Beyoncé is a beast.
Her fifth self-titled album, released in surprise form late last week, is a collection of songs that highlight Beyoncé’s evolution as a woman and artist. It’s her strongest and most cohesive album to date.
What’s most appealing about “Beyoncé” is that it shows – in the sound and method of release – how she isn’t conforming to mainstream and commercial standards: The songs, while some will find success as singles, play like a unified assembly instead of a loose body of work (that’s a hit at the slew of contemporary pop singers who are singles artists). On the gloomy “Haunted,” Beyoncé even hints at the album’s future success (or lack thereof): “This probably won’t sell,” she says. “I don’t trust these record labels, I’m torn.”
She kicks off the 14-track set in a supreme way with the Sia-penned “Pretty Hurts,” a mellow R&B number about the sickness behind attempting perfection. That’s followed with the Jay Z-assisted “Drunk in Love,” a strikingly thumping, sexually charged jam that’s irresistible. And sexuality is a large part of Beyoncé’s album.
On the old school-flavored “Blow,” one of the disc’s best tracks, Beyoncé sings proudly of hitting the sheets with her lover, and on “Rocket,” co-written with Justin Timberlake, she provides a Quiet Storm-anthem, where she sings softly: “Punish me, punish me please.” On the falsetto-heavy “No Angel,” Beyoncé declares she’s a freak.
Beyoncé, a mostly guarded celebrity, has become more open over the years, and that’s especially the case with songs like the self-explanatory “Jealous” and “Heaven,” a soft and slow song about a loved one’s death that could refer to her miscarriages.
“Blue,” which includes the voice of her daughter Blue Ivy, closes the album and features Beyoncé’s beautiful tone and pitch. And that’s just it – “Beyoncé” is pitch perfect.
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