A track-by-track review (of just the music, but the visuals are pretty damn stunning)
- Pray You Catch Me– Beyonce comes out strong with this haunting song that started off reminding me lowkey of AHS Coven. The vocals are stunning, and it is a great opener that tells listeners how Bey has grown suspicious of her lover (Jay-Z, if we want to assume this is real life). The idea of her hoping that he will realize she knows he is cheating-she’s praying he will catch her being suspicous- is what I really liked, it made the song more original, but it is still undeniably Beyonce, and could have fit in pretty well on her self-titled album.
- Hold Up– Even if you don’t have Tidal, you might have gotten to hear this one. I have to mention the visual, because watching Beyonce walking around with a bat in a vibrant street really pumped me up. But the song itself is one of my favorites. Beyonce asks, “What’s worse, lookin’ jealous or crazy? Jealous or crazy? Or like being walked all over lately, walked all over lately. I’d rather be crazy” The stereotype of the jealous or crazy woman is so frequently used to diminish women and their feelings, and Beyonce recognizes it, but she validates her own feelings in an upbeat tune. It’s one of my favorites.
- Don’t Hurt Yourself– If you love Jack White, you’ll love this song, but not just because he is featured. The whole song is consistent with White’s style too (he was a producer), but they both sound awesome and as it works up to Beyonce’s angry “Who the FUCK do you think I am?” you will feel like you really know who she is, and Jay doesn’t. My favorite line is probably the “Love God herself.” It just picks you up.
- Sorry– The meaning behind this song sort of felt like a mix of Irreplaceable and Single Ladies, but it’s a totally different vibe. This one starts off as something you’d want to dance to with your girl friends, but even though she isn’t sorry, she is still emotional in the end. It ends with the massive call out “He better call Becky with the good hair.” In the video there is a long pause and we all gasped as if she had just revealed something intense to us, but in reality we have no idea what’s going on. This song started off reminding me a little bit of Rihanna, which is fine to me, but it was even better the further it got and the more it felt like her.
- 6 Inch– This song features The Weeknd, who has his own high notes, so Beyonce takes the low ones. This one feels a little bit like a break from the story because it’s about a stripper, not Beyonce. But what the song really does is tells you that the stripper works really hard, which is cool too. It ends on Bey sounding on the verge of tears as she repeats “Come back, come back.” It’s a pretty eerie song, and even though it’s really cool, it’s not something I would probably dance to. I think that it’s perfect to have in your headphones though while walking around and feeling badass without anyone knowing why.
- Daddy Lessons– I am not a big fan of country songs, but Beyonce’s “Daddy Lessons” lacks any of the twang that I don’t like. Obviously it’s still Beyonce, but it is a different style. You don’t even need the visual to picture this one, it’s rich in music and storyline. She sounds strong as she mixes country influences with her more typical style, and a strong bluesy feel too. It’s definitely a song that pays homage to her heritage and her childhood in Texas, a perfect reflection for a song about childhood. This track definitely kept me interested the whole time, and it’ll be one to sing along to, for sure.
- Love Drought– This song starts out featuring Bey’s vocals over a simple beat. It’s a little bit less intense, but it works up to beautiful, breathy, echoing vocals on the chorus, and by the second verse you can really feel emotion in the runs. It’s still pretty great, but on an album full of great songs, it’s not necessarily the most memorable.
- Sandcastles– One of my friends said that this was probably her least favorite because she isn’t a fan of pop ballads, but after feeling like the whole album has been working up to something and working your emotions, it sounds a little like relief. If you watch the visual, this is where Jay-Z finally shows up, and after listening to him get torn apart for infidelity, I won’t lie, it sort of feels uneasy. We wondered, was even he kept in the dark about Bey’s master project? Or did he just not feel like it would be a little awkward to show up? As Beyonce crooned about how “every promise don’t work out that way,” my uneasiness subsided. She sounds really beautiful, and from the Bey and Jay end of things everything seems fine, so I don’t think I can say it isn’t.
- Forward– This short song features British artist, James Blake, and practically no Beyonce. I would have liked to hear a longer song with them as they both have rich, emotional tone. Still, the song is more like a transition, so it doesn’t need to be longer, and it does it’s job. If it were meant to stand alone, it would be good to hear more.
- Freedom– I had a pretty amazing run this morning listening to the album, but I was getting ready to cool down when this song came on, and I felt like I just could not stop. Most obviously, this might be because of the lyric “I’mma keep running cause a winner don’t quit on themselves,” but really the whole thing kept my heart rate up. The verses already give a feeling of quickness and determination, but at the chorus, the song really breathes power. Along with Kendrick Lamar’s verse, Beyonce makes an incredible statement of black power, asserting herself and her identity. After Forward (where the visuals featured black women holding up pictures of black men who have died because of racism that still persists, notably including Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, whose photos were held up by their mothers,) Beyonce is not giving up, she is claiming her identity as a black woman with pride, while calling attention to racism, and all the while, she is doing it through music that would sound good even without the meaning, but the meaning is unforgottable.
- All Night– Closing out the album/story-other than Formation, since it was previously released-we have this beautiful love song. Beyonce sings about a love with someone who she knows remarkably well, including the bad sides, but there are also lyrics like “I’m gonna kiss up, and rub up, and feel up, on ya.” She doesn’t shy away from the sexual side of her love. The chorus has Bey, floating like an angel, singing “All night long, sweet love.” Something that struck me was how this part reminded me of “Drunk in Love”, but softer, and more at peace. I love “Drunk in Love”, but after listening to her wonder about whether she was not sexual enough to keep love, among other questions, this song seems to reconnect love and sex. After revealing all of the pain of love, “All Night” made love real again. I finished listening to this album that everyone has been talking about because of how it reveals infidelity, but since this song played at the end, I just wanted to tell the people I love how I feel, and love seemed amazing. This might be my favorite off of the album
Whatever your favorites might be, this album is setting the bar high. I loved Beyonce the album, but I think it just got outdone, obviously by Beyonce herself. The visuals were insanely beautiful, the story was beautiful, and I was totally pulled in, but the music itself is also an awesome accomplishment, especially for it’s mix of different styles that apparently can all be mastered by Queen Bey. Also, there was undeniable hard work that went into the album ,from Beyonce, her team, and the many featured artists-including those who have writing credits, but didn’t perform. It’s a really excellent work, I hope everyone can find a friend, like I did, who got a Tidal free trial and forgot to delete it a month ago-this album is worth it.