Beyoncè has done it again. Creating a masterpiece and undertaking the mother of all marketing projects by releasing an entire ‘Visual’ album all at once. She never makes it easy for herself.
Her fifth Solo album includes 14 songs, all with accompanying videos. “I was lucky to be born around the time of Thriller…I miss that immersive experience between the artist and the fans…no one invests in albums anymore”.
Trying to emulate MJ is a big ask, and his inspiration rings true throughout the album, in particular on the song ‘Blow’, and with high production values on videos like ‘Jealous’ and her care for humanity on the track ‘Ghost’ were she thinks about the ‘people working 9 to 5 just to stay alive’, Bey is clearly trying to master the art of video just like him.
There’s a real urban edge to the release: with collaborations from Drake, Timbaland, Frank Ocean and the husband Jay Z, as well as her own grungy rapping on the tracks ‘Flawless’ and ‘Yoncè’.
Containing a lot more Explicit songs than usual, the singer may face criticism for some of the more sexual videos (which is in the spotlight at the minute after video releases from Rihanna and Miley Cyrus were called to be given an age suitability certificate online) , particularly ‘Partition”, where she is featured naked and burlesque dancing, but in a dark light to avoid revealing anything too much.
Most of the videos have a raw feel to them, including a lot of home footage from her archives, something she tested previously on her ‘I AM…’ tour. Some of this footage shows a completely unknown side to the star, and sets her apart as a true visionary artist.
How anyone manages to create such a quantity of music and visual art while embarking on a year long World tour is anyone’s guess, but Mrs Carter has delivered an LP chock full of signature tunes-from soulful sensual grooves to anthems about the physical virtues, its everything you expect from this generation’s greatest entertainer.
Working with the hottest producers of now, the album does not necessarily stand out as the most original of her work, awash with the contemporary R&B that dominates the charts today.
Were it not for Bey’s huge fanbase, this move could have been highly risky. Staying ahead of the market, a standard has been set for artists to release albums as soon as they are finished in the future, way ahead of the physical production of the record (this helps to prevent leaks and illegal downloads).
Standout tracks include the soulful ‘Mine” featuring Drake, the innovative ‘XO’ (a almost certain for single release) and the latest in a long line of feminist anthems from Bey, ‘Grown Woman’ (this also gets the best video nod from me).
Where this album stands out best is when everything is stripped back, and Bey’s vocals are allowed to shine through; on the tearjerker “Heaven” and ‘Blue’, a song in honour of her daughter Blue Ivy.
‘Standing on the Sun’, the soundtrack from the singer’s H&M collaboration has failed to make the cut onto the album, but the inclusion of ‘Grown Woman’, from the singer’s Pepsi endorsed adverts, brings a little bit of familiarity to the track list.
From ‘Pretty hurts’’-a call to feminists out there “you can’t change what you cant see”, to the overtly sexual ‘Rocket’ -this is without doubt Bey’s most personal, and most sexual, album yet, proving she has plenty of ‘depths as well as curves and swish’.