Beyoncé. Need I say any more? The most domineering woman in music, bar none. Part of the biggest power couple on the planet and leader of perhaps the most intimidating music fan base there is, the Beyhive, the power this woman possesses is scary. Back with her sixth studio solo album, Beyoncé Knowles is here to shock us all with verbal attacks at her husband for the alleged affair he is having, and also to take aim at the American police force for their horrendous brutality over the past couple of years. Using her monumental fame as a springboard to raise these issues and force change, will the album be a hit or will it sound more like a public rally?
PRAY YOU CATCH ME: 8/10
Sounds like a distorted nursery rhyme at the beginning with Beyoncé’s warm harmonies before bringing in this classic piano tune, twinned with her powerful and meaningful vocal performance. Real vulnerability to Beyonce in this song as she mentions how she can “taste the dishonesty” which we assume is coming from Jay-Z. Emotionally fuelled and with James Blake on the writing credits of this song, his influence is heavily felt all around the track. She’s almost begging for Jay-Z to prove his loyalty and show devotion to her. A very sad but very powerful introduction.
HOLD UP: 7.5/10
A bit more lively in the beat making of this song as well as Beyoncé’s voice but the lyrics are more of the same, “they don’t love you like I love you” and it’s really getting to her. The sheer brilliance of the line “what’s worse, being jealous or being crazy” shows her true talents as she basically epitomises relationships and disloyalties within them. Lyrically it is absolute genius as she goes on a no holds barred attack on Jay-Z but I can’t say I’m a fan of the instrumental, it’s very reggae influenced and just doesn’t seem to match what is going on in the song. It stops abruptly to move straight to the next track after a toning down on Caribbean styles and more of an example of Beyoncé’s vocal talent. Not as good as the intro but still gets a good rating for the lyricism.
DON’T HURT YOURSELF (Feat. Jack White): 8.5/10
At first glance, seeing Jack White and Beyoncé together on a song will shock many due to their completely contrasting musical styles, but it also excites to see how they work and what they can create. To call this a White Stripes sound would be an understatement with distorted guitar chords and string pulling and simple drum beats but along with the vocal, it works brilliantly. Vocally, Beyoncé isn’t holding back once again, this time claiming “I’m not crying” over the accusations made of Jay-Z and instead threatens to leave the relationship and “bounce onto the next d*** boy.” This immense sign of power she shows will please her fans and is more like the image we have come to expect from Bey. Jack White’s vocals on the chorus do work well but can also draw attention away from the motive of the track, it’s almost as it he is the third wheel in the relationship. Ending with “this is your last warning, you know I give you life, if you try that s*** again, you’ll lose your wife” is just a crowning of her true dominance both musically and in her lifestyle, showing she doesn’t rely on the fame Jay-Z has, instead it could be seen as the other way round. I really like this song, it’s a bold move by Beyoncé as she dives into the deep end and attempts a genre she’s never tried before, fantastic work.
From that rock style, Jack White influenced instrumental to a much more underground R&B sound which puts Beyoncé in a bit more of a comfortable zone and an area she’s worked in before. The title of the track suggests that she could be apologising to Jay-Z for the outburst on the first few songs, but in fact it’s the exact opposite. She repeats “I ain’t sorry” in the chorus as though she is singing it directly to her husband. Once again it’s an open door into Beyoncé’s life and how she’s had to cope with Jay-Z and his mysterious second life. The power she possesses in this song follows suit from previous tracks as she mentions “today I regret that night I put that ring on” which is of course a reference to her old music in which her and Jay-Z seemed madly in love with each other. I personally don’t like the beat or the hook on the chorus but once again, this track is saved by the arrogant, brash and dominant lyrics Beyoncé has, proving her status as the queen of music.
6 INCH (Feat. The Weeknd): 6/10
Bass heavy at the beginning before a build up into an autotuned Beyoncé vocal in which you almost struggle to understand what she is singing. This beat feels designed solely for the benefit of The Weeknd so when he begins his feature it just clicks and sounds like his song rather than Beyoncé’s. It seems harsh to say that she gets outdone on this song by the feature but she really does, any performance by Beyoncé on this song is hardly memorable and seems a bit forced on this beat. I’m not that much of a fan of this song really which is a shame because the hook had huge potential, as did the prospect of Beyoncé and The Weeknd being on the same song, but only one of them turned up to perform at their best, and it sure wasn’t Bey.
DADDY LESSONS: 7.5/10
A wonderful tribute to her father as she uses a mixture of this western style guitar strum and classic jazz trumpets to create an all round great backing track. The lyrics match this brilliantly as we hear a raw, uncut vocal straight from the heart of Beyoncé in which she honours his powerful father, who was proud of his black origin and taught her to follow his lead for her later life. The chorus is catchy and generally picks up the pace of the track which I felt was needed. You can eventually get slightly bored in the verses but the welcome break of a faster chorus and the quite frankly brilliant instrumental of the trumpets make this song very strong and a worthwhile addition to the album. Another bold direction change which looks to have worked for Bey.
LOVE DROUGHT: 7/10
Once again this snap back almost into the reality of Beyoncé’s music after a bizarre switch of genre in the previous song. Going back to this R&B sound she is renowned for works for the flow of the album and shows the diversity she possesses to not follow a set pattern for a whole tracklist. This soft track is a very easy listen with an elegant high pitched Beyoncé vocal behind a slow, swaying style beat before the chorus make you lose your mind and feel like you’re floating away with fairies. It’s a bizarre sound in the chorus but something that does work well. It’s more of a passionate and love driven song than usual, perhaps showing that the love between her and Jay-Z isn’t entirely finished yet and they do still share great moments together and need each other. This is an effective placement of this song as right at the end of ‘Daddy Lessons’ there is a sound bite of Blue Ivy, Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s daughter, saying “well done Bey” which perhaps made Beyoncé realise how special her family is and how she can’t end that.
Soft tone once again, just Beyoncé and a wrenching piano as she pours her heart out about her past and all the ups and downs she shared with her husband. The lyric of “every promise don’t work out that way” is a powerful one as she questions her marriage and perhaps the vows not being kept by Jay-Z despite all the work they’ve done to make things work together. There is a large strain in Beyoncé’s voice in the second verse which is there to show genuine raw emotion on the track, perhaps fighting off tears while singing the song. Other than that blip it’s vocally fantastic and shows off her quite impeccable range which is unrivalled in the female music industry. The third verse does look at Jay-Z’s perspective and mention she can see “scars” from how things have unfolded so she could be reflecting on how she has treated him as well as how he treated her. It’s lyrically a good song again but no matter how soft it is on the ear, it’s very boring towards the end.
FORWARD (Feat. James Blake): 6.5/10
This is a prospect worthy of exciting absolutely anyone. James Blake is arguably the true master of pouring his heart out over a piano using his strained nasally vocals to reach unheard of high notes and sing with real passion and emotion. This incredibly short track is nothing more than a filler to transform from this soft and painful heartache on ‘SANDCASTLES’ to a domineering hip hop sound on ‘FREEDOM’ and it sounds very good. If anything I wanted a bit more of this song as I was intrigued to see how the two voices and styles complimented each other but it’s understandable as to why this song is so short. Around a minute into the song we hear a complete change in sound and this dirty underground dark noise fades into the next song in order to move from genre to genre. This song would be rated much higher I it were longer.
FREEDOM (Feat. Kendrick Lamar): 9/10
Probably my favourite song on the whole album. The zesty hip hop beat mixed with 80s funk rock notes is infectious and creates an ultimate platform for Beyoncé to put this sassy edge of hers all over this song and stamp her authority. The meaning of the whole album takes a turn as we now hear this fighting spirit of Beyoncé and her pride in being a black woman, something she preaches and forces onto everyone listening. That isn’t at all a bad thing, I love the attitude and confidence she shows and it will show a genuine desire to solve the racism issue in America. “Imma keep running because the winner don’t quit on themselves” give Beyoncé her true feelings back and allows her to be this inspiring driving force for not just black women, but black people all over America to fight for what they believe in and force this police brutality away. These strong feelings are more than likely why Kendrick Lamar has been added to this song but I’m not complaining trust me. Even without his verse in this song the track itself is brilliant and sends a magnificent message of confidence to all, but just his presence gives the track a new flavour. To say that it’s a good verse would be an understatement; but let’s be honest, when has he done a bad verse? His wonderful tone and ability to preach this black lives matter message in a catchy and talented way says all that needs to be said about this song. It’s brilliant. Clapping at the end of the song suggests it was more of a performance than a recording.
ALL NIGHT: 7/10
Reoccurring beat of an elongated note being played before crashing to an end which creates this powerful feeling on the last word of each line. The song talks about how Beyoncé has worked so hard and sacrificed so much for her husband, saying she “traded her broken wings for ya” in order to keep Jay-Z sweet. A suggestion that all this work has been thrown back in her face and there is a genuine vulnerability coming back into her mind. The change of pace in her vocal shows her true talents as she even possesses a bit of rapping ability which she flexes in the pre-chorus. The trumpets in the chorus are rhythmic and make the track as a whole catchy. “They say true love is the greatest weapon” is just one of many elements of war imagery within love as she battles for her husband’s loyalty and is perhaps even blaming herself for this lack of trust. To be honest it is a good so but it would have been far better if it wasn’t five minutes long and was a bit shorter, it’s not particularly special so I don’t see why it’s so much longer than the majority of the songs on the album.
What a way to end an album. Lead single which was released a week before her Super Bowl performance and got fans excited for this whole album. The most aggressive people have ever heard Beyoncé as she rants about police brutality, the illuminati, racism, you name it. The highly controversial music video supporting the track perhaps got more publicity than the song itself as it shows her dressing as this symbolism of a Black Panther, lying on a sinking police car to show her lack of respect for the policing in America. The song itself is a very good song, powerful and emotional with anger to the core. The pride she shows at being a black woman and celebrating her upbringing, saying that “my daddy Alabama, my ma Louisiana, you mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama.” It’s a celebration of black excellence epitomised in a track and shows that when you are confident, you can do anything. The bizarre beat is all over the place which seems a bit odd considering the song being all about “getting in formation” so that much is a bit contradictory. At times the song can be a bit silly lyrically but as a whole it’s very good and will give Beyoncé fans a new airing of confidence because their hero is telling them so.
Lyrically speaking, this album could be a 10/10 but there are moments within the album in which the instrumentals let her down. There are plenty of risks all around this album which is following suit from her previous album in which she added this edge and arrogance but on Lemonade, she has cranked it up a notch. Whether it be a western country themed guitar sound or a prog rock Jack White inspired riff fest, this album has such a wide variety of sounds that, for the most part, work an absolute treat. The features and writing credits are enough to make anyone excited with names as varied as Jack White, Kendrick Lamar and Diplo all there to add their own spin onto a Beyoncé track. It is, for me, on par with her previous album which is far from a bad thing because I thoroughly enjoyed that too. FREEDOM is comfortably best song but there are a handful of picks for Beyhive fans to pick from.