With no warning or lead up, the world's biggest female artist releases her fifth, self-titled studio album, Beyoncé. Featuring "Grown Woman" and dubbed a "visual" album, the project comes complete with fifteen tracks, along with a matching fifteen videos shot in various locations throughout the world.

Featuring wide ranging production from the likes of Hit-Boy, Pharrell, Timbaland, and more, Beyoncé also includes guest appearances from Jay Z, Drake, Frank Ocean and her own daughter Blue Ivy.

The album is currently available exclusively via iTunes. Fans can watch previews of every video on Beyoncé via RefinedHype.

Beyoncé Album Review

Before we talk about what we hear when we listen to Beyonce’s new self-titled album, first we have to talk about who we’re hearing. We’re hearing a woman with 17 Grammy Awards and over 150 million albums sold. A woman who is one of the most popular musician on the planet, in any genre, of any gender. A woman whose music can be heard playing in gay dance clubs in Milan, posh flats in London, barbershops in Texas and everywhere in between. A woman who can make music history by not only dropping a full studio album on a Thursday night with no literally no pre-release marketing or promotion, something unheard of in the music industry for an artist of even remotely her caliber, and not only succeed, but put up record numbers: her fifth consecutive number one solo album and more than 600,000 copies sold… on a project only available on iTunes…in less than a full week. Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, they’re all just pretenders to the throne. When we call Beyonce Queen B, we really mean the Queen of Pop. So while in theory how Beyonce released this album should be irrelevant to how it sounds, in actuality it’s impossible to ignore; an aura of almost supernatural confidence pervades every song. You don’t release an album like she did unless you’re trying to make a statement, and that statement is watch me work.

Now that we’ve got Beyonce’s credentials established, we can just talk about the music. While the last few years have found B edging away from her more purely R&B and hip-hop roots and closer to outright dance and electronic music – after all, dance is the universal language – in many ways Beyonce feels like a bit of a return. It’s equal parts R&B-soaked slow jams, harder (the kids might even say turnt up) rap-infused bangers, and the occasional epic cut. Speaking of which, it’s extremely hard to make the kind of song a stadium full of ecstatic fans could sing along to without sounding like a forced effort, but she absolutely nails it on XO. This is the kind of chorus that’s going to be sung at full force in traffic jams for months to come, and while XO may be relatively more subdued, that call and response is destined to be a monster when performed live, right down to the way her voice shows a little wear, just like it would at the end of a show.

But as much as I can appreciate a huge pop hook, at my heart I’m a hip-hop head, so I can admit that one my first listen to Beyonce I skipped straight to the Jay Z collaboration Drunk in Love: Drake might think he can sing and rap, but Beyonce just put him to shame on Drunk. As long I mentioned Drizzy I feel like I have to bring up Mine here, although it’s more of a slow jam, and it’s one of the album’s least effective songs, most likely because it can’t seem to decide what it wants to be, a NWTS leftover that brought n Beyonce or a Beyonce joint featuring Drake. Flawless has no such problems – in fact, it might be one of the best songs of the year. It somehow manages to seamlessly blend an absolute banger of a beat with a Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie monologue without skipping a beat. There’s only one person alive who could pull of a song like this. Her name is Beyonce.

All this and I haven’t even gotten to some of the album’s slower songs yet, and they make up the bulk of Beyonce. The softly soaring Blue builds nicely from a piano-based slow jam to an almost orchestral number, Haunted borders on the line between R&B and just straight up experimentalism and the breathy No Angel should have delivery rooms worldwide busy in nine months. I could go on, but at this point it’d be superfluous. I’m sure some are dissecting Beyonce with a scalpel, both musically, politically and socially, but for me those discussions are only minor distractions from the fact that we’re clearly listening to one of the most purely talented artists of our generation working at her peak, or at least somewhere close. Let’s appreciate what we have in Beyonce, it’s a true moment in music history. Bow down.

DJBooth Rating - 4.5 Spins

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