Beyonce is getting ready to roll out her 4th solo album, and she has already done with this era what she has never been able to do before: the unexpected.
After taking a break for what seemed like a lifetime (only about a year and a half) after the juggernaut that was I Am…Sasha Fierce and the following tour, Beyonce is finally ready to enter the current crowded pop fray. This era has residual Katy Perry, Ke$ha, and Rihanna singles, as well as new music from Chris Brown, Britney Spears and the unstoppable Lady GaGa. I had full faith that somehow Beyonce would stride right to the top of the pile when I heard that she was putting out music at the same time, especially when she already had a headlining spot at Glastonbury (the QUEEN of Promotion!).
Then we began hearing little whispers and clues. One of the first was the very unexpected move to separate from shady success building manager, Matthew Knowles, who also was her father and exterminator of Destiny’s children’s futures. Some people rejoiced this move citing a hopeful stop to all of the shady deals that B has long been accused of. Some were apprehensive that maybe he was the brains behind Beyonce’s considerable talent. Personally, I felt a little of both.
Then we heard about all of the producers possibly working on her project. People like Switch, Diplo, Sia, Of Montreal, and a slew of more underground producers. Beyonce has always gotten a little flack for getting her hits with predictable hitmakers like The Dream, Ne-Yo, and Sean Garrett. So, again she was serving some unexpected moves.
Then came the news about the first single, unimpressively called “Girls” which would sample Major Lazer’s Pon de Floor. We later found out that in fact that song’s producer, Diplo, was in fact the producer for this. Boy, was I excited…how could it fail?! Beyonce’s hurricane vocals over a blistering dance track to both meet today’s dance trends but moving out the overdone Euro dance trend or falling into the overhyped dubstep. This will slay lives, I said to myself.
Then the sort of rushed release of the song as multiple low quality versions began to leak out, but with none of the fanfare that GaGa uses when such things happen. The song grew quickly at first, then slowed down, then stalled, and began to plummet. I believe after only a few weeks of being out it is already sitting in the 200s on iTunes. Still no video. No promo. No Twitter. Most of this time has been spent hanging out in Paris with hubby Jay-Z. So…Beyonce. What the fuck is going on?
Only in the last day have we FINALLY been getting teasers for what looks like a fantastic video (possibly best of the year so far) that will be out on Friday. But will it be enough to save the absolute flop this song has turned into? Probably not. I personally LOVE the song, and I commend her for doing the unexpected…but what happened to the Beyonce we all love? That Queen B never takes chances with her success, and we know she will always deliver.
Luckily in an interview with Billboard that was released today, we finally begin to get some answers, including the name of the album, which is just simple 4. Here were a couple of the more interesting bits:
So it seems to me that Beyonce has spent more time between these 2 records travelling and learning about new music and cultures than she has in many years, and that is probably determining all of the unexpected changes. She is independent from her girl group. Under her own management, rather than her father’s. Experiencing new music and new influences.
The new single, "Run the World (Girls)," is a very bold statement for you.
It's definitely riskier than something a bit more...simple. I just heard the track and loved that it was so different: it felt a bit African, a bit electronic and futuristic. It reminded me of what I love, which is mixing different cultures and eras -- things that typically don't go together -- to create a new sound. I can never be safe; I always try and go against the grain. As soon as I accomplish one thing, I just set a higher goal. That's how I've gotten to where I am.
This is your first record that you've made without your father managing you. What sort of options opened up that may be different than before?
It's not that anything bad happened between us. My family has my support always, and they support me, but when you've been working with the same people for 15 years, it's natural to eventually have your own ideas. I believe that parents prepare their kids for the moment that they're on their own: at this point, I'm taking everything my dad and my mother have taught me, and I'm able to do things my way. We were at a point where we'd learned so much from each other, and now it's exciting for me to do this on my own and hire my own team. I've started managing myself.
After all those achievements, what was it like going solo?
Scary and empowering! Everyone in the group was very nervous, and terrified to do things on our own. We missed each other; it was hard having to make your own decisions and not have someone there to say, "I agree" or "I don't agree." But going through that is a part of life; it was a big first step for me, but one of many first steps I'm sure I'll have. I kind of feel like that now again.
I'm approaching 30, and finally took a break in my life, which I've never had. I took more than a year off: I traveled around, spent time with my husband, woke up in my own bed, ate whatever I wanted, went to museums and Broadway plays, watched documentaries, and just had life experiences. I never get to go to concerts because I'm usually performing, so I saw so many shows - great bands, like Muse and Rage Against the Machine, that also inspired the album. There were a lot of artists I'd never been exposed to: I'm like a sponge and soak everything up, and I learned so much from watching these great performers. Having time to grow as a human being was really inspiring, and gave me a lot to pull from. I'm excited about growing: I can just have fun, and the artistic freedom to do whatever I want. At this point, I really know who I am, and don't feel like I have to put myself in a box. I'm not afraid of taking risks - no one can define me.
So, yes. She is doing things in unexpected ways. She is releasing unconventional singles. She is doing her promotion in a different way. As I said, she is finally surprising her fans by doing the unexpected.
And suddenly, I realize that because of this I have never been more excited for a Beyonce album. Welcome back Queen B…time to take back your crown. This time on your own terms.