Design By Humans
Published On: Fri, Jan 10th, 2014

Beyoncé: Beyoncé

(Sony Music Entertainment)

So Beyoncé released a digital-only bunch of songs via iTunes (I guess you could call her self-titled fifth album an “album?”) without fanfare, press or anything prior to the release and got lots of chatter for it.

“Pretty Hurts” has a good, simple “shhhing” groove with a strong chorus and slightly auto-tuned vocal effect. This tune, as with a few others here, begins with an audio snippet from a moment in Beyoncé’s life (T.V. appearances, etc. are stuffed into the songs here). In the case of the second tune, “Haunted,” the beat, which is pretty darn good when it gets going, takes too long to get started after that snippet. Jay Z’s appearance on “Drunk In Love,” an Egyptian-sounding warble of a track, is so laughably bad it destroys the tune. (Just ‘cause you’re married to someone doesn’t mean they have to be on your album.)

“Blow” reveals a sweet wavering piano bed, a good beat and a breathy vocal. On the next song, the low bass drum heartbeat “No Angel,” we get the lady trying hard to be naughty. If you’re gonna steal from someone, having these two be perfect Prince rip-offs ain’t so bad, I guess.

“Jealous” has the best lyrics here and a great pulsating beat, a spot-on rap and a truly commercial chorus. “Mine” features a great dark piano, solid lyrics though Drake’s solid rap sounds like a whole other tune, and “XO” features a good verse/chorus mix, big cool percussion, on another big commercial sha-shunking groove. These three dead center of the 14 are truly good songs.

Again, it’s Prince territory we’re mining on the little-girl affected voice of “Flawless,” though I do like the lyrics on this feminist track and the use of Frank Ocean’s vocals on “Superpower” are just super.

“Blue” ends the collection, featuring an appearance by baby Blue Ivy herself. The piano is pretty, the vocals sweet, but the song goes nowhere.

Beyoncé is an uneven release at best. Worth all the hoopla? Are these things ever?

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Beyoncé: Beyoncé