I don’t really buy music anymore, and I expect that many of y’all don’t either. It’s not a good habit, I know, but if I get something purely digitally then I forget it exists, and I have a strange habit of losing CDs that I actually care about. Nowadays I usually just listen to music in the station and put up with awful spotify ads. However, I somehow still receive an iTunes giftcard about once a year and manage to find a digital album or two that I decide is worthy of a proper purchase.
This year, it is BEYONCE, by Beyonce. It was an easy choice – 14 audio files at $1.29 a piece plus 18 videos at $1.99 each, a strangely-derived iTunes value of $53.88 (does iTunes have tax?), available for only $15.99 as a united purchase. Plus, none of it is on spotify (which I didn’t expect). Over half of the annual giftcard, but the buzz already has made clear that the purchase will be VERY worth it – not that I ever had any doubts.
omg the digital booklet is SO GORGEOUS. Like, I didn’t even think about it but worth the album purchase. The first song is just generally Beyonce, sounds classic and is beautiful. This is where I’ll point out that I’m a terrible music reviewer and don’t really enjoy it, I’m treating this more as a stream-of-consciousness cultural review. I don’t know Beyonce’s music that well, but I think that she is an incredible cultural force, and, as folks pointed out, this album was instantly a HUGE success, despite a complete lack of advertising – and, yes, folks especially pointed this out in light of the crazy-extensive ARTPOP promotions, expected to lose Interscope $25 million, which sold less than a third as many albums in its first week as B did.
I’ve been passively listening and reading about the album, there’s obviously a lot out there to read. There’s such a great range of sounds and songs, but they’re all very Beyonce (though I feel unqualified to use such a descriptor).
Really, each song has such a wide range of sounds and influences, but all walks well into the zone of innovation – taking influences and going further. The songs blend together (I’m not watching the tracks change over on iTunes, but will keep a more watchful eye for the videos) such that I miss the break between each but very clearly notice each song. I want to say that a lot of the album, specific beats and styles, are unlike music I’ve really heard before – but to be honest, I’m REALLY unaware of the modern hip-hop/dance/pop/etc world. I’m sure there are a lot of wonderful artists doing things like Beyonce, but I haven’t really noticed them, they haven’t been thrust into view. There’s a wide variety of reasons for this, but I’m sure none of them are very good reasons.
Also, I have counted now, she is the first-listed writer on three songs on the album, and second-listed on seven, which is neat.
I’m through a few of the videos and oh mannnn they’re so gorgeous, really incredible filming and hair and makeup and styling, totally complete and diverse scenes and moods, oh man. Especially since I read somewhere that most of the filming was done while they were on the Mrs. Carter tour, there are some bits filmed on a beach in Brazil I guess? This way each of the songs is a lot more separate, I was thinking while listening to the audio set that the transitions are really incredible and the album is really, truly, an ALBUM. One of the effects of the surprise release, I guess, is that there were no singles ahead of time, so, while a few were technically released as singles, the effect of the complete album is really different. Viewing the visual version is pretty different to me, though, the stories seem more separate. Mostly they’re just gorgeous.
I know that I read it on the internet beforehand, but really, it feels so good to finally watch Bey skating around an apparent roller disco in a wonderwoman shirt singing about cunnilingus. This is a good direction for music and music videos of the future. It’s not one of my favorite songs, frankly, but def a contender for favorite video.
Okay, honestly, I forgot that this would be a really long endeavor, like over an hour of just the videos, so I got kinda distracted and started playing candy crush, so I have less detailed notes and I was really tired. Next time I want to do a full watch-through, I will need to mentally prepare for it. Anyway, the videos kept having really varied storylines and were gorgeous, I looooved Yonce, though, like I was hoping there would be some Diva equivalent, and it’s not really, but definitely an evolution – a really interesting different kind of sexy, I like that there was just a little bit of queer hot thrown in there even though it was def still male-gaze oriented.
There are a lot of self-referential lines and images and it’s really interesting, really great that she’s at that point and has done so well. And it really does interest me, the way that she has gone to such stardom, I idolize her all the time and it’s probably not a good thing, and I know she’s really great but don’t actually know that much about her life and music, and that’s just a part of pop culture, and it has a LOT of repercussions, probably plenty of bad ones. I was also really impressed how her and Jay-Z kept Blue Ivy’s life really private, it took months for the first footage of her to get out, and even then her face wasn’t shown. Now in this album she’s quite featured and out there, but it’s rare to have such control over your exposure, Bey seems to be among the few to reach musical stardom that seems to be really in control of her life in this world and culture.
Summary: I need to keep watching and listening to it, and will likely host a viewing or two once we’re back at LU – I suggest you come. She’s done incredible, her stardom and position are totally unique and very intertwined with the state of the music world and social world. I’m pretty surprised there’s only one result under her name in google scholar.
And here’s a little extra content! Happy New Year, folks.