Beyonce 6½ ( 2013 ) Pretty Hurts / Haunted / Drunk in Love (feat. Jay Z) / Blow / No Angel / Partition / Jealous / Rocket / Mine (feat. Drake) / XO / Flaweless (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche) / Superpower (feat. Frank Ocean) / Heaven / Blue (feat. Blue Ivy)
I might prefer Mark E Smith of The Fall singing, despite his clearly inferior, drink-addled voice, but at a certain point in time I guess you have to tackle the supposed cream of the crop, hence my coverage of Beyoncé, and her fifth album, dropped online with little fanfare. Well, she doesn't exactly need fanfare in advance does she, anything she does creates fanfare. I supposed back in the Sixties, the main worldwide acts were The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, guitar fanatics and alternative music fans in the 'noughties' must at some point, get used to the fact that Kayne West and Beyoncé and are the King and Queen, at least at the time of writing - not a single guitar line among them. Anyhoo, 17 videos go with these 14 songs, because Beyoncé naturally sees sound as sight. Something like that. For those older folk too, who would have thought when Goldie dropped the classic Drum n Bass set 'Timeless' in 1995 that Beyoncé would see such production touches as leading some eighteen years later, or that dance music, and dance production as a whole would have progressed so little since then? I talk of course of the 2nd track here, the well produced and constructed actually 'Haunted', a song that renders Madonna's entire continued existence in the dance and electronica 'fields' an entire waste of time - such is the yes, modern production touches that yet do cover the past ten or twenty years - yet without sounding dated. Few vocal pyrotechnics, just solid, effective and sensual vocals from Beyonce, here.
Production duties inevitably are shared throughout the album - Timbaland, Pharrell, Noah Shebib, Justin Timberlake, J-Roc, Mike Dean alongside the lesser known BOOTS and Andre Eric Proctor. Between them conjure up music that dances yet also takes itself seriously - there are no obvious nods to the pop crowd, at least not for an artist like Beyoncé. An attempt (and a success?) at a critically acclaimed work for quite possibly highly needed for her at this stage of her career. Oh, before I go ahead a reviewing tip for you - don't put an album on shuffle when 'Wings Live Over America' is also on, and reading about the apparent diversity on display throughout this fifth Beyoncé album, suddenly get impressed she's gone blues rock for a moment. Anyway, back to 'Haunted', I can't say the last time I was genuinely impressed by a Beyoncé track, being a fan of indie/alternative music, whether guitar based or not, but Boots produces or adds production to a good half of this record, brace move for Beyoncé to use a fairly unknown producer - not many (or any?) major commercial artists would do so. Course, she's in a position where she can, with no prior press or reviews (whether negative or otherwise) to speak of, this rush-released (!) record sold 800,000 copies across a weekend. For all the record industry complaining about digital music and piracy - one thing is for sure, it has far increased actual exposure of acts, even mega big ones like Beyonce. No longer do you have to make your way to your local video and record emporium and splash out £15 on a shiny piece of plastic on the understanding 'production and physical costs' mean that shiny disc which actually cost 50p to manufacture at most - was good value for money.
For an album that's 66 minutes long, naturally there are moments that whether about sex or not, quite frankly bore the tears off me. 'Partition' again is well produced, a modern slice of slickness - yet for all the talk of 'girl you like', a complete lack of anything resembling a tune makes you furrow your brow all too often. Beyoncé tells us she's been both drinking and thinking on 'Drunk In Love feat Jay Z' and when Drake comes to town for 'Mine', six minutes of song barely seem enough when three minutes was already too many - still, when the Piano rolls come in and she sings actual soul - you can forgive her such six-minute indulgences. 'In the palm of my two hands' she emotes during 'Superpower Feat Frank Ocean' - she's two hands and one palm? Still, I like this slow burning slice of burnt toast on a Sunday morning. Well, it's not a Friday night or Saturday ready to go out type of song, is it? Frank Ocean comes in - trying to appear cool by speaking rather than talking. My main complaint is too many songs are five or six minutes long when they don't really need to be. I like 'No Angel' a bit, BOOTS probably had a hand in it somewhere as those Goldie drum n bass touches resurface alongside Beyoncé whispering and singing softly and impressively.