Beyoncé (Self Titled Album) – The STiXXclusive Review

I went back and forth on whether I was going to review this album because I’m not much of a Beyonce fan, and besides this one album, I can only name you 2 of which I’ve actually listened to (Dangerously In Love & 4). There are a lot of greats in the past who people like to compare Beyonce to: Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, and Diana Ross to name a few, and not all of it is because of her singing ability. I got the chance to see her perform live at Made In America in August (2013), and out of everything I had seen in award shows and other spectacles, the work ethic that she puts into her performances was seriously one for the ages and my respect for her tenacity did grow a bit. Not to say that it made me an overall fan of her music, but I could understand why she has so many fans. Over the year, she had started to really be more engaging with her fan base (also known as the Beyhive) whereas the Tumblr page and other social media outlets really started to show off her personality more, because a lot of people just didn’t know the kind of lifestyle she lived with her already famously known husband, Jay Z. In the age of the internet, it’s damn near impossible to keep an album from getting leaked earlier than its release date, and promotion is the major driver when it comes to building up a buzz for a release; so on a random Thursday night everyone was confused and freaking out because iTunes links of a Beyonce album were floating around and it was hard to believe that it was real. A full album with brand new material with not even an announcement or single released? Not even a music video? I mean of course it was too good to be true, and here we are with ‘New Rules’ being the theme of Jay Z’s year in terms of promotions for his team (himself, Kanye, J.Cole, Wale), this has to be the biggest surprise of the year. There are very few people who could probably release an album without any warning and still do monstrous sales in the process, and one of them is Drake. Not only were there brand new songs, but there was also a full length video for each song! I mean, fan or no fan, that is something special right there that has never been done before without anyone knowing, so I have to give credit where it’s due. However, with that being said, what about the music? The music is the only left to determine the greatness of everything that was presented in the first place, and although Bow Down was released earlier, it didn’t resonate with me as a true ‘Beyonce’ song (whatever that’s supposed to mean). One thing that has always startled fans and bothered critiques everywhere was that she doesn’t solely write all of her music. Look, a lot of people don’t write their own music, but at the same time that is what separates the great ones from the others. It’s not something that she’s ever going to get away from, regardless of the great music that she may put out for the next 5-10 years. With little expectations going into the album, and being a mother during the time of recording, it would be interesting to hear what direction she’d be going in with this album.

Beyonce-Album-Cover-750x400

Much like how Childish Gambino’s album because the internet had different forms of media to help support the stories told in the music, Beyonce had a similar effect with having a video for every song to give the song more context as to what and how she was feeling with that particular song. The first example being Pretty Hurts would be one of the better examples when it comes to utilizing the video to correlate with the music because as the saying goes (or maybe it doesn’t) “it’s a pain to be pretty” (I’m just taking a shot in the dark here) and Beyonce is known for her music being a source of empowerment for women, I mean, she has a song with a chant saying that ‘girls run the world, so sure why not? The price of pain that women go through (in this case, the setting is a beauty pageant based in her home city, Houston) is quite the ‘pretty’ penny when it comes to not only physical sufferance, but there are emotions that weigh in and of course just regular womanly things like catty and jealous others trying to bring you down in the process because they have the same mentality. TLC had a song that I really liked back in the day called Unpretty and the hook essentially sums up the theme of this song

You can buy your hair if it won’t grow
You can fix your nose if he says so
You can buy all the make-up
That M.A.C. can make, but if
You can’t look inside you
Find out who am I to
Be in the position that make me feel
So damn unpretty

This song speaks about trying to look perfect to the eyes of the public, but true perfection can’t be attained because there are so many other things that would diminish that achievement from happening. In the hook for the song, 2 lines stood out that resonated with me the most

But you can’t fix what you can’t see
It’s the soul that needs the surgery

This is a good song to open up the album, because maybe the impression here was that the focus would be more on the feminine issues that Beyonce or maybe any woman goes through and brings it to light, as well as her explorations of Motherhood. I had no idea what to expect, but it was a good start from here.

In Toronto (not sure if other regions with a heavy Jamaican presence share the similarities) the word Haunted is slang for saying that someone is ‘crazy’ especially when they do something out of the norm or if they’re acting out just to act out. “Yo dawg, you’re haunted still” is an example sentence of how the sentence would be used, and it has nothing to do with the obvious definition that would deal with ghosts and restless spirits floating around. A play on words that this song could relate to is that your past ‘haunts’ you, which would explain the usage of Beyonce’s old clips to give the song some substance. But by my definition of ‘haunted’, she talks about not only the flaws of music labels, but also people who work ‘9 to 5s just to stay alive’, and the idea of that is crazy although for so many people, that’s all they have going for them. The song has an EDM feel to it, and that seems to be the standard for a lot of music these days because that’s what the newer generation likes, and it grabs a nostalgic feel for the older people. It’s a bit on the swing side whether you’d like it or not, depending on how long you’ve been a fan of hers. The 2nd half of the song channels in the first appearance of the sexier side of Beyonce that we probably haven’t heard since Naughty Girl. It definitely turns into more of a dance track towards the end of it, and the sexuality comes through when she’s talking about wanting to be slapped, and kissed as she’s pinned up against the wall. I mean, salute to Shawn Carter the luckiest man in America.

Given that segue, Drunk In Love is about 10 years from the time where Crazy In Love left off, but don’t call it a sequel, because they’re two completely different songs (sort of like their collaboration on Jay’s MCHG, Part 2: On The Run). This time it was more so grown and sexy, and Jay really didn’t add any substance to the song, but it’s the two of them showing off their grown and sexified love for each other in an inebriated state – how romantic. As I was listening to this song, and I know the Bey fans might hate me for it, it sounded like a song Rihanna would have or already made in her career. Given the nature of the song, it’s more like a young girl’s lover’s theme, but that was just me. There’s a lot of bounce to it, and the catchiest part has to be when she’s talking about the Surfboard (you say it too, don’t lie). It’s definitely one for the club where the group of friends is celebrating a birthday and they’re spilling drinks all over each other singing the hook at the top of their lungs. It serves its purpose, so go ‘head Beyonce.

Now, let’s sidestep the fact that Beyonce always doesn’t write her own songs (yes, yes, I know a lot of singers don’t either and she shouldn’t be singled out, but I’m not talking about them), but when it’s so blatantly obvious that someone else is doing the writing for you and their style is emulated through your songs, it’s like ‘really? That obvious?’ Blow was a perfect example of what I’m saying now, because the first time I was listening to it, and I kid you not, the first thing I thought was “this is like a Justin Timberlake song, but just sung by Beyonce;” as I looked through the writer’s credits, whose name was on there? Mr. Timberlake – mind blown. In every facet from the vocal styling to how the song is broken down like a FutureSex/LoveSounds JT vibe, it just struck me as his song sung by a woman. That doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a groovy tune by any means, but I mean damn even the production and beat switch is a classic Justin/Timberland signature. As a single, I understand 100% why she chose it – it’s a dance vibe, it’s sexy, and that’s what you want in a single, right? Mission accomplished.

No Angel had ‘DONE BY CIARA IN 2005’ written all over it, and if you’re a Beyonce fan reading this and you can’t go back, listen to Promise and you tell me that this song doesn’t have the same feel, then I don’t know what to tell you, because that’s exactly what I heard. For such a megastar, you would think that she’d keep it original ONE TIME! Lyrically, I can vibe with it because as the song themes on the album play with the idea of perfection and circumstances of vulnerability, at least the honesty of admitting that she’s not perfect and can be a pain in the ass (bless her) can take her off the pedestal a bit (I mean, people put her in the same categories of Gods, but everyone idolizes celebrities, so I shouldn’t be surprised). Also, Beyonce is taking it back to her hometown and has been making it known that she represents that H-Town. Now, I don’t know if this is because of the rising popularity of the Houston sound (on a more mainstream level) and everyone is appreciating the South’s music more than before, or if she’s really digging back into her roots and taking us back to her humble beginnings (hence the ‘I love you Houston´ clip that was used earlier). It would be just one of many references to the Texas city throughout the album. Showing some love? That’s cool – not sure how Houstonians feel about that, however.

“Heyyyyyy Mrs. Carter” was what she had fans say during her mega tour over the past year (2013), and I was witness to said chant, but on Yonce, I was not expecting the song I was hearing. First off, the beat is crazy and rapping Bey with some ignorance behind it was definitely a surprise (I mean, she’s married to a rapper; it was bound to happen) and it’s her stunting and boasting. It felt like it was a bit of freestyle before Partition came through on some Bay Area type of sound. I was ready for E-40 to come out of nowhere, adlibs and all, I swear to you (okay, before the hook came through). What we have here is really a grown woman exploring with more boldness into the depths of her sexuality. I mean, just because she’s a mother and a wife doesn’t mean that she always has to be so wholesome – people like the spice, so add the flavour.

Ironically it was her husband who once said from the Book of Blueprint 1, Chapter 8, Verse 3, in which he said “Males shouldn’t be jealous, that’s a female trait”, and here we are 12 years later and his wife (his wife) has a song called Jealous (there’s no connection, I’m just – you get the point). It’s true, women do get jealous of men (and vice versa) especially when it comes to the way hoe Men deal with things like simply walking out and going about our way instead of dwelling on what we can’t control. Now, obviously (because I have to say it) not every man and woman are the same, but in a not-so-general context, women do admit that they wish they could have that ability to turn off the emotions and just keep doing what they’re doing while not having the ability to have any tie downs, which is what she’s talking about in the song.

“I wish that you were me
So you could feel this feeling
I never broke one promise, and I know when you’re not honest
Now you got me yelling that’s because I’m jealous”

“Sometimes I want to walk in your shoes
Do the type of things that I never ever do”

You see, it’s not all that cracked up being a man all the time, but I can understand where the woman is coming from, and this adds to the vulnerable state that Beyonce puts herself in over the course of the album. Maintaining a relationship with both people on busy schedules and all you want is some downtime but you’re stuck around waiting? I mean, I get the frustration, but ladies, don’t be jealous – we’re human and it’s a human emotion, but don’t. Usually what happens is that women play the ‘don’t get mad, get even’ card in attempts to get dudes jealous and sometimes it works, and sometimes it backfires supremely. The world turns, right? Good song for sure.

You don’t have to listen further than “let me rest this ass on you” to understand exactly what was about to happen. Vulnerable to sex machine on full tilt was commencing and there was nothing you could do about it. It was like Beyonce was leading you to a chair blindfolded, tied you to a chair and then – let me stop. Rocket was definitely intensified, but shoot who’s complaining? Conservative listeners, that’s who. You know, I saw a comparison of this song to D’Angelo’s Untitled, and at first I was like “okay this is malarkey and blasphemy”, but as I listened to it more and more (my hands were above my waist, thank you very much), I can understand where the people were coming from in terms of a female version of the classic song – style and all. I’m going to jump the gun and say that it’s clear that Beyonce has no issues when it comes to pleasing her man (that we know of, I don’t know, and I don’t care to know in all honesty). What you have here, ladies and gentlemen is a 6 (almost 7) minute passionate baby maker, and if I’m lying, wait until the new year and your female friends start telling you “Girllll, that one Beyonce song got me here and he aint even know it.” The last verse alone, my Lord. It’s getting hot in here, and yes…she has taken off all her clothes.

When you hear a Drake song, you know it from the first couple of bars, and Mine is no different because as we’ve all heard through his career from mixtapes to albums, the R&B –esque tone that he so frequently uses can be spotted from a mile away, even if it isn’t exactly his song that it’s being portrayed on. Here’s why I actually like the song, because someone who can actually sing (and sing well) is performing the song. Drake isn’t the strongest singer; lyrically he connects with a lot of people when it comes to the relationship aspect of 80% of his music (hence why he’s so popular), but in this case where he writes for another singer and they have the dynamic to amplify it a bit, it brings out the true nature of the song in ways that he couldn’t. The theme of the song is definitely out of Drake’s catalogue, and there’s no argument there at all (it shouldn’t even be a discussion), but because of the one-liners, and Drake’s obsession of giving the thought that every girl in the world is a good one, and they may not know it (not straying far from Just Hold On We’re Going Home), Beyonce adding her voice to it made it better than just ‘another Drake song’ although it sounds exactly like ‘another Drake song’ (although the last verse, Drake takes over and somehow it becomes his song – well alright then).

I’m not going to lie, XO was whatever to me. It’s a nice love ballad, and the dynamic atmosphere that was built around it with the production would give it the impression that it’s a likeable song, but it just didn’t hit for me at all. It’s a fan favourite definitely, but the skip button had to get hit one time. Now, ***Flawless on the other hand was a bit of a change up. Right off the bat, you know it’s a Hit-Boy beat, 100% no argument at all. Jay Z had Crown on MCHG (Magna Carta Holy Grail if you didn’t get the abbreviation the first time), and this would be Beyonce’s equivalent of that, which is ironic because you can hear blips of Jay saying “CROWN” in the background (AWWWW they love each other). This is her telling you what it was, what it is, and not to be misunderstood because this is what it will be. This track made a lot of noise and stirred controversy because it “appeared” to be taking shots at former Destiny’s Child members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, and just about any other R&B act in the game (as I casually glance over my glasses in Keri Hilson’s direction). She stunted, and let’s remember, a $50 Million dollar deal with Pepsi and she performed at the Superbowl; I think she’s allowed to gloat a little bit. What was interesting to me was that with her songs like Flaws & All, and even on the album with her showing examples of her being flawed and imperfect, for a couple of minutes, she decided to throw all the humility out of the window and tell you straight up that she’s the Queen of this (I don’t even know what ‘this’ would be) and that everyone else is pretty much her peasants. In the words of Eric Cartman, “respect my authouritah!” Gentlemen (if there are in fact any gentlemen reading this), if your girlfriend or female friend tells you “I woke up like dis” then ask her why she still applies make up before she goes out if she’s so ‘flawless’. C-C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER! I love you, ladies.

When I saw the tracklist for the album, the one song that I was really anticipated in hearing was Superpower because I’m a Frank Ocean fan, and I knew that Frank Ocean had done some writing for Beyonce before, so a track with both of them on it? I mean, that’s just supposed to happen, right? Right. When Frank Ocean performed a cover of Beyonce’s I Miss You, that was something special right there, so I was (you could say) eager to hear what they could conjure up together. The song is actually a beautifully written piece when it pits love in the element of being a type of superpower that binds two people (in this case, her and Jay) together. I didn’t anticipate that Frank Ocean would have a verse of his own, but the little duet that they had in the hook and the simplicity of it was really well done and I could listen to it over and over. Now, whereas I may have not felt it on a strong level yet, I can grasp a sense of the type of power that Love has over people. Like they say, love can make you do crazy things, and you do get a bit overwhelmed because you don’t know when the flame will extinguish, but it also has the ability to hold people together in ways that other things in a relationship can’t.

“And just like you I can be scared
Just like you I hope I’m spared
But it’s tough love
I know you feel it in the air
Even the babies know it’s there: tough love”

Without love, you don’t have much, and it doesn’t even have to be in the form of a relationship – love can be expressed in so many different ways than one, but people like to cast it aside as something more material than wholesome. It’s probably one of the best songs, if not the best song on the album.

It’s getting down to the end, and with Superpower leading off the last leg of this emotional rollercoaster of an album, Heaven has been regarded as one of the most heartfelt and tear-jerking song on the album because it deals with the time when Beyonce had a miscarriage. Now, I heard about it, and I’m not a parent, but I can only imagine that when you think you have your first child and all of a sudden you lose it, the feeling is devastating. Aside from Ace Hood who has rapped about him losing his daughter after birth, I imagine that it’s a difficult thing to open up about losing a child. Through interviews and documents of Beyonce really opening up to her fans in ways that she hasn’t before, you can tell that there was a deep pit of emotion hidden that of course would be troubling to any parent in the world. This song is one that you could really relate to if you lost someone, but it’s not in an overdramatic way, rather it’s simple yet the vulnerability in her lyrics really rests with you a bit. It makes you reflect a bit.

From her lost child, to her current child, Blue is a song dedicated to her daughter (Jay had a song called Jay Z Blue on MCHG, and Glory when she was still weeks old). The pain of a loss so great can’t be overshadowed, but at least she finds solace and reassurance when she’s with Blue, and I find that sweet. I mean, as a mother, it’s a hard job to raise a child, especially as a Black woman, it doesn’t matter what your tax bracket is, it’s never easy raising a Black child in this world.

“Each day I feel so blessed to be looking at you
Cause when you open your eyes, I feel alive
My heart beats so damn quick when you say my name
When I’m holding you tight, I’m so alive”

This is the kind of song a lot of parents would be able to connect with and re-instill (if it hasn’t been instilled to begin with, there’s a problem) the love and passion for your child(ren). One day, I’ll be a parent, and maybe you sitting at home reading this will be a parent or already are a parent; there’s no denying the love that comes between a parent and child is the most powerful (you could say ‘superpower’), so to have that on display through song (which will probably be one of many in Blue’s lifetime) is a nice gesture from Beyonce.

I’m not a Beyonce fan, let me readdressed that, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to shy away from some good music when I hear it, regardless of who makes it (sometimes). What you have here is a little bit of everything: some sass, some sexy, some personal, and some entertainment. The originality of the music may be lacking in regard to the fact that a lot of the songs sound like songs that have been done already in recent memory and that they’ve been copy and pasted from other artists with just Beyonce vocals overlaid. Now, it’s not an album that I would personally be listening to as a whole on my own because it is definitely heavily geared towards the grown women (or those who like to say they are for the fun of it). It’s not for your conservative listening pleasures, because it’s more bold and daring than other music you might have heard from her. The visual pieces that accompany the songs bring out more detail of the album as a whole, and although I didn’t watch all of them, I still understood that this album was meant to be taken in through each medium that was presented. A superstar, a mother, and a wife. Women are always juggling jobs and multitasking like no other. Why? Because we’re human and that’s what we’re built to do. Beyonce got my respect because of her tenacious work ethic and just how she puts that on display as a performer. Whether or not you respect her as one of the greatest singers to hold a microphone or not like Mariah & Whitney (shoot you can even throw Adele in there too), there’s no denying that all of that hard work that she put in was gift wrapped and held through mysterious secrecy for a reason – to make a splash and come out with a big surprise. She definitely surprised, and to all of the people who don’t like her, it’s an album that’s going to be talked about for a long time, even if it isn’t necessarily for the content that was put on display, much like her husband’s album that emphasized ‘New Rules’ in the promotional approach. The game is changing, and we’re all witnesses to it. Check out the album (and videos), but for now, this is my opinion, this is my review

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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