Midnight, December 13th, 2013: it was truly Christmas before December 25th. America’s beloved R&B sex icon and musical goddess, Beyoncé Knowles, blindsided even her most diehard fans, as well as iTunes, upon unexpectedly releasing her first “visual album,” titled “Beyoncé.” With 14 audio tracks and 17 stunning videos, Beyoncé has once again outdone herself, denting 2013’s music industry with a pleasingly atypical double feature.
A handful of other artists have attempted similar secret album releases this past year; Kanye West, David Bowie and My Bloody Valentine each came out with albums of their own, without any prior announcement. However, with the extreme social media hype following the release of “Beyonce”, close to one million albums sold within the first two weeks of its release, no other artist has achieved such success through a risky surprise release.
The resources and talent put into the making of each song and music video is astounding. Renowned Swedish film director Jonas Åkerund worked with American music video director Hype Williams, along with famous directors Jake Nava, Terry Richardson and Melina Matsoukas, to produce the videos on “Beyoncé.”
What was her justification for the “visual album”? As she wrote on her Facebook page, “I see music.” She felt that creating music videos would give each song more meaning, and would persuade her audience to listen to the entirety of each song.
While a handful of videos had a deeper meaning than others, the album was also the debut of Beyonce’s M.I.L.F. image, flaunting her seemingly perfect post-pregnancy body. While her performances do not, in fact, make a statement pertaining to her maternity skills, “Beyoncé” features a number of thought-provoking as well as some very emotionally intense visual tracks, including:
1. “Pretty Hurts,” which starts off the album with a dramatic boom. Beyoncé poses as “Ms. Third Ward,” a participant in an extravagant beauty pageant. As she competes alongside a plethora of other contestants with very poor body images, she utters her famous words “My aspiration in life… would be… to be happy.” It truly accentuates the meaning that “beauty is skin deep,” and that inner beauty far more important than society’s idea of aesthetic beauty.
2. “Haunted” emits a very “Shining”- esque vibe, touring a mansion solely inhabited by mannequins. Effectively eerie and somewhat depressing, Beyoncé’s lyrics and choreography are strong representations of the common societal fears of women: rape culture, female sexuality, deviant sexuality and gender bending.
3. “XO” begins with a clip from the 1986 Challenger disaster. While many families who had lost loved ones in The Challenger were initially insulted, Beyoncé explained that the song is a tribute to those who have lost friends or family. The video portrays Bey laughing with friends and going to a carnival, signifying that everyone has dealt and struggled to move on from loss. It’s moving to see Beyonce’s resilience and her journey recovering from loss.
4. “Heaven” portrays Beyoncé living through significant lifetime moments, later to mourn a very unexpected loss. As she had previously discussed with Oprah, her miscarriage was “one of the hardest things” she had struggled with. “So tell me your secrets- I just can’t stand you leaving,” she pleads to her unborn child. While the song and video are particularly significant to Bey, “Heaven” is extremely inspiring; she shows tough willpower, as well full, genuine emotion in only four minutes of heartfelt lyrics.
5. “Superpower” is especially epic, and is centrally focused on the power of love. With a soft and gentle melody, Bey rocks a tight Avengers-worthy superhero outfit. Breaking through a fiery battle, Bey meets a fallen soldier, immerses herself in a plethora of emotions, and teams up with her DESTINY’S CHILD CREW (such an unexpected surprise!) The troupe then unites as one strong human barrier, marching through a symbolic fiery explosion of love. Not only is it epic, but “Superpower” is an undoubtedly sexy blast from the past.
“Beyoncé” fulfills a variety of desires for viewers and listeners. While it includes a number of gym playlist-worthy pump-up songs, such as “Partition” and “Flawless,” it includes some very sexy songs perfect for a night in, including “Rocket” and “Blow.” On the other hand, it also incorporates a handful of very passionate tracks, including “Heaven,” “Blue” and “Jealous.” Unlike many contemporary artist’s albums, Beyoncé did not sell out with “Beyoncé”— her new album is as sexy and wonderful as ever.