As a dude, I am breathtakingly unsure whether to have a definite opinion about the complex gender debates regarding Beyonce and her self titled album. I’m not Hilton Als. I’m not the type of brother who spends 36 minutes reading about something, and wades half cocked into a debate that women have have been studying and living out for 36 years. There are complex arguments to be made about her and her impact and I’m not in the business of telling any woman who has an opinion about her that she is wrong.
I only speak as someone who has played records for nearly 30 years( since I was 7) when I say that I believe that “Beyonce” is a superb record. It is not the first great R&B record to create weird new sounds tweaking ( not mimicking) classic soul forms: Chanel Orange, Queens Supreme, Landing On A Hundred, Poure Une Ame Souveaine, The Arachnoid, The Electric Lady and the first two Volumes of The Robert Glasper Experience have woke up almost every R&B snob to the weird, modernist R&B sounds of the day. But goddamm, it is a delight to hear this Beyonce, this eclectic who can bring Peter Gabriel to the gulf coast, who adds her own musical purple drank to industrial and power pop, and who has painted watercolor soul landscapes as exqusisite as El Debarge’s before he hit the pipe.
What intrigues me, as an artist and an R&B fan, is that she is her own unreliable narrator. So many of her songs have been virtual cost/benefit analyses of the price one has to pay to be a massively successful woman of color in the 21st century, and in “Beyonce” she makes a whole damm album of them. There are questions she is still grappling with-about her past, status, sexuality, and agency- and numerous tensions that don’t necessarily settle. The only thing I can say about them is that they are REALLY fucking listenable.
Stanislavsky once said that there is a difference between art that makes you have a singular feeling and then be done with it, and art that just stays with you, that you can’t define, label and process. “Beyonce” is not a perfect record, but it resonates with me because it lights the term on fire. Stanislavsky would approve.
This is a very good performance. In the medley, a couple of the early numbers were cut too short for my taste, but she hit it out the park when she got to Flawless. And Blue Ivy is adorable.
Mean Joe Camel better not fuck up after this.
That is all i’ll say( and all I feel comfortable in saying)