Beyoncé, the album is Beyoncé the singer, not Beyoncé distilled or Beyoncé as an album. This is very simply Beyoncé the person. Skilled, varied, confident and astoundingly explicit, Beyoncé may not be for everyone, but she certainly rewards those who are willing to work for her.
This is an exceedingly personal album, with topics ranging from feminism to motherhood to her sex life and so you should expect your enjoyment to be tempered by who exactly you are. An identity message this strong can be alienating. However, it is rare to hear a voice as clear as Beyoncé’s and the album feels fresh in its unapologetic statement of self. Despite the freedom, the album never comes off as particularly deep but that was probably never its intention.
The music itself is highly impressive electro-R&B, even by Beyoncé’s standards. It feels clear, when listening to her, that many of her contemporaries simply do not have the voice to run half of her songs. The production is nothing novel but serves the purpose. The focus is as ever Beyoncé herself though. Even the guest spots, featuring no less than Jay-Z, Frank Ocean and Drake, firmly remain guest spots. She is at her best in the faster numbers, and the middle of the album feels mostly like filler, but the entirety is quite good.
It can be easy with this album to be distracted by the lack of hype before the album was dropped or the visual album experiment (incidentally, watching the album definitely improves it) or the debates around it. However, even when all of that fades, Beyoncé is still going to hold up as one of the career highlights of one of the few true pop superstars.
Kid Cudi is his own person. You can’t judge his third album Indicud the way you would judge other rap albums because it doesn’t feel the need to play by the same rules. Seriousness and wordplay are no part of this picture. Freshness is always a good thing though, especially when the result is something like “Red Eye”, which is essentially Haim being Haim. However, it still needs substance. His earlier songs, like the exceptional “Day ‘N’ Nite” managed to feel novel in subject matter as well, but this album doesn’t quite hold up to the same standard.
This is a very listenable album, but the sort that neither expects nor rewards deep and sustained listening. It is filled with bright spots, especially when the guests show up. The aforementioned Haim song is excellent, the RZA shows up for a monstrous anthem with “Beez” and Kendrick Lamar is, as always, remarkable on Solo Dolo Pt. 2. Kid Cudi’s production is strong throughout, bringing out the best of both his guests and himself, as shown on “Unfuckwittable.”
This is, all told, an enjoyable album. It is an album with an expiry date though. Give it a spin though. As long as you don’t expect to go anywhere, it is an enjoyable ride.
Childish Gambino’s second album because the internet is in parts brilliant. It is also in parts terrible. In that respect, it does bring to mind its namesake. It also comes with a 75 page script for a screenplay. That however, does not bring to mind its namesake. At least it wouldn’t were it not filled with emojis, internet-speak and embedded videos. You can read it here if you choose to. I did not.
Briefly, the screenplay is about “The Boy”, really Donald Glover, who lives off his wealthy father, really Rick Ross, and lives in the internet. The theme of the internet is sprinkled in impressively throughout the album. Interestingly, the sheer density of references to the immediate present give the album a slightly futuristic feel. These lyrics would not look out of place on reddit. On one hand, he sneaks ain’t nobody got time for that into a line, but on the other he makes a chant of GPOY into a chorus which, while not as bad as it seems on paper, is still pretty bad. This sort of inconsistency flows into the rest of the lyrics as well. Clever C-3PO lines and an excellent play on KKK sit next to Bangkok puns. Throwaway references to subjects like the Gaza strip don’t do much either. Still, he is the only person in rap who would make a line out of onomatopoeia.
He has all the technical skill he needs as a rapper and his production is excellent. The album comes in harder than Camp, he practically opens with the line “And I still put it down like the family dog.” He is actually quite a good singer as well, showing up well on “telegraph ave.” and the Weeknd-like “flight of the navigator.” I really like “3005” and the music video that goes with it and the entire final run from “flight of the navigator” to “life: the biggest troll.” I just don’t like having to skip past the other half of the album.
This is certainly an interesting album and it contains enough quality to deserve quite a few listens but is ultimately too unreliable to unreservedly recommend.