Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Review: No surprise, Beyonce is still queen

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I can't think of any better way for Beyoncé to prove to the world (as if this were something that needed proving) that she can do anything she wants than to release a new album with zero warning, miraculously hidden until suddenly, at midnight on Friday the 13th, she decided to break the Internet.

Show me someone with zero respect or fondness for Beyoncé and I'll show you a liar. That's not a bias — it's affirmation of the fact that each time she drops an album, she has her own giant shoes to fill.

A sizable population referred to the Superbowl as a few burly men playing football at a Beyoncé concert.

"Can you lick my Skittles?" ­— does more as a hook in the song than it does on paper. But she executes it with her signature haughtiness, her unsurpassed self-confidence that draws you to each song at least a little bit, if not a great deal. Writing off Beyoncé's lyrics as fluff would be phenomenally unwise and frankly inaccurate, because she strikes such a balance between the profound and the plainly enjoyable that she has a liberty with her lyrics that other artists just haven't earned.

While powerful in substance, songs such as Flawless (cut with a speech from Nigerian writer and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) shrink in the shadow of the sensual. Feminism and sex are huge parts of Beyoncé's persona, and without either one she might not rule the world. But this album is characterized by a salacious mood, with the stronger tracks taking a smooth, provocative form.

An exception is Superpower, a gem among hip-hop duets with Frank Ocean riding shotgun. Regardless of tempo, none of the songs floored me the way Queen Bey's best have. The closest she comes to flexing those vocal guns is Heaven, which is disappointing, but doesn't take away from the album much.

From the beginning, the music grabs you, a skill Beyoncé possesses to an unparalleled level. This review is indeed ripe with superlatives, but it's a rare thing to rule an industry. Beyoncé has earned the power, and causing the spontaneous combustion of iTunes in a day is perhaps a reminder of that power.

MAX ASAYESH-BROWN St. Petersburg High

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