In recent months it has become very clear that Beyonce Knowles has effectively, taken over the world. Not just through her music but through her sexuality, motherhood, feminism and empowerment of woman. So much so that the Department of Woman’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, New Jersey is offering a new course called ‘Politicizing Beyonce’ which will examine American race, gender and sexual politics through the use of Beyonce’s music videos, lyrics and readings from black feminist writers.
Not everyone can say they have an academic course about their life.
Beyonce began cementing her status in February of last year when she performed at half time of the American Super Bowl in New Orleans. Following this performance she announced ‘The Mrs Carter Show’ world tour which ran from April until December of 2013. The tour grossed $188.6 million in the first 107 shows making it one of the highest grossing tours of all time and Beyonce’s most successful tour to date. She was praised by critics for her singing and dancing abilities throughout the shows and also for her costumes.
After the announcement of this tour, fans knew that something even bigger was just around the corner. No one expected what was about to come.
At one minute to midnight on the 12th of December 2013, Beyonce released a visual album on iTunes, the self-titled ‘Beyonce’. The album, which consists of 14 audio tracks and 18 short films, had no promotion, no release date and absolutely nobody knew that she had even recorded a full album that was due for release. Beyonce shocked music fans everywhere.
It was a risky decision made by B’s camp but it was one that definitely paid off. Seven weeks after its release, the album has sold over 3 million copies and is still at the top of the charts in the UK. It has received rave reviews from critics everywhere as she has released music which is entirely different from anything she has ever done before. And it is absolutely brilliant.
B is at her best throughout this entire album, not one track is flawed. She explores many themes including female empowerment, postnatal depression, female insecurities and explicit discussion of sex. She has finally silenced her critics who labelled her a ‘gangster wife’ and shown that she is a true feminist.
One stand out track that explores themes of feminism is the aggressive ‘***Flawless’; a mix of two tracks entitled ‘Bow Down’ and ‘Flawless’. Yelling ‘Bow down bitches’ over a loud drum beat, she is telling females everywhere that she is the best at what she does. Flowing into ‘Flawless’ is an extract of a speech from Nigerian feminist writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who highlights the fact that females are pressured into marriage yet men are not. This is a statement for women everywhere, to tell their partner that they ‘look so damn good tonight’ and just because they are in a relationship or a marriage; it doesn’t mean they are inferior.
Sexual themes are heavily explored through ‘Partition’. Again, a two part track (the first titled ‘Yonce’), where she describes having sexual intercourse in the back of a limousine with lyrics such as ‘he Monica Lewinsky’d all on my gown’. ‘Drunk in Love’, is less upfront about the sexual themes and was the second single to be released from the album. However Jay Z’s verse on the track was controversial as he compared his sex life to Ike and Tina Turner’s abusive relationship. ‘Blow’ is a disco/R’n’B song and ‘Rocket’ which is slow and soulful also explore these themes.
Beyonce reflects a lot on her personal life throughout the album, something which she had previously neglected to share with the public, preferring to keep her private life just that. Tracks such as ‘Mine’ show her fears for her family and references to post-natal depression whereas ‘Blue’ indicates the love she has for her daughter and features her daughter’s voice at the end of the track as she shouts ‘mommy’. Vulnerability is not something that B shows often but it is dominant in ‘Pretty Hurts’ written by Sia. A song about how society perceives what beauty should be; ‘sugar free/ Vogue says “Thinner is better”’. The short film for this shows Beyonce entering into a beauty pageant.
‘Haunted’ is an entirely different direction for Beyonce. Here she is lifting the lid on her childhood, the one which she had to give up in order to have the career that she has today. She speaks the lyrics ‘all these people on the planet/working 9 to 5 just to stay alive’ in a robotic voice as her lifestyle is the opposite of this. The song jumps from keyboards, to a dark piano key to a fierce drum beat; no exact direction but it works. It is reminiscent of Kanye West’s music direction throughout his last album ‘Yeezus’.
The lead single from the album, ‘XO’, is a synth-pop song with a crashing beat; showcasing Beyonce’s flawless vocals and was the perfect track to release first. Themes of love are dominant here with lyrics such as ‘your face is all that I see/give me everything’.
Since the release of this album, Mrs. Carter is about to embark on the second leg of her ‘The Mrs Carter Show’ world tour in Europe throughout February and March of 2014. If her performance at last week’s Grammy awards ‘Drunk In Love’ with Jay-Z is anything to go by, it is sure to be better than ever.
2014 is the year of Queen B and there is certainly no stopping her now.