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article imageReview: Beyoncé by Beyoncé

By Nicole Froio     Dec 13, 2013 in Entertainment
As opposed to her pop star colleagues, Beyoncé dropped an album unannounced, out of nowhere, to the delight of her fans. It was perhaps an incredible PR move, as the surprise has caused more uproar than any other album this year.
It's early days, but the initial response to the album has been generally positive. On iTunes for $15,99, the album has 14 profound tracks that really dig into Beyoncé's experiences as a woman and even as a feminist.
Even though Beyoncé's claims to feminism have been challenged by feminist commentators for a while, especially because of her latest tour entitled Mrs Carter, Beyoncé by Beyoncé is full of pain, struggle and womanly discourse, along with a real description of what being a feminist is.
The album starts with a shocking statement: "Pretty Hurts." A voice asks, 'what is you aspiration in life?' and Bey promptly responds: to be happy. It's a simple, common response. But what comes next is lyrics that imply happiness depends on looks in today's society, and that it hurts to constantly be looking for that perfection, because otherwise you're not worth anything.
"Drunk in Love" is yet another ode to love, and reminiscent of "Countdown" and "End of Time." With Jay Z's participation, once again we get the feeling that Beyoncé loves, pampers and wants to show her appreciation for her husband. In fact, this was the motivation for her tour Mrs Carter, where she completely owns the name, the role of wife, with pride and assertiveness. Bey knows fully well that being a wife and a mother is a choice and one she has been glad to make — although many people might say this is unfeminist, it's completely the opposite. Isn't feminism about choice? Choice to work, to be a mother, to have a career? Why is singing songs like "Countdown," "End of Time" and "Drunk in Love" unfeminist?
"No Angel" explores the dynamics of an imperfect relationship, where both parties aren't angels and are both at fault to the couple's problems. She sings, refreshingly, "I come with a side of trouble / But I know that's why you're staying." These lyrics are similar to "If I Were a Boy," where Bey compares woman vs man expectations of relationship, which are often not talked about in an honest fashion by the media in general. She's being clear about what she wants, instead of playing games, and there's nothing wrong with that.
"Jealous" is also similar to "If I Were a Boy." Yes, sometimes women are jealous of their men and Bey is being big enough to admit to it. She's being honest and true to her humanity. She's not perfect and she won't ever be perfect.
The most heartbreaking song is "Heaven" where Beyoncé is true to the baby she lost in a miscarriage, before she gave birth to her daughter Blue Ivy. She sings: "I fought for you / The hardest, it made me the strongest / So tell me your secrets / I just can't stand to see you leaving." There is pain in her voice, the pain that comes from never knowing the child she lost. She comforts herself with a beautiful explanation: "But heaven couldn't wait for you / No heaven couldn't wait for you." Singing about her miscarriage is brave and very refreshing.
We don't need more churned pop music that is written to 'empower' women (cough, cough, "Roar" by Katy Perry) when it really doesn't add much to change women's perceptions of real life.
The poignant message of Beyoncé's album is love. For Blue Ivy (the song "Blue" features Ivy's voice, talking to her mommy), for the baby she lost in her miscarriage and for Jay-Z. It's baffling that in today's society some feminists believe the only kind of role model worth paying attention to are those that fall under the category 'strong women' when women are so much more than that. Women are strong, yes, but strength comes from a certain amount of vulnerability that has been overcome.
Women are complicated, imperfect, not always strong, complex, feeling human beings. Bey doesn't want to conform to 'strong woman' - saying women have to always be strong otherwise they can't claim to be feminist is the equivalent of society's expectations of female beauty. They both result in silencing women.
"Flawless" is perhaps the most powerful song in terms of a political message of feminism. It starts with "Bow Down"'s brilliant beat, where Bey declares: "I took some time to live my life / But don't think I'm just his little wife / Don't get it twisted, get it twisted / This my shit, bow down bitches." The excerpt from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah (one of the best books of the year, about race and gender) that is recited by the author herself adds to this:
We say to girls "You can have ambition but not too much you should aim to be successful. But not too successful otherwise you will threaten the man". Because I am female I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach to aspire to marriage and we don't teach boys the same? We raise girls to each other as competitors not for jobs or for accomplishments which I think can be a good thing but for the attention of men we teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.
In this excerpt Chimamanda exposes all issues Beyoncé and women in general are faced with: being a wife, with no ambitions. But Bey is a wife, with a ton of ambitions and accomplishments. While her 'bow down, bitches' message might confirm that women are raised to be competitors it also challenges the people who have criticised her: she's been attacked by competitors and she is responding. And then, using Chimamanda's words to explain it.
She hits home with the last line of the excerpt: "Feminist: the person who believes in the social political, and economic equality of the sexes."
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