Music

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.


Beyoncé

BEYONCÉ

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.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.

Music

Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.

Music

Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."

Music

David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.

Music

On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.

Music

Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.

Music

Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.

Music

Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."

Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.