In a time where a corporate tech company like Samsung buys a million copies of your husband Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail before it hits retail and your family friend Kanye West literally builds a mountain every night in a different city for every show on his Yeezus tour, how does Beyoncé up the wow factor? By unexpectedly releasing a self-titled album, without any promotion, filled with 14 tracks and 17 videos on a Friday morning and almost going platinum over the weekend.
It’s obvious that “new rules” is the Carter family mantra. Beyoncé, who for her last four albums has adhered to the monotonous promotional plot, knocked down everything she knew and put her own star power to the test when she boldly but quietly released BEYONCÉ. By putting her reputation on the line (sort of… like she was really going to flop), her decision to surprise music fans was self-empowering and needed as a reminder of her iconic status for herself and the world.
Just two tracks in, the H-Town diva declares herself, through a stream of consciousness in part one of “Haunted” titled "Ghost," “bored” of record labels and “bored” of what she’s doing. Exit ballads, cue in BEYONCÉ. “Probably won’t make no money off this,” she casually sings on “Ghost,” hitting us after with the ultimate Kanye shrug: “oh well.”
Self-empowerment has always been an ongoing theme in Bey’s projects. In BEYONCÉ, her fifth studio album, she explores empowerment through her own sexuality and vulnerability. Of course, all of this lives over an array of atmospheres created by Timbaland, Detail, Pharrell, Hit-Boy and newcomer Boots.
BEYONCÉ was made to cause chaos. Beyoncé sings straight-to-the-point raunchiness in “Blow” on behalf of “all the grown women out there.” On her Jay Z-assisted track, she turns up her love another notch from “Crazy In Love” to “Drunk In Love,” where her private relationship turns into a sexy duet complete with public dirty talk. The neo-soul inspired “Rocket,” which sounds like a bonus track off Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience (Timberlake has writing credit on the track and Timbaland produced it), is filled with clear sexual innuendos (singer Miguel also has a writing credit) like, “So rock right up to the side of my mountain / Climb until you reach my peak babe.” Some may be a little shocked, even comparing Beyoncé’s new music to Rihanna’s IDGAF musical style, but it is really Yoncé (Bey’s newest grill-wearing alter-ego) that takes the pound cake.
In Yoncé’s self-titled track, Bey’s alter-ego thrusts herself in your face as part of her introduction making sure you get a good lasting taste. “Yoncé all on his mouth like liquor,” she repeats throughout her track. Yoncé out-twerks the Mileys and Rihannas out of the picture with her bouncing derriere, strapped in satin black bondage. The image of “Yoncé” breathes through its visual. Allowing every single to live through film was a great call on Beyonce’s part. In the visual, she wears a one-piece Hervé Léger bathing suit with a fur coat (that we’re hoping is faux for her vegan diet’s sake) while her supermodel friends strut around her and casually lick her neck. Which takes us back to her sexuality or in this case, her pansexuality, as she easily plays on the fact that Drake was right—“Girls Love Beyonce.”
And just when you find yourself caught up in Yoncé’s spellbinding Hit-Boy co-produced “***Flawless” retooled and retitled “Bow Down/I Been On” chant, “I woke up like this, I woke up like this,” Bey reminds you that she’s one of us. “I’m just human. Don’t judge me,” she sings in “Jealous,” which details her emotional roller coaster in her love/hate relationship. You can also hear Beyoncé celebrating her love in the dreamy, radio-friendly single, “XO,” written and produced by The-Dream and OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder. As she winds down to the end after taking us personally through all of BEYONCÉ, Bey closes her album with a tragedy, “Heaven,” and a miracle, “Blue,” as one explores the notion of death and the other brings new life.
If there’s one thing you can take from BEYONCÉ, it’s that you never have to feel “bored” as she describes in “Ghost.” There’s always room to innovate.