We’re reached the three-quarter mark on the album, and this is wear we come to the most interesting, fanscinating and arresting track: “*** Flawless.” (Which we learn at the end of the video is to be read as “Three Star Flawless,” a reference to the score she and her first group “GirlsThyme” got at their first televised competition.) This song was the track originally released as the Pepsi commercial back in the spring. At the time, even though I enjoyed it, the was a great deal of backlash. Beyoncé was clearly anti-feminist! How dare she tell other women to bow down, how dare she use the word “bitch,” and on and on.
Of course, now we see what was released was a first draft of sorts. Let us now compare it to the final product.
The more I listen to “*** Flawless,” the more I get stuck on the difference between the two. The final edit is far more explicit about telling us not to judge her because she wanted to go have a life for a while, and that her embracing of being a wife and mother is not some rejection of her career or all the things she’s accomplished. She can have them all, and still be the baddest bitch on the planet. I want to know everything that happened in between these versions. I want to know if the backlash that came from the first influenced the final product to be the gauntlet throw down it is. Because of all the songs on the album it strikes me as the most “mission statement.”
We’ll start part three with “Jealous,” a revealing, emotional response to the reality of what it is to try and go out and act carefree like a man. This track is startling for how much of an inner glimpse into Beyoncé’s psyche when it comes to relationship. It’s a startlingly vulnerable track.
When was the last time you saw an A-list popstar straight up confess she’s only human?
There’s been a lot of writing lately on black women and their inability to own their sexuality because of society shaming them. I don’t feel like this is my area, but for those who are in the thick of it, you should check out places like Hoodfeminism, ReignofApril, and of course, AngryBlackLady.
And then I want you to sit down and watch the next four videos and ask yourself if they make you feel uncomfortable, and more importantly, why. These are four videos where Beyoncé takes her sexuality and instead of displaying it for the male gaze, owns it.
“Blow” reminds me a little of Donna Summer’s “Love To Love You.” Clearly there’s a 70s vibe, not just to the groove, but the all the visuals, from the neon to the discoball to the candy colored outfits and roller skates. It’s also blatantly, unashamedly sexual.
I had held off on doing a Beyoncé T4T with vague plans of doing so when “the new album dropped.” The signs were there that something was coming (I assumed in 2014.) There was The Tour. There was the oddly released “Bow Down” Pepsi commercial. There was the constant stream of instagram and small celeb tidbits that are quickly becoming de riguer. I figured there would be a new album with a single, two videos at most, and a bunch of uploaded tracks with still photos. Enough for a single post that I would tie back to earlier work and call it a thing.
By now, everyone knows last Friday Beyoncé walked out, flipped the table that is the pop world, dropped the mic, 14 songs, 17 videos, offered us cupcakes for our trouble, and walked back out. The pop world is still picking up the pieces. Anyone foolish enough to release their “best of” lists in the first half of December were left looking like clueless clods.
It’s not that the idea of releasing a full production video is new–Michael and Janet Jackson both favored it in their heydays. It’s not like doing an album in secret is new–David Bowie did something similar at the beginning of the year. But the scale at which Beyoncé worked for both the album and the video set is extremely rare. To pull it off in secret and then drop it with little warning is not only ballsy, but an extremely savvy business move in this over-saturated media age. In one move, Beyoncé made all the big third and forth quarter releases look irrelevant. Gaga, Katy Perry, Britney, Miley and company were all reduced to afterthoughts. (JT had already cancelled himself out with the second half of The 20/20 Experience being so terrible.) The only album I can think of that stands up to this onslaught is Janelle Monáe’s concept album. I’m not even 100% about that.
How can such a release reduce the entire pop landscape to rubble? The subject matter.
We’re going to start discussing the videos under the cut because we should start with the opening track “Pretty Hurts.” And that comes with a trigger warning.
Yes I’ve seen the reviews. Gatsby is awful. But so are all Baz Lurmann movies that aren’t Strictly Ballroom. I’m ok with that.
Because I’m not here for his movies. I’m here for the soundtrack. Which for me starts off with the Andre3000/Beyoncé collaboration on “Back to Black.” Don’t believe the hype of Winehouse’s people who are all responsible for her death anyway. Their whining is just sour grapes. This version is just fine.
The theme this year was “Punk: Chaos to Couture.” There were rumors that stars were struggling to fit in theme. In the end, most gave up and just wore gorgeous gowns to the red carpet, but a few had the nerve to dress appropriately.
Those Who Went For It:
You know, I don’t give Miley nearly enough credit, and it’s all her dad’s fault. (I blame being alive in 1993.) She was the only star to go full out for us this evening, and she managed to make ripped up fishnet look glam. Love the hair. Love the paired down accessories. Top of the list.