Album review: Beyonce shows she has it all

Beyonce released an album overnight Thursday with no warning. (Handout)

Beyonce released an album overnight Thursday with no warning. (Handout)

Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:06 PM ET

4 stars out of 5

Bow down, Radiohead. You too, Yeezus. And anybody else who thinks they can top Beyonce Knowles when it comes to making an album release a global event.

The superstar diva sent the Internet into overdrive — and gave fans an early Christmas — by unexpectedly releasing an album overnight Thursday, posting it to iTunes without warning.

“I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it,” is how she explained the move in a press release. “I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans … I felt like I didn’t want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready.”

That’s far from the only surprise surrounding Queen Bey’s self-titled fifth full-length. More revelations:

It’s a multi-media album.

Along with 14 songs, the “visual album” includes 17 full-length videos. “I see music,” claims Beyoncé. “It’s more than just what I hear … I immediately see a visual or a series of images that are tied to a feeling or an emotion, a memory from my childhood, thoughts about life, my dreams or my fantasies. And they’re all connected to the music.” Good news for those who like to watch.

It’s all new. Almost.

Since her last album 4, Beyonce has released songs such as Bow Down / I Been On, Grown Woman and God Made You Beautiful. You won’t find any of them here (though Flawless does update Bow Down). But you will find 67 minutes of brand-new fare. Clearly, somebody’s been busy.

It’s autobiographical.

Beyonce has never shied away from revealing lyrics, but here she’s taken it up a notch. From snippets of award-show introductions and childhood Star Search appearances to songs about her marriage, miscarriage and her daughter Blue Ivy, these songs are among her most personal.

It’s crazy-sexy.

Marriage and motherhood have not diminished her libido. Not if frankly risqué numbers like Rocket and Drunk in Love — and bootylicious lyrics about cooking naked and having your gown stained Monica Lewinsky style — are anything to go by. And if you have to ask whether the videos can keep pace, you may not be ready for this jelly.

It’s experimental.

Not surprisingly, this isn’t a batch of big-lunged R&B bangers. It’s far more moody and textured, with grooves that run low and slow, deep fluid basslines, and songs built around futuristic synths, skittering beatboxes and electronica instead of live instruments and traditional styles. Fortunately, cuts like the 1980s-style Prince-funk of Blow do keep things from sounding too samey.

It’s got VIPs.

Naturally, hubby Jay Z drops by to drop a verse on Drunk in Love — though a line comparing Beyonce’s breasts to breakfast kinda makes you wish he hadn’t. Toronto’s own Drake fares better with his typically subdued contribution to Mine, while Frank Ocean offers some old-school crooning on the electro-doo-wop waltz Superpower. And of course, there’s a list of superstar producers and songwriters with names like Pharrell, Timbaland and Timberlake. However, one suspect’s Beyonce’s favourite guest is her daughter, whose laughter seals the album closer Blue.

It’s groundbreaking.

From the opening moments to the final seconds, the album manages to tick all the boxes: It re-establishes Beyonce’s supremacy without resting on laurels; it moves forward creatively while acknowledging her past; it covers everything from motherhood, sisterhood and feminism to grownup sexuality; and it throws down a competitive gauntlet for every other artist. Trust Beyonce to prove you really can have it all.

darryl.sterdan@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @darryl_sterdan


Videos

Photos