The biggest surprise of 2013 came from The Queen Bee herself when, at the very last minute, she casually dropped an entire album with videos to accompany each song onto iTunes and blew all of our minds. Bey has – at least up until 2011’s 4 – never really been an album’s artist. 4 showed incredible potential, but on this self-titled affair the growth is leaps and bounds ahead of anything she’s done before. 14 spectacular baby-making tracks that finally give King B the kind of material somebody of her stature deserves. Beyoncé propels this star to another level, not only with its quality production, killer hooks, thought-provoking lyrics and visually stimulating videos, but also with Beyoncé’s conviction in each track.
Co-written by Australia’s own Sia (who’s just been announced as the Executive Producer for Kylie Minogue’s new album), this is a mid-tempo ballad full of bass and lyrics about the torture behind glamour, beauty and fame. What you don’t get to see in the video or hear on the audio is Beyoncé counting all of her dollars by the track’s end, cackling.
The ‘Ghost’ portion of this double-feature establishes Beyoncé as a modern-day Grace Jones, gravelling across her vocal not too dissimilar to the way our Jamaican Queen does on ‘Corporate Cannibal’, whilst the ‘Haunted’ side of the fence sounds like Madonna’s ‘Secret Garden’ – and looks like Madonna’s ‘Justify My Love’ video.
DRUNK IN LOVE ft. Jay-Z
Features Jay-Z rapping the lyric “I’m Ike Turner, baby know I don’t play. Now eat the cake, Anna-Mae, I said eat the cake, Anna-Mae.” Any Tina Turner fan will be able to fill you in on the history behind this fairly offensive moment in pop cultural history; nevertheless, ‘Drunk…’ also features Beyoncé pronouncing the word Surfboard as ‘Surfbort’, which plays as a moment – much like when Ike Turner used to beat the shit out of Tina on an almost daily basis – in pop cultural history that will stick in our minds forever.
Timberlake, Timberland and Pharrell get together to produce the best song not on Justin’s 2013 20/20 releases. How could they get this so right and fuck up JT’s records last year so much?
This is the track Beyoncé filmed whilst in Brunswick, and although it’s probably this record’s least desirable moment, that middle-8 is definitely something to write home about and redeems this track just in time.
Bey turns her sex-drive up to infinity on this crazy-sexy-cool double-feature, which tells the story of Bey and her hubby getting their freak on in the back of a limousine. Naturally, this topic is really relatable to us plebs.
Almost like a sequel to ‘No Angel’, but at least 40 times better than it. “I’m in this Penthouse here naked. Cooked this meal for you naked.” Oh my.
More baby-making slow-jams. Cute chorus.
MINE ft. Drake
The most haunting, experimental moment on Beyoncé, and the one track which maybe gives an otherwise unseen look into the private life of Bey and Jay-Z. Interesting lyrics and some truly deep production make this one of the undeniable highlights.
CLEARLY the best pop moment on here, and the obvious choice for first single. A beautiful song that is captured magically on film by the controversial Dirty Uncle of Photography, Terry Richardson.
***FLAWLESS ft. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
SHE WOKE UP LIKE THIS. Probably the overall best song here; absolute MADNESS that marries the previously leaked track ‘Bow Down Bitches’ and fuses it together with fresher beats and a sample-verse from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that serves as Beyoncé’s most exciting and futuristic peak.
More baby-making music, with a few Destiny-bound cameos in the Apocalyptic-themed video.
The saddest ballad in Bey’s entire discography. Simple in its production and lyrics, but undeniably powerful all the same. “Heaven couldn’t wait for you,” she sings, “So go on, go home.”
BLUE ft. Blue Ivy
Baby-specific album closer ‘Blue’ (featuring Bey’s REAL LIFE CHILD BLUE IVY) shows all those other baby-popping singers exactly how you do a song about your child without making the listener want to gouge their ear drums out – and without making yourself sound like the world’s biggest wanker. Incredible.
This is the most self-assured Beyoncé has sounded on record to date, and may as well be regarded as her real debut album, because it’s the first fully-realised project she has delivered – and the first time she has created a body of work worthy of her iconic name. A truly iconic moment in pop music history, not just by the surprise of its arrival or the anti-marketing behind it, but also for the spell-binding content within.
If you want to hear a celebrated artist who has finally come into her own, then you just cannot go past Beyoncé.
FINAL GRADE: 10 industrial-sized tins of skin-bleach out of 10.