The pendulum swings back into the world of massive pop stars, with today’s album coming from the legendary Beyonce Knowles, known primarily by her first name. I was a bit reticent coming into this one, as I know Beyonce can go into that zone of overwrought R&B singing that just doesn’t appeal to me at all. Thankfully, and as I should have expected, there is a lot of diversity to this record. There are moments of painful over-singing, and none more egregious than her track “Drunk In Love” featuring her husband, Jay-Z, but in total, the album is a strong collection of material and has some songs I really liked. This album, self-titled as “Beyonce”, is considered to be an experimental record for her, and features a massive team of producers and contributors. I tend to get a little suspicious when I see that much “A-List” production talent, as it makes me wonder who really wrote and produce these songs, but the result was another big hit for Beyonce, and the record is rated #81 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
There are four singles from the record, and other than the brutal wailing of “Drunk in Love” with another annoying Jay-Z appearance, I really liked the other three and I picked them out as three of my favorites, with zero history or recognition as to the popularity of these songs. “Pretty Hurts” is likely my favorite song on the record, and it as the album opener, it immediately raised the bar for my expectations for the rest of the record. “XO” has an extremely infectious hook in the chorus, and it even has a bit of anthemic feel to it, which sizes up well with Beyonce’s titanic place in the musical industry. It doesn’t surprise me this was the first single released on this big hit. “Partition”, a spicy track about a backseat ride in a limo, reminds me more of a Rihanna song, which just further fuels the many rumors of competition between the two, both romantically and artistically, even as many of them have been disputed with time.
My favorite non-single is the second song on the album, “Haunted”, a darker and more subdued track that really showcases her amazing voice as a singer. I also like that the album splices in many clips from her highly visible history as a child superstar, even before her days in Destiny’s Child. My favorite is her famous appearance on Ed McMahon’s Star Search as a 9-year-old girl, with Ed’s intro on front of the song “Flawless”. There is more to come from Beyonce on this journey, and I’m more enthusiastic than I expected, even knowing the magnitude of her talent and stature in the industry.