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10. Artful pop (CD+blu-ray edition)
on 31 March 2014
On December 13, 2013, while engaged in a world tour, and without any pre-release announcement, Beyonce released her self-titled 5th solo studio album exclusively via the iTunes store. In just 3 days, "Beyonce" sold 828,000 copies; music history was made, new industry rules were set. 14 songs, 17 videos, switching from uninhibited female empowerment to kitchen sink drama, it was not just merely a record by a megastar, but a statement, as everything about this dark and complex record suggested that, despite the eponymous title, Beyonce was demanding more of herself than just being Beyonce.
Co-written and co-produced by herself and A-listers such as Pharell, and Timbaland, among others, and with references to her competitive showbiz upbringing and acknowledgments of her beloved hometown, she continued the game of role-playing she is so good at: pop diva, fashion icon, wife, mother, herself, Sasha Fierce, revolutionary, provocateur etc. The result was a grown-up pop album that is mature without being boring, bold without being forced, and entertaining without being a drag. Not a small feat in pop music where so rarely something exciting happens.
3 months later, sales are growing steadily, and "Beyonce" is considered by critics and fans alike as B's creative and commercial peak. Sonically brilliant, and visually magnificent, "Beyonce" is among her most entertaining and sexually explicit work, yet substantive in every respect, easily her most accomplished project to date. Given the enormous enthusiasm of her overwhelmed fans, I would expect B herself to be extremely proud of such a bold, expansive body of work, and its well-deserved success. Where Lady GaGa failed with "Artpop", Beyonce triumphed with this.
This career highlight from one of showbiz's most hard-working superstars is now available in a CD+blu-ray set, in an obvious attempt to boost sales furthemore. Those who purchase the new edition, will of course enjoy the brilliant songs and videos, and marvel at the astonishing details in picture, the crisp sound, and pristine production. Unless one is a completist, this edition is simply an alternative to the original CD+DVD set, featuring identical tracklist, artwork and packaging housed in a slipcase cover. Nothing new for those who have already got a copy of the initial release, which undoubtedly is one of the best albums of 2013-2014.
PLATINUM UPDATE (6/12): 5 million copies sold, and following her highly profitable Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, the unstoppable Beyonce is back with this special edition box set of her record-breaking, self-titled conceptual opus. It features a live DVD with 10 performances from the aforementioned show, plus artist commentary, an extra CD with 2 brand new songs ("7/11" and "Ring off") and 4 remixes (including the remix of B's song for H&M, "Standing on the sun"), and a mini version of the official 2015 Beyonce calendar. So much to enjoy, but it is very annoying that the show does not appear in its entirety. Obviously a separate release for it is on the way, but it would be generous to include it here, too. The original CD+DVD are still here, though, making this a pristine package that truly lives up to its "platinum" status, which seems to have become synonymous with Beyonce. Whoever dismissed the album has certainly missed the point of one of the greatest pop records about freedom to express sexuality, to be imperfect, and to enjoy themselves (a notion further enhanced by the new, so very different for B's normal niveau, video for "7/11"). Those who have bought the original version of "Beyonce" are going to be frustrated, but this is a spectacular repackage that really has to be bought. I was going to slay Bey for shameless cash in, but this is simply too good to miss.