Let me preface this post by saying that I have loved Beyoncé since 1997 when I saw her sitting on that doorstep with Wyclef Jean and the original Destiny’s Child members in the No No No part 2 video. I’ve seen her live four times and have even met her:
Yep, that’s me hugging mutha f*****g Beyoncé. Excuse my hair, it was 2009 and Bieber was big.
Anyway, the reason I say this is to point out that I am a pretty loyal fan who will engage with anything she puts out. I even went to the cinema to watch Obsessed….*cough*. So when Beyoncé and Jay-Z dropped Everything is Love earlier this year, despite being put off by the project’s lead single Apeshit, I loyally headed over to Tidal to download the album. What struck me upon first listen was how braggy it was lyrically. After the honesty of Lemonade, I was slightly taken aback by this. I instantly felt disconnected and with each song that went by it was all I could hear. Even a song about friendship declares to the listener that their friends are real friends and better than your friends.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like the odd brag here and there (Flawless is one of my favourite Beyoncé songs), but when an album contains 9 tracks and on 6 of them you’re talking about how much money you have and how untouchable you are, it’s kind of hard for average Joe over here to relate to. I ended up listening to the album top to bottom about 3 times out of loyalty and then I left it alone.
It was a few weeks later when Heard About Us came on shuffle, and suddenly listening to the song in isolation I found myself really getting in to it. I went back and revisited the album and just focussed on each track individually rather than on the whole body of work. Listening to it this way I gravitated towards a few other songs: Boss, Nice, and LoveHappy, the latter finally offering a more honest and meaningful look at their marriage. I now listen to those song pretty frequently but I still struggle to listen to the whole album in one go, although I have grown to enjoy the other tracks as well. I recently played Apeshit over some pretty big speakers and I felt like I was hearing it for the first time! That song was not made to be played through earphones. I’ve not been to On The Run II but I can imagine that song sounds pretty awesome live.
In some ways, the fact that it has taken me months to finally appreciate this album I think is a good thing. There is so much disposable music out there that may offer instant gratification but it has no staying power. I have a feeling I might keep going back to this album and finding new things I like. Of course I admit I will give more chances to a Beyoncé compared to other artists simply because of my longstanding history as a fan.
You can’t talk about this album without mentioning it’s underperformance chart-wise. It would seem I wasn’t the only fan who struggled to connect with it and obviously casual fans just weren’t feeling this either. The album debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200, recording 123,000 album-equivalent units, of which 70,000 were pure album sales. A far cry from Beyoncé’s Lemonade which debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, selling 485,000 copies in its first week of sales only two years earlier (653,000 with additional album-equivalent units). I have a feeling that whether consciously or sub-consciously the reason had a lot to do with lyrical content. Here’s hoping Beyoncé reassesses the subject matter before putting out another project, or better yet finally gives us that Destiny’s Child reunion! PLEEAAASSEE! We are all ready for that jelly and we CAN handle it.
Currently Playing: Quickly – John Legend feat. Brandy