At midnight on December 13, Beyoncé did something crazy: she surprised the entire internet with a secret album. By now most of you have read about the new record: it includes fourteen new songs and seventeen gorgeous videos, all of which the Queen had kept under wraps until the moment of the album's drop on itunes.
In short, people lost their minds. The entire internet exploded with joyful Facebook statuses and reddit posts and tweets celebrating each new track in real time.[caption id="attachment_4959" align="aligncenter" width="625"] [via tumbler][/caption]
Beyoncé succeeded in commanding all the world's attention for at least the following 24 hours, and I was right there alongside the excited masses singing the praises of the visual album.
As much as I love her confidence, (I mean, who just releases an album without any prior advertising or hyping-up? BEYONCÉ, THAT'S WHO), I'm even more entranced by the message within the tracks of the album. Beyoncé is no stranger to the girl-power anthem, and this record may be the boldest, fiercest, hair-flipping-est of them all.
Let's start with the very first track, “Pretty Hurts.”
From the title alone you can glean the subject matter of this ballad: society's unrealistic expectations for feminine beauty, unhealthy body image, pressure to be waifish/Barbie-ish, etc. What complicates this song for me is the suggestion that the aforementioned pressures are ones we assume upon ourselves; the video (which shows Beyoncé as a clearly unhappy – and bulimic – beauty pageant contestant) furthers this idea by exposing the internalization of society's critiques and then the eventual triumph over them, ending with Bey giving a victorious smile at her reflection in a mirror.
From there, let's skip to track number eleven: “Flawless.”
This one is undeniably THE JAM. Queen Bey reminds us that she's more than just Mrs. Shawn Carter when she says “I took some time to live my life/ but don't think I'm just his little wife/ don't get it twisted (get it twisted)/ this my sh*t, BOW DOWN B*TCHES.” The entire song continues with this theme of independence and female empowerment, from the bridge in which she samples Nigerian author Chiamanda Ngozi Adichie's speech “We Should All Be Feminists," to the break-down at the end where she repeats the song's mantra, “I woke up like this/ Ladies, tell 'em.”
And finally, in “Blue,” Beyoncé examines one of the most supreme aspects of femininity: motherhood.
The lyrics are directed toward her daughter, Blue Ivy, and in the first verse she says, “Sometimes these walls seem to cave in on me/ When I look in your eyes I feel alive.” At the end of the song you even get to HEAR BLUE IVY'S VOICE; the sweet angel baby babbles and says “Mommy.” Who cares about Prince George over in the UK when we can follow the amazing life of Princess Blue? The accompanying video shows Mama Bey with Blue Ivy on the Carters' recent trip to Cuba.
The shots show a makeup-free Beyoncé cuddling her child, and are surprisingly touching. That the album can go from being sexy and commanding to humble and sentimental gives it a well-roundedness that feels complete and very grown-up. This album is more than just a collection of club hits or R&B ballads; it gives the impression of a mature creative process and an insightful artist.
I can't recommend this album enough. The videos are stunning and the tracks are incredibly emotional. Through this self-titled fourth album, Beyoncé has proven that she is still the reigning diva of pop music, but that her power can be used for good – for encouraging her female listeners to feel confident and powerful and hopeful.
Start your new year with some gorgeous girl power! And put on some lipstick.