Beyonce

Given Beyoncé’s fifth self-titled “visual album” was released less than 24 hours ago, it’ll take more than a couple of listens to fully digest the music and the videos that accompany each track. I said in jest that I ought to just surmise my first seven listens of the album in less than a day with, “She won. Shut up and accept the slay.”

That’s not completely off, though. With only a few weeks left in 2013, Beyoncé made what is probably one of the biggest and most lasting statements of the year with her decision to release the album without the traditional massive rollout a star of her caliber is accustomed to.  Cynicism might completely dismiss it as nothing more than a shrewd marketing ploy, but even if you find that to be true, it’s a welcomed detour from her peers, who have done a whole lot of talking and projection about who they are and what their new music means but have fallen flat on both fronts.

Katy Perry’s new album sounds as if it were largely inspired by the late night astrological tweets. Britney Spears forgot you can’t have a “most personal album to date” if your parents never allowed you to develop a personality.

Miley Cyrus’ whole shtick was: “LOOK AT ME ACT BLACK, AIN’T I COOL? NOW LOOK AT ME DO SOMETHING THAT MADONNA AND JANET DID 20 YEARS AGO AND BETTER. AIN’T I CONTROVERSIAL Y’ALL?”

Then there’s Lady Gaga, who is probably somewhere trying to study Wicca while wearing a python as a skirt to compete after listening to the BEYONCÉ album, still not getting it.

The fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson rather astutely noted, “beyonce doesn’t need to be like “it’s *~*~*ARTPOP*~*~*” she just MAKES ART.” She also rightly dismissed any potential complaints of pitting women against each other by explaining that “confusing a non-gendered comparison between two artists with pitting women against each other MAKES IT gendered.” Indeed because the same comparison can and should be leveled at Kanye West, who spends so much time stroking his own ego about his creative works that he never truly allows anyone else in the room to get off.

Maybe each will learn that the stunts, shows, and press releases don’t matter if the music isn’t there. There’s even a lesson for the folks feigning certain death over the lack of new Beyoncé material: patience is a virtue, now sit your ass down and wait. Repeat after me: “YES, MOTHA.”

BEYONCÉ manages to not only stay true to the Beyoncé fans have come to love, but deliver evidence of tangible growth as a woman and as an artist. She is in control of her sexuality and sings about it with the kind of maturation that harkens back to albums like Bedtime Stories and janet. She is thoughtful in her critique about varying pressures she faces as a woman, and if you pay close attention in certain songs, particularly as a Black woman. Mrs. Carter is clearly a happy wife and the way she sings about love in such a moving way that after I’m done with this, I’m going to go look for an ice pick to make room for that kind of warmth – ideally in the Michael B. Jordan package.

And the visuals: Let us all thank Based God PepsiCo for providing the footing the bill for these spectacular videos. Beyoncé had already proven she could do some good videos when she footed the bill for the B’Day Anthology, but look what at the splendor she delivers when she’s got a proper budget.

BEYONCÉ also includes many odes to our shared hometown of Houston. I hate this perception that Beyoncé is late to the “ratchet” party. First of all, Miss Third Ward worked with local Houston rappers and No Limit artists back in her days of Destiny’s Child, has done the “southside flow” on tracks like “Kitty Kat,” and flipped bounce music into “Get Me Bodied” before Miley Cyrus and even you non-southern region Blacks knew what any of that was. For all that is good and right, quit accusing Beyoncé of biting anyone, especially an artist like Rihanna, who I love but is basically doing a regional hood tour and borrowing from every stop along the way.

In a period in music where sales are declining and chart brags can be attributed to certain levels of unfairness and trickery, it’s harder than ever to gauge who really steers the cultural conversation. However, when an artist can drop an album on a late Thursday night in mid-December and completely uproot the conversation, bow down already. If pop music were like AHS: Coven, Beyoncé would be the next supreme.

I have to go back to listening to the album now…and bowing down accordingly.

Michael Arceneaux is from the land of Beyoncé, but now lives in the city of Master Splinters. Follow him at @youngsinick.

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  • Andrea

    I’m just waiting for someone to be honest in their critique of this album. Clearly no one wants any problems with the BeyHive, but this album sounds like a bunch of mess to me. Thankfully I’m not caught up in the rapture and can just keep my dollars in my wallet.

    • Girl Please

      Clearly you would only feel it’s an honest review if they bash it b/c you stated it “sounds like a bunch of mess”. People tend to agree with the people that share similar opinions. And if you already hate it anything to the contrary would be considered “kissing up” or “stanning”

    • I would agree, this is clearly not her best work. I’m a Bey fan. Not a lot stood out for me I wish I saved my money, I think because she hasn’t released an album in a while there was a lot of excitement about it.

  • SabrinaMFers

    Now that we’ve gone over all the superlatives. I think the album is pretty good. I like the groove the content and the creativity/collaborations put into the making the album. It’s probably my favorite work from her to date. And I also like Electric Lady just as much. And I like The Fame just as much. And Katy Perry is hot as hell.