Beyoncé – potentially her best album yet?

Beyonce_albumI’M UNASHAMED to say this; I think Beyoncé’s great. She always has been. In terms of things she’s one of the few pop superstars who can match the hype with her songs. Whatever people say, it’s hard to deny that songs like Crazy In Love and Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) are incredible, gigantic pieces of pop brilliance. I’ve said it already I think she’s great and I’ll get this over with quickly, I think this album might just be her best.

The one major hurdle this album has to come is its marketing. The whole appearance out of nowhere, the sales exclusively through iTunes, in many ways, it can come across as a very arrogant move, as if Beyoncé believes her immediate hype is enough to propel the album. This is at odds with the album, a far more introverted spectacle showcasing Mrs Knowles at her best. Within the time its taken for the swirling fear of second track Haunted to finish, I was drawn into the world being created.

The production on this album seems as responsive to modern trends as it should be. Recalling everyone from Kendrick Lamarr through Whitney Houston with a hint of Frank Ocean and undertones of Yeezus, the music is stripped back far more than previous efforts allowing Beyoncé to remind everyone that she isn’t just a pop star but actually a singer.

Ok you could have seen this one coming but at over an hour and fifteen tracks, the album isn’t close to perfect. Drunk In Love takes a beautiful middle-eastern inspired production and wastes it on another laboured Jay-Z guest verse and there are a couple of the songs from the middle of the album like No Angel that could have been left in the studio comfortably. But when the album is good, it’s fantastic. Superpower which is appropriately supercharged by guest appearances by the aforementioned Ocean and ever present hit-maker Pharrell Williams is a beautiful, sumptuous, swirling piece of paranoid glitch-pop and the most talked about track off the album ***Flawless with its excerpts from the speeches of noted feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie not only maintains its message well but never forgets to be a great pop song. But for me, the best song on the album is XO, it’s one of the few songs that feels like just Beyoncé, no external influences, just her great voice, a great song and a near flawless production job.

I’m sure other opinions are going to differ to mine, but this album came at the back end of a year just in time to miss out on any place on most people’s best of year list but on the basis of this, come 2014, everyone better try harder.