PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


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.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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