Ever one for surprises, Beyoncé Knowles dropped a surprise announcement on the 16th of April: she was releasing a short film starring herself. True to my devotion to Pluto, I have stayed up until 3AM to listen to watch the short film, and boom, found out that she was releasing an album! True to my devotion to Pluto, I then subscribed to TIDAL so I could review the album properly.
The album, entitled ‘Lemonade’, kicks off with ‘Pray You Catch Me’, a fairly demure number that is by no means a disappointment. It shows off Knowles’ delicate vocals and gives the album a very gentle, orchestral start. Definitely a strong one to start with.
It then continues into ‘Hold Up’, which confused me as the surround sound at my desk made me think it was originally coming from next door. Hold Up is another soft one, but slightly stronger than Pray You Catch Me, both in vocals and the words Beyoncé uses. The song itself isn’t bad, but it has a feel to it I can’t quite put my finger on – it’s very minimalist so either she went for that effect or she ran out of money and couldn’t pay her producer. Though the first is far more likely.
The third track is ‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’, a song that opens with a drum and hi-hat beat, and feels more like the Beyoncé of days gone by, coupled with rock tones. It’s an odd one for Beyoncé, but you can fully expect Jack White, who she duets with, to sing on it. Truthfully, not my cup of tea.
The fourth offering, ‘Sorry’, sounds like an R&B version of the Cheeky Girls. There is a catchy beat behind it, and I can imagine it’ll get stuck in my head, but it’s full of blatantly artificial sounds and, though at first glance deep, isn’t actually anywhere near as profound as it sounds. Not a bad track though. Just not a particularly amazing one either.
The next, ‘6 Inch’, has a very Alicia Keys feel to it, and I feel doesn’t do justice to Beyoncé’s abilities and talent. It’s a collaboration with The Weeknd, and truthfully I think it doesn’t really suit either. As music goes, it sounds rather dark and I’m not a fan – Beyoncé is all about soul and power. Not dark and grim.
The creepily named ‘Daddy Lessons’, comes next. It opens with a saxophone, which gives it the swing-country vibe the song itself has. As an avid Dolly Parton fan, this sort of track is up my street. I think this is the best so far on the album. I can’t, however, see myself singing along to it. It just doesn’t strike me as that type of song.
‘Love Drought’ is the seventh track on her surprise album. A forgettable track that sounds more like a bad spoken word track than a song from one of the most successful artists on the planet, Love Drought is not one you’ll remember, or sing along to, in a hurry. And that’s not just down to the small number of actual words.
‘Sandcastles’ is the next in her lineup. It opens with a sombre piano melody, and I have to say I love it. The lyrics themselves are beautiful, and Knowles’ gentle but dominating vocals are showcased in an almost tastefully melodramatic way. If anyone else tried to have such vocal power with such a soulful, delicate ballad, they would fail miserably. But the arguable Queen of Pop pulls it off. At times, it does get raw with emotion, but it’s reined in tastefully. I would love to see this as a single, but considering the next few tracks, I doubt that it will be.
‘Forward’, the ninth, is a 1:19 long sample, which provides a nice break for a change in tone to the album. It’s followed up with ‘Freedom’, which has a much more urban vibe to it, and shows off the Beyoncé that I was expecting. This duet with Kendrick Lamar has a gritty edge to it, that is reminiscent of her previous album 4. I predict that this is the second single to drop from the album (Formation – Track 12 – being the first).
‘All Night’ is the penultimate track on Lemonade. An R&B feel is combined with the minimal style of the earlier tracks to give this song a unique, but very listenable tone. The use of synthesised instrumentals adds another element to this track, which proves that too many cooks don’t necessarily spoil the broth.
The final track, ‘Formation’, was announced and released before Beyoncé even publicly acknowledged the existence of Lemonade. I don’t think it’s her best work, but it’s a good, and listenable song. I do wonder why she chose to lead with Formation, but I suppose you need to have an ace up your sleeve to make people buy the album.
Not her best album, but not her worst by any stretch of the imagination. I did toy with rating it lower, but I feel like the highs of this work definitely outweigh the lows and a worse rating would be a discredit to them.
Do you agree with Joe’s review? Let us know @UCLanPluto or leave a comment below!