Beyonce, "Beyonce" (Courtesy)
Just days ago, a new Beyoncé album was only a rumor, a mythical vision for the distant future. Then, late one night, it came. With videos. The internet collectively shrieked and everyone eagerly forked over $15.99 for the thing. Welcome to a new world order.
Let's just start with the music. Beyoncé
kicks off with "Pretty Hurts," a swipe at standards of beauty. The line "perfection is the disease of a nation" is bound to provoke some serious side-eye, now that we know the full extent of her death grip on image control, but, being Beyoncé, she manages to sell it. On "Haunted," the heartbeat bass, atmospherics and her voice sometimes acting more like another instrument is probably the closest she's ever come to straight-up house music. "Partition" has her in a similar lane, but this one is more of a banger. Her simple rapping is intoxicating just for her major dose of 'tude.
The juxtaposition of content is pretty striking. It's tempting to find a song about Blue Ivy trite, but then she's talking and giggling at the end of the song and it melts your heart. "Flawless" is the new girl power anthem. Then there's "Rocket," which has to be the most sexuality explicit thing she's done, no matter how you feel about the innuendo. Still, the song you really want to have sex with is the Frank Ocean collab "Superpower."
The videos are something else. Over-the-top but hypnotizing. What are the odds that Bey and Jay were actually drunk while filming "Drunk Love"? Because, wow. Jay can hardly open his eyes while Bey is fucking the camera with hers, and their chemistry is off the hook. The "Rocket" video is so close to being porn. The seven-minute video for "Pretty Hurts" isn't anything groundbreaking, but you might want to go out and smash the patriarchy after watching it. There's a lot going on, a lot of ass, and there's not much point in going through them all. The simple breakdown is that Beyonce is fierce.
There's a lot going on in the music alone. That it holds together stylistically -- between soft ballads, thumping and clattering club tracks, soaring anthems and R&B slinking -- is impressive. The slew of other writers and producers credited, including Pharrell, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake and Chairlift's Caroline Polachek, explains the variation and quality. All the while she's covering every emotion anyone has ever felt, ever, contradictions be damned. She's singing about a limousine blow job, feminism, blackout drunk romance and her daughter, and most of it will force you to shake your ass. Bow down, bitches. All hail Queen Bey.