She once took second place on Ed McMahon’s “Star Search.” She had a miscarriage before giving birth to a beautiful baby girl. She’s a one woman industry, married to one of the music’s businesses biggest power brokers and she possesses as much power and influence as any man alive in the cultural arts today. Her name is Beyoncé and I know all this because my girls have been playing her new album through the entire holiday season. Its more than an album its a visual album.
Beyoncé’s “Self -Titled” album is a rarity on many levels. It was released with, get this – absolutely zero fanfare-take note Anchorman Will Farrell. It was not available as a single, but could only be purchased as a full length long playing format complete with 17 videos of 14 songs. And these videos? They are not the standard fare you catch on YouTube of lyrics flashed on the screen during a song. Rather they are meaningful interpretive films- Mini-documentaries of the life of Beyoncé.
Born in Houston, Beyoncé Knowles came to the public’s attention of course in the 1990s as a member of Destiny’s Child. She has won 17 Grammys. Let me type that again. She has won 17 Grammys- that’s Aretha Franklin territory- and has been nominated more than any other female artist while selling over 178 million records and was named top performer of the decade (2000s) by Billboard magazine. So much for her credentials. Is she any good?
Well, she certainly connects to listeners. Her voice can tremble like Barbara Streisand with the phrasing of Diana Ross, possessing as much soul as Aretha while remaining as hip to the moment as Janis Joplin ever was. So yea, I’d say she’s pretty good. She is truly a force of nature and yea well those legs don’t hurt. Yet thats not what this is about. The album is about finding beauty in imperfection of being human.
The album Beyoncé is an autobiographical audio document of Beyoncé becoming the woman she is. At times, it’s heart wrenching when she remembers her miscarriage during the song “Heaven” with the lyric “Heaven couldn’t wait for you.” Then tender turns to tough in the powerful “Flawless” -an anthem of Womanhood and self assuredness with its confident refrain “I woke up like this Flawless.”
And flawless is how she blends hip-hop, jazz, rhythm and blues in this masterpiece. Many times mixing genres in the same song without whiplashing one’s aural being. Mainly because her voice is so pleasing and adaptive. The music seems to move to it, as opposed to the other way around.
Beyoncé the album is a beacon of hope and fortitude. It’s an inspiring missive for young women with its lyrical content and bold marketing approach. The idea that any artist of her stature can release a secret album, have it race up the charts in a week to become the best selling album of the year as she tells major retailers (like Target) “sorry if you wont carry it, I’ll send millions of fans to Wal-Mart instead” approach is not lost on America’s next generation of leaders who by the way happen to be women.
Though she has often been compared to Michael Jackson when it comes to impact in the musical world, her messaging and legacy are far more significant due in large part to her spotless reputation. She is even in science textbooks as the namesake Scaptia beyoncee for a breed of horsefly.
In addition to the album and videos, she has painstakingly provided her fans a video diary of this masterpiece release and its epic development. For an artist to share such insight is akin to Shakespeare explaining his muse for Macbeth. Even a pure hardcore rock hipster like myself has been won over.