The story of gifts being delivered while the world sleeps is not an unfamiliar one at this time of year. However, the saint in this story isn’t a tall, portly, bearded man wearing a red suit, but a slim, blonde creature named Beyoncé.
The fifth album Beyoncé appeared magically on iTunes in the early hours of Friday 13th. With no promotion or PR behind it, save for a single video post on Queen Bey’s Instagram profile, it took the world by surprise.
But the unanticipated entrance soon became a distant memory, as the format of the album became clearer. Each of the 14 tracks comes with its own short film making Beyoncé a ‘visual album’, an idea inspired by Beyoncé’s concern that fans no longer completely immerse themselves in music, they merely listen for a few seconds and then switch off, both physically and mentally.
Each video tells a different story, some eluding to the mistreatment of females in the music industry, see Pretty Hurts, a painfully blunt look at women competing against one another in beauty pageants, to the detriment of their own wellbeing. Others celebrate a female’s sexuality, see disco pop infused Blow or the smoldering Rocket, a fluffy, porny, yet frank look at Beyoncé’s bedroom behavior (lucky Jay). She continues to revel boldly in her sexuality on Partition, requesting that her driver put up the partition to avoid him seeing Yoncé in any compromising situations.
The album falls slightly short when it comes to her collaboration with Drake on Mine. His offering becomes forgettable as musical chemistry isn’t made between the two, meaning the track falls in to the shadows of others on the album.
Thankfully, Beyoncé’s not forgotten her message of self-empowerment, one she has stood by since being one of Destiny’s Children. An excerpt from a TED speech made by writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie features on the previously titled Bow Down Bitches, now named ***Flawless, addressing the issue that women today are culturally conditioned to have a single ambition in life, marriage.
The album closes with Blue, a heartfelt piano led song written in the name of Bey’s one year-old daughter. The video sees the pair sharing mother and daughter time on a beach, accompanied by mushy lyrics implying comfort when in each others company, regardless of what else might be happening in the frantic life of a world famous pop star.
The queen of pop is a label made for one person in an industry where many compete for it. This autumn has seen several releases from a cross section of the competitors with the aid of publicity stunts, singles and memorable performances. The silent but deadly release of Beyoncé has clarified whom our true reigning pop queen is. All hail, Queen Bey.
Review by Emily Hatzar