Like most people I am obsessed with the new Beyonce album. It’s a feminist phenomenon. It’s visual elements combined with the overall musicality of the record are unlike anything else I have ever experienced. The whole package is a work of art, undeniably. That said, I have some beef. There are a few grievances about the album that I have to air, despite loving the thing as a whole.
1) The Spoken Audio Clips – Why. Are. There. So. Dang. Many?! I understand their effectiveness in the videos because they frame each story but left in the songs is just disruptive to the album as a whole. Yup, even Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s spoken word in Flawless. Sorry not sorry.
2) I Can Do Whatever I Want – Why isn’t Grown Woman a stand alone track? It’s fun, upbeat, high energy, humorous. I would have loved if this song wasn’t video only, it totally has it’s own legs. Or at least combo it with another song like ‘Yonce/Partition.
3) Feminist Backslide – This has been talked to death but I’m definitely in the WTF camp on Jay Z’s part in Drunk In Love. In the song he raps: “Now eat the cake, Anna Mae / I said eat the cake, Anna Mae,” referencing a line from “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” the Angela Bassett movie about Tina Turner and her relationship with Ike Turner. Tina (real name Anna Mae Bullock) and is shown in the film being forced to eat cake violently by a stoned-out-of-his-mind Ike. The undertones of domestic violence and male aggression seem to undo everything Beyonce was going for on this song and this album. She/he hasn’t given a concrete reason why this was added to this otherwise great song.
4) Challenger Audio – Questions were immediately raised as to why Beyonce added the Challenger disaster audio to the beginning of XO (even NASA called it insensitive). She gave a reason (to help the families heal) but it honestly made no sense to me at all (especially 25 years after the fact). This combines two things I don’t get about this album – excessive audio clips and aspects that contradict the overall powerful message of the record.
5) No Angel – Ooof, this song is awful. The lyrics are tired, Bey’s vocals don’t sound good at all, and the music itself is weak and paced too slow. How did it make the cut to get on this otherwise flawless (pun intended) record? Even the video is weird and doesn’t match up with the song at all. I find tracks like this, that stick out like a sore thumb, to be unforgivably disruptive to an entire album.
6) Writer’s Block – There are so many writers on these songs it makes me wonder what actually came from Beyonce herself. I mean, that’s a huge part of the reason I love the musicians I do. Because their songs are a piece of them, their joys, their heartbreaks, their experiences; I connect with them on another level when I listen to a song and see myself in it. Knowing that pop stars don’t write their own lyrics is common knowledge but, to me, it diminishes the how much I can relate. I believe Beyonce’s essence is in each and every track but I wonder if the abundance of contributors have overworked the songs.
7) In Due Time – Beyonce is on record as saying that this album was the first time she wrote, sang, and performed her own music without caring what people think or industry backlash. I was sad to learn about how long she’s been forced to censor herself. I’m in a generation of young women so starved for feminist role models. We needed this record sooner. Maybe Beyonce wasn’t capable of this record until now – being a wife, a mother, relating her own experiences in an authentic way now that she’s 30+ – but maybe she was always the artist who would have created something like this. I like to think she was and I wish I had it 10 years ago.
8) The Self-Titled Videos – Beyonce released a series of five behind the scenes videos about the making of the album. I wish these had been included with the download. They are candid and really tell the story of how this record was made. It should be required viewing. The videos are amazingly done. In Video 2 Beyonce gives the thesis statement of the whole album: “My message behind this album was finding the beauty in imperfection. I had this image of this trophy and me accepting these awards and kind of training myself to be this champion. And at the end of the day when you go through all of these things – is it worth it? When you get this trophy and you’re like I basically starved, I have neglected all of the people that I love, I’ve conformed to what everybody else thinks I should be, and I have this trophy. What does that mean? The trophy represents all of the sacrifices I made as a kid. All of the time that I lost, being on the road, in the studios as a child. And I just want to blow that shit up…At this point in my life that’s what I’m striving for: growth, love, happiness, fun – enjoy you’re life, it’s short. That’s the message.”
9) Life Is But A Dream – This record dropping out of the blue had fans and critics alike losing their minds. The Beyonce buzz grew larger than life – she’s a visionary, she’s so progressive, she’s so real, she’s an actual person under all those layers of glitz and glamour. But anyone who watched her HBO documentary Life Is But A Dream (which aired in February 2013) already knew this. The documentary was the first glimpse into Beyonce the real person, the real woman, the real wife and mother. That is what changed my opinion of her forever. People reacted to the visual album like it was unprecedented but Life Is But A Dream laid the foundation that Beyonce was completely capable of art at this level. (Sidenote: You can watch the entire documentary here.)
Do you agree? Do you have beef?