2013 - 9:51 pm
Now that we’ve recovered from our cardiac arrest following last night’s Beyoncé’s bombshell of an album release, we can react (critically). We’ve been spinning Beyoncé for the past 16 hours straight—no sleep over here, homie!—and compiled a few thoughts on Bey’s 5th solo studio album. —John Kennedy
1. Musically, much of the album is minimalist, recalling the aesthetics of James Blake, SBTRKT, The Weeknd and Drake.
2. On “Blow,” Bey is clearly sniffing the same pixie dust that Justin Timberlake, Timbaland and James Fauntleroy sprinkled on The 20/20 Experience. This uptempo groove would sound right at home on either of Justin’s 2013 discs.
3. Beyoncé and Jay Z may be married, but who said anything about settling down? “Drunk In Love” is intoxicated fun: “We woke up in the kitchen saying/’How in hell did this shit happen?’”
4. But perhaps The Carters aren’t all fun and (drinking) games. Hov expresses his doubts about their relationship on Magna Carta ... Holy Grail’s “Jay Z Blue.” And on “Mine,” Beyoncé reveals her own. “Been having conversations about breakups and separations/I'm not feeling like myself since the baby/Are we gonna even make it? Oooh.”
5. That breakdown—that 808—at the 1:39 mark of “Mine” is damn epic. But once you hit 4:50, you’re officially in the land of OVO. Drake takes over.
6. “Bow Down” (now titled “***Flawless”) aged well. Seems like she was listening to the backlash from the feminists—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie drops some powerful words about feminism. Replacing “I Been On” was a smart decision, too. Boasts of “smack that chick” would be way out of place here.
7. There are some great intangibles here. From Adichie’s aforementioned TED Talk on contemporary feminism appearance to baby Blue vocals to kid Bey’s acceptance speech.
8. TLC vs. Destiny’s Child debates never grow tired. But Bey takes a page out of T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli’s book on “Pretty Hurts.” It’s an insightful take on self-image.
9. Mary J. Blige has Brook Lynn. Brandy has Bran' Nu. And here, we meet ‘Yonce, Beyoncé’s rapping alter ego. “I sneezed on the beat and the beat got sicker.” Bey got some bars, ha!
10. Have we ever heard Beyoncé this crass? “Let me sit this ass/On you,” she demands on “Rocket,” which feels like an update to D’Angelo’s “How Does It Feel?”
11. Perhaps Bey is taking cues from her play sister Kelly Rowland. This album features some of the most sexually explicit content she’s ever released. On “Partition,” she coos about a quickie in the car.
12. There’s a chink in Beyoncé’s armor and it’s named “XO.” Snooze button.
13. What a way for Pharrell to close out 2013—maybe his most ubiquitous year. The timeless, old soul sheen he lays on “Superpower” is amazing. (Need that Channel Orange followup from Frank Ocean STAT.)
14. This might be Beyonce’s best album, definitely her most well-rounded. There are the grown-up ballads of 4, trendiness and turn-up tunes a la B’Day, and all-girl-power-everything.
15. You can feel the time and labor that went into this album. While folks grew impatient about the release, it’s well worth the wait. 2013 is done, but this just might be the album to rule 2014.