HBO promo poster
Some fans were concerned that Beyonce's upcoming HBO documentary "Life is But a Dream" would be a flat regurgitation of previous behind-the-scenes short films by the star, but the new trailer released today by Yahoo! News is very promising as Beyonce` discusses the artistic traps of being a commercial artist and concealing a pregnancy while promoting her 2011 album, "4." Her comments about her struggle to sustain artistry while having big sales confirm my long-held theories and thoughts about the design of her discography (See "The Discography Analyzed"). In short, her two middle albums ("B'Day" & "I Am...Sasha Fierce") served to expand her audience and make her an ever-marketable figure, but it has subsequently bit her in her fantastic butt, as those albums generated a fan-base that will expect her to continue to make the same type of music. Back on the subject of the documentary, this trailer makes me even more eager for the premiere on February 16th :) You can check out the trailer below.
In short, Beyonce’s lyrics are simplistic and arguably immature compared to Carey’s emotive, reflective pieces, clever puns and expansive vocabulary and the fact that Beyonce` primarily targets women seems excluding in comparison to Carey’s wider appeal (the keyword being ‘seems’).
This discussion highlighted what I feel to be an important central issue in Beyonce’s work: her projects aren’t always a testament to her ability and talent. As bees, we’ve paid close attention to every performance and song and are keenly aware of her abilities. We know she can SANG; we know she’s a skilled technician with a wide range. We know she can write great songs; she penned the beautiful and romantic song, “Dangerously in Love” as a teen. We know she’s a great performer; most doubters become believers after seeing a live performance (see “10 Live Signs Beyonce` is Everything” here). We know she’s studied from all the right musical bibles, claiming to be heavily inspired by Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Prince, Josephine Baker, Broadway musicals & the aforementioned Ms. Carey. The problem is that we know this as BEES and dedicated fans. From the outside looking in, Beyonce` can and has been deemed as just another beautiful, fairly entertaining pop singer with nothing to offer but catchy songs. By breaking down her discography with constructive criticism, I hope to be able to give insight on why some people aren’t all the way sold on our queen diva.
The Destiny’s Child Era
First, I would like to say that it grinds my gears when people disrespect or disregard the members of Destiny’s Child or this portion of Beyonce’s career. One’s past is just as important as one’s present. To fully understand an artist’s growth, all must be taken into account. The ‘DC’ era was a pivotal time in Beyonce’s career. Part of the reason why her solo debut was so successful was because audiences were already acquainted with her and she, along with her group-mates, had established herself as a positive role model for youth and an advocate for female empowerment. We’re talking about one of the biggest-selling girl groups of ALL TIME here. Vocally, Destiny’s Child’s harmonies were flawlessly gorgeous and shined even more during acapella performances. Considering their age at the time of first album (17), their vocal cohesion was particularly impressive.
Destiny’s Child (the self-titled debut, 1998)
This was a great, classic, 90’s R&B album. By classic, I mean timeless. I can listen to this album now in 2012 and it sounds just as great; not dated. What’s fascinating, hilarious and somewhat uncomfortable is the see-saw between mature and age-appropriate content; for example, the sultry “Second Nature” (which uses an Isley Brothers sample) versus the youthful “No, No, No Pt. 2.” The production sounded a little cheap, by the harmonies were great and the writing was there. Fantastic debut.
Grade: A, Favorites: Second Nature, Bridges, My Time Has Come
The original DC at age 18.
The Writing’s on the Wall (1999)
The highest-selling DC album in America, “The Writing’s on the Wall” is clearly everyone’s favorite. With successful hit-singles like “Bills, Bills, Bills” and “Say My Name,” WOTW put DC on the map, but that’s where the issue with the record lies for me. Featuring every hot R&B producer on the block then, it was obvious WOTW was designed for commercial success. There’s nothing wrong with seeking such out, but it’s a problem when that’s the primary goal and artistry is second. The album was so over-produced; beat heavy and noisy with too many effects. Lyrically, the ladies had more creative input, but struggled to keep the balance the first album presented between mature and youthful. It was like they wanted to sound grown up (ex. The scandalous, soap-opera storylines in “Confessions” & “If You Leave”), but just couldn’t help but be 18 (whining about your boyfriend ‘taking too long to call you’ on “Hey Ladies”). With the album centered around “dating commandments,” the quartet quickly got (unfairly) pegged as ‘male-bashers.’ The vocals were still on point; the arrangements were slightly more intricate.
Grade: C+, Favorites: So Good, BugABoo, Where’d You Go, Sweet 16
Post being burned at the stake for allegedly being misandrous and legal troubles with 2 original members who left the group (Letoya Luckett & Latavia Roberson), DC had their engines revved up. Beyonce` had the opportunity to write and produce on all the tracks. Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams only had writing credit on one song, which didn’t help diffuse the perception that Beyonce` was a diva favored by her manager/father. “Survivor” added fuel to the group’s commercial fire, being a core-pop crossover album. Again, commercial curiosity kind of killed the cat. The production was still beat-heavy with cartoonish, theatrical effects. The writing was great in that it was full of positive messages about self-esteem, identity, independence, cherishing life and healthy relationships, but the approach to these messages only gave room for young people to identify with them.
Grade: B-, Favorites: Bootylicious, Independent Women I/II, Emotion, Happy Face, Dangerously in Love
Destiny Fulfilled (2004)
You know, it’s quite sad that “Destiny Fulfilled” was Destiny’s Child’s last album, because the group was just starting to get good artistically. With a clear platform (female empowerment), a trademark sound and personal growth (all 3 ladies had done 1 solo project, 2 were in serious relationships at the time), DC delivered their best album yet. A musical illustration of a woman who emerged whole after losing her identity in a crumbling relationship, “Destiny Fulfilled” was an enhanced version of their debut. Smooth vocals and dramatic, sexy production was matched with sophisticated, adult and expressive lyrics. Listening to this record, I really wonder how they would’ve progressed afterward. Sometimes I think they disbanded too early.
Grade: A, Favorites: Free, If, Girl, Gots My Own (Japanese bonus track), Lose My Breath
Sorry for the credit errors at the end...my Windows Movie Maker was actin' a fool lol. Let me know what you guys think of it :) To see my video for "Schoolin" Life," click this link: http://bit.ly/sPrrSi
Using clips from my favorite movies & Beyonce` moments, here's my fan-made video for "Schoolin' Life"- it's my favorite song on the deluxe edition of "4." Not only is it musically excellent, but it has a great message. We are all students in the class of life. We have the power to make our own grade. I hope you all enjoy it and I love all my fellow bees ;)
*I do not own the footage or music used. No copyright infringement intended.*
Columbia/Epic Label Group Chairman Rob Stringer recently gave an interview with Billboard.com, addressing the multiple rumors regarding the label response to Beyonce’s release of “4.” “The story about us being unhappy with the record and stuff is just not true…We’re really, really happy with it…the numbers are very good everywhere. We thought the record was great from the beginning, and some of the stuff that is happening now is vindication of it.” Since April, rumors have swirled that executives from Columbia Records (Beyonce’s home label) were concerned about the poor chart and sales performance of “4’s” debut single, “Run the World” and desired a new release date and reconstruction of the entire album, particularly after its 3-week early online leak. “We didn’t want the leaks to happen,” Stringer says, “but there was never any discussion of this album moving. It has always been that date (June 28)…there was never conversation about pushing it back, bringing it forward, changing the songs-none of it. Those conversations never existed.”
Looking at the multidimensional and massive marketing of other 2011
album releases, like Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” fans assumed that“4” would be packaged with loads of bonus features and other related products to retain sales. Stringer discussed the long-term promotional plans. “The main concentration for the next few months is to get this record working everywhere. The touring plan is extensive. The promo plan is extensive. We also know we’re going to put out a lot of singles and shoot a lot of videos from the record. There’s enough positive information that we think we can work the record for another 18 months, and hopefully over that period we’ll all be proved right that this is an important record and a commercially successful record.” “4”sold 310,000 copies its 1st week and debuted at #1 on the U.S. chart. Hopefully Stringer’s comments will put the rumors to rest.
Seriously Beyonce`, WTH?!?
Most people figure out pretty quickly that I LOVE Beyonce`. She is my queen diva of choice. But every now and then, she does something that irritates or perplexes me. Here, I tell what's been buggin me about the Bee lately (with reviews and love for the Queen Bee in between).