Bey­once’s big break­through

Singer’s sur­prise online al­bum re­lease sends her be­yond the strato­sphere

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODMUSIC - CHRIS RICHARDS

YOU MAY not be sur­prised that a new Bey­oncé al­bum just fell out of the stars with­out warn­ing – and that it’s the splashiest can­non­ball of her ca­reer. But you will be sur­prised that it’s quirky, and can­did, and weird, and raunchy, and so many other things that Bey­oncé has never been. You may be sur­prised that she uses “Monica Lewin­sky” as a verb. But you prob­a­bly won’t be sur­prised that it’s great.

Con­sid­er­ing this woman spent her 2013 con­jur­ing an il­lu­sion of spon­tane­ity from a script that never veers off mes­sage, did any­one see this thing com­ing?

A quick re­cap: She sang at Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sec­ond inau­gu­ra­tion, then con­fessed to lip-sync­ing. She broke a right­eous sweat at the Su­per Bowl, then tried to scrub the in­ter­net of un­flat­ter­ing ev­i­dence. She pro­duced a bio-doc about moth­er­hood and su­per­star­dom for HBO, which felt as in­ti­mate as ad­ver­tis­ing. Her ca­reer rolled on like a per­pet­ual-mo­tion magic trick.

The closer we got to Bey­oncé, the fur­ther away she seemed.

That changes right here. Her self-ti­tled fifth al­bum is a hard pivot into idio­syn­cratic R&B that feels as vast and frisky as Prince’s 1987 mas­ter­stoke Sign o’ the Times. Check­ing in at 14 songs – pack­aged with 17 com­pan­ion videos, all of it re­leased on iTunes just over a week ago – it’s her most com­pelling of­fer­ing since 2003’s Dan­ger­ously In Love.

It kinda had to be. Bey­oncé’s not only ask­ing us to cough up time and money dur­ing a hol­i­day sea­son when ev­ery­one’s short on both, she’s also ask­ing us to for­get that her pre­vi­ous al­bum, 4, was as thrilling as 2 per cent milk.

Just five min­utes in, no­body sounds more bored with Bey­oncé than Bey­oncé: “I’m climb­ing up the walls/Cause all this s*** I hear is bor­ing,” she mut­ters. “All the s*** I do is bor­ing.”

So she slams down on the gas, go­ing from con­trol- freaky to freaky- freaky at the speed of R Kelly’s May­bach. Rocket ri­vals the sex-aphor­i­cal wowzas of any Kelly verse, while modernising the slow drip of a D’An­gelo bal­lad.

There are wa­ter­falls and rivers and sins and sweat.

She’s a bit more blunt with Blow, a strut­ting, moan­ing disco vamp. Then, sud­denly, she tele­ports into a funkier time zone, chuck­ing verse- cho­rus- verse tra­jec­to­ries out the win­dow. It’s a smart step to­ward the form-dis­solv­ing songcraft of Maxwell, Erykah Badu and Frank Ocean, who proves him­self a wor­thy duet part­ner dur­ing the fu­tur­is­tic doowop of Su­per­star.

She can still breathe wild­fire, of course. Check out ***Flaw­less, a fem­i­nist salvo that doesn’t need those as­ter­isks in its ti­tle to stand out as the al­bum’s most riv­et­ting mo­ment.

With a guest mono­logue from au­thor Chi­ma­manda Ngozi Adichie, this is Bey­oncé at her most poised. “I took some time to live my life,” she sings. “But don’t think I’m just his lit­tle wife.”

Her mar­riage seems sta­ble, though. Duet­ting with her hus­band, Jay-Z, on Drunk in Love, she raps gid­dily like she’s play­ing Dou­ble Dutch in an earth­quake.

As for the mu­sic videos – they aren’t nec­es­sary. Mar­ket­ing this thing as a “vis­ual al­bum” may have been a nifty trick to con­vince us to fully com­mit our senses to the ex­pe­ri­ence, but th­ese songs are plenty com­mand­ing in their own right. – Wash­ing­ton Post

SUR­PRISE PACK­AGE: Bey­once’s new al­bum is quirky, can­did and raunchy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.