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Album Review: Beyoncé – Beyoncé

Photo: Dave Roemer / Beyonce.com.pl
The ‘Beyoncé’ era is amazing. I can confidently state this before I listen to even one note from the record. Knowles has handled the entire campaign flawlessly. From sold out tours before the album was complete, huge Pepsi campaigns to ensure even when she isn’t releasing, her name is on everybody’s lips and the fact that, almost secretly, these two things were enormous marketing campaigns for an album that nobody knew anything about until it dropped yesterday. Beyoncé is all the advertisement Beyoncé needs. No singles, no countdown, no MTV exclusives – just a record. 
The antithesis between expectation and delivery is a pleasant surprise. The three worrying titles from the tracklist end up being the highlights – ‘Drunk In Love’ featuring husband Jay-Z promises to be a soppy ode to romance but ends up as a captivating sultry potential single underlined with a gorgeous middle-eastern cry. ‘Blue’ featuring the couple’s toddler Blue Ivy may also have cast foresights of pure cringe but is, instead, a downbeat and subtle closer that boasts one of the most beautiful, simplistic hooks of her career. The other bookend of ‘Beyoncé’ is the instant ‘Pretty Hurts’ – a track that might suggest Knowles feeling sorry for herself, suffering from the horror of being a babe but is one of the lyrical standouts from the album thanks to it’s brutally honest depiction of ‘perfection [being] the disease of a nation’. It’s bettered even further by Beyoncé’s inimitable vocals – there is little need to state that the woman is on top form throughout. Her expertise is exemplified in her control and ability to let passion rule without taking over. 
‘Beyoncé’ boasts a host of many more brilliant, understated moments. ‘XO’ stands out thanks to it’s poppier palette and infectious chorus; Ryan Tedder’s appearance on the track explains just why the production is so instant. Likewise, ‘Blow’ might not shout the loudest, but it’s instrumental is quietly seducing with it’s carefree, funky charm. The attitude hasn’t been forgotten either – interlude ‘Yoncé’ is a short and snappy attack that is only eclipsed by ‘Flawless’ that adopts a similar approach to it’s fiery hook and explosive reference to the self-aware ‘Bow Down’ that preceded the album. It’s also a logical continuation to ‘Run The World (Girls)’ from previous full-length ‘4’. This time, any doubts about it’s feminist agenda are quashed – ‘Flawless’ devotes it’s entire second verse to an empowering speech by African writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Beyoncé’s motives are clearer than ever. 
Music never has been and never will be a linear path. The Madonnas of the world will be reinventing at every turn, musicians like Gaga will forge new paths and movements and artists like Beyoncé will constantly strive to better themselves in their own field. ‘Beyoncé’ is sonically not too far from the singer’s roots – she has never steered too far away from her signature brand of RnB sprinkled with pop and hip-hop – but it’s a huge step forward in her career. Self titling is so often a lazy cop-out, but in this album it is definitive and iconic. This is Beyoncé and this is the album her career has been leading up to. Innovative, polished and cohesive – it’s the new era for Mrs Carter and from here on out, she’s starting to earn the legendary status many have adorned her with.
Photo: Dave Roemer / beyonce.com.pl
Words: Simon McMurdo

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