By: Monica Sousa
Throughout her 12 years as a solo artist following Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé has successfully made a name for herself and has become a monolith in the music industry. The 17-time Grammy winner made her boldest move yet by tossing her self-titled fifth album on iTunes in the middle of the night without so much as a promotion or a tweet to announce its release.
Described as a “visual album” by Beyoncé, the album is made up of fourteen tracks, each accompanied by a short film. The album explores musical styles such as R&B, hip-hop and pop, while strengthened by the singer’s powerful vocals. Common themes that Beyoncé has touched on in past works are revisited in the album, such as feminism, insecurities, self-empowerment, sex and love. The album includes collaborations with artists including Drake, Frank Ocean, Pharrell Williams, Justin Timberlake and her husband Jay-Z. Beyoncé is an outstanding musical project that delivers undeniable quality and shines with ambition.
The album’s two singles thus far are the tracks “Drunk in Love” and “XO”. “Drunk in Love” features her husband and in comparison with their 2003 single “Crazy in Love” the song is a personal display showing the growth of their relationship. It is a warm, dreamy slow song that showcases Beyoncé’s killer vocals. “XO” is a fun, pop single that is bound to have audiences singing along contagiously. The Ryan Tedder penned track is a synth-infused frothy pop treat that is ready for radio play. The accompanying video is just as lovely as the song, simply showing Beyoncé and friends enjoying themselves at a fairground in Coney Island.
“Pretty Hurts” is a solid opening track with a strong chorus and a hip-hop/R&B groove. The song lyrically focuses its attention on the beauty industry and self-image. “Mine” features Canadian superstar Drake. It is an interesting song that starts as a piano ballad and quickly builds up a hip-hop beat that threatens to explode but never does. The song explores life experiences in relationships and delayed gratification with lyrics such as “I’m not feeling myself since the baby. Are we going to even make it?” The track is oddly structured, yet captivating with its ability to make you pay close attention to the lyrics and move in your seat. “Heaven” is a beautiful, heart-breaking song and presents itself as a letter to a lost loved one. The album’s closer “Blue” credits her daughter’s name, Blue Ivy, as a featured artist. Although this may make you roll your eyes, the song does deserve some praise for its noteworthy lyrics and pleasing melody.
Ultimately, Beyoncé is an outstanding release and is both visually and musically striking. Beyoncé continues to prove that she always has surprises up her sleeve. Without a doubt, this album will become known as a highlight of her career.