Top Track: “6 Inch,” “Sandcastles,” and “Freedom”
Verdict: While the audio album is strong on its own, it doesn’t have the same nuances as the film does. Beyoncé’s performance in the visual album is absolutely phenomenal, and the spoken word, some of which were adapted from poet Warsan Shire, help tie the songs – which vary drastically in style from track to track – together in a way that you don’t get on the regular album. The cameos and home videos also help drive home the point of the album: black women are powerful.
The world was glued to HBO this past weekend, and not for “Game of Thrones.” Beyoncé Knowles streamed her sixth studio album on April 23. The album celebrates black culture, and above all, the strength of black women. It also touches on a deeply personal topic: a cheating husband, though it’s unclear whether the album is talking about Jay Z or Mathew Knowles, Beyoncé’s father. However, it’s clear that Beyoncé’s emotions are on her sleeve throughout the record.
The visual album takes us through various stages of grief according to Bey, starting with Intuition and Denial. “Pray You Catch Me,” starts the album off on a soft note, while “Hold Up” is uncharacteristically upbeat for an album about an unfaithful husband. The two songs are opposites: “Pray” is slow and haunting, a ballad about a woman who first begins to suspect something might be wrong. “Hold Up,” on the other hand, is empowering. The track does dip down into her lower register, a bit too far in some spots which makes her voice sound a little strained.
“Don’t Hurt Yourself,” takes a steely turn from the happy vibe in “Hold Up.” The distorted, rock infused track perfectly represents the stage of anger and the film takes it to the next level. With creepy lighting and an empty parking garage, Beyoncé is serving up “I’m better than you” looks.
The visual album continues with Apathy and then Emptiness, embodied by the track “6 Inch.” The Weeknd lends his signature voice to compliment Bey’s smokey crooning in a song which highlights the strength and independence of women. The visual album also features Beyoncé swinging a red light around her head David and Goliath-style, setting up the album for her to overcome her grief and find redemption.
Even though there are some truly incredible songs on the album, including a country number in “Daddy Lessons,” none of the tracks are as emotional as “Sandcastles,” a stunning ballad about broken promises. Beyoncé’s typically smooth voice cracks over the lyrics, creating a heart-breaking feeling which is amplified in the visual album which plays snippets of intimate scenes between Beyoncé and Jay Z.
Overall, the album is unforgettable. The visual album is littered with powerful poetry and celebrity cameos to highlight the talent and strength of black women everywhere. “Forward,” highlights the black lives that have been taken by police brutality, and contributes to the album’s testament to the experience of black people in America today.