Beyoncé - BEYONCÉ

It's her most honest album. It's a surprise. It's dirty as hell. It's the fantastic pop album we waited for all year. Happy New Year.



Label: Parkwood / Columbia
US Release Date: 2013-12-13
UK Release Date: 2013-12-20
Label website
Artist website

In an era of popstars in which being a sexual edification is as much the goal as a #1 single, it's a bit funny how Beyoncé (sort-of) secretly cuts her first Really Good Album, and then when it appears out of nowhere it immediately displays the contrast between a rich girl plying her wares down by the hacky sack corner at a local community college and a grown woman wrapping a blindfold around the eyes of a man who's seen the world. Miley Cyrus spent most of 2013 trying to prove that listening to a bunch of 2 Chainz and Juicy J singles meant she understood what sex is, or how to portray it as a popstar. In just over an hour, Beyoncé renders that year -- along with many a poptart before her -- bad foreplay.

Let's be clear, Beyoncé is filthy on this album. She's hanging with stoners, she's had one too many shots, she's re-living her role in "Freakum Dress" and roleplaying the girl Amy Winehouse glorified for "Fuck Me Pumps" as though the stereotypes against those women as an inevitable crash and burn were absurd. It'd be easy to be offended by how brazen she is throughout this record, after all she's famous enough that we basically know how she looks naked even if the finer details (like how she smiles, or feels, or exists) remain mysterious and it's easy to be spiteful or jealous of her for living that reality. But this is also really her first attempt at bridging an audience, making music that makes the men want to hear what she has to say and the women feel like they can say it to men as well, or reminds them of the times they've similarly warned their man, to paraphrase, "I'm cooking food at home naked. Get the hell home."

Despite an army as deep and varied as any other Beyoncé album, what she's found here is an honesty that's just missing all too often from these sorts of raunch-fests. Beyoncé checks herself out in the mirror, post-childbirth, in a way that feels emotionally bare rather than physically embarrassed. I'd have expected her to go the latter direction on just about any other album, but whether it's the birth of her daughter or simply being absolutely comfortable with her position in life, she's able to approach sexuality as an honestly emotional position, not mere pornography. It's amazing to hear her cut a Prince song about intense cowboy-position sex with her man in a way that recalls the subtlety of ?uestlove's side-career helming R&B albums by Erykah Badu and D'Angelo rather than Rihanna bemoaning her ability to fuck, because it's all amounted to Wale.

Sexuality has been such an overt subject of pop music in the autotune era that it's no surprise Beyoncé essentially simulates a multiple-orgasm on this LP, or Jay-Z cops to being willing to "rape" Beyoncé on certain nights ("Ain't got the time to take draws off, on site / Catch a charge I might, beat the box up like Mike"), but it's a surprise that these subjects are only ever so brazenly sophomoric on their surface. Combined with the music from Timbaland, BOOTS, Detail, Pharrell and others, along with Beyoncé's typically nuanced - and finally well used - vocal performance, all of this stuff feels very now but also informed. "Goddamnit, I'm comfortable in my skin / And you're comfortable in my skin" Beyoncé sings to He Who Was Named Earlier on "Rocket", moments before she worries having a child has ruined her love life forever on "Mine".

It's also never been more fun to hear Beyoncé play like other people. It's obvious when she's pretending to be Jay, or The-Dream, or Drake, or Rihanna. But she's constantly winking at you, always giggling even at the smallest moments. Dare I say it's a very adorable performance from Beyoncé, oftentimes the most teenaged topics she's ever sang about translated through the knowing nod of a 30-year old woman who's been there, often still finds herself there but knows how to wade in the water. At one point I wanted to find a way to declare Beyoncé was becoming this decade's Sade with BEYONCÉ, but at the end of the day this album is far too bangin' for that. She's this decade's Beyoncé, grown secure and prominent as ever.

Turns out, 2013's pop wars were a whole lot of stage smoke. Watch the throne.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.