Last Thursday night, just after midnight, in our staff Facebook group, this happened:
December 13, 12:16 AM
TAVI: BEYONCÉ JUST DROPPED A “VISUAL ALBUM” WHAAATASJBDFK
TAVI: I know. What a sneaky WIZARD she is. My god.
JULIANNE: 14 TRACKS?!
TAVI: OMG and 17 videos?! She is the future.
GABBY: DOESN’T SHE KNOW I HAVE FINALS RIGHT NOW?? I CAN’T HANDLE THIS.
DYLAN: I’m already flipping ballz. NO REST 4 THE KINGDOM.
DANIELLE: BEYONCÉ JUST SNATCHED CHRISTMAS FROM SANTA like a bawse.
NAOMI: I didn’t know what was missing in my life until right now. I don’t have to leave my bedroom today, for the world is in my bedroom.
AMY ROSE: My eyelashes are in my bra. VERY VERKLEMPT.
Then we all calmed down a little but had SO MANY THOUGHTS ’N’ FEELINGS ABOUT BEYONCÉ that NEEDED TO BE SHARED. So we commenced a casual, late-night roundtable discussion on the album:
TAVI: WHERE SHOULD WE START? What were your first reactions?
HAZEL: I was like WHAT, album out of nowhere?! Which is pretty fucking cool, but then when I realized there was a video for every single one it took it to whole new level. And then when I started watching the videos I was seriously kind of in shock, because each one is SO GOOD, and to have them all together—that was like WHOA. And then it was 1 AM and everyone was talking about it on the internet—I mean everrryone. It just felt so important!
TAVI: It says so much that she could release it without having to follow the industry protocol of taking out lots of ads, doing lots of press, releasing single after single and then video after video—she just said what she had to say, all at once, how she wanted to say it.
DANIELLE: I was floored that she pulled it off, particularly filming the videos and not even a dancer said anything about it?
TAVI: I TOO WAS SHOCKED THAT NO ONE MADE A PEEP?! This felt like such a gift in this age of the WORLD WIDE WEB where no secrets are kept.
AMY ROSE: My first reaction upon listening/watching, as a person who likes Beyoncé a lot but never LOVED one of her albums before this one, was swooning and being like, “WHY DID I NEVER GET HER BEFORE THIS, this is a multimedia masterpiece.” I was completely blindsided by how gorgeous all the videos are and how her sense of humor is so present in these beautiful, ornate art pieces. Like when she’s sloppy heart-dancing in “Drunk in Love.” Her grace is immense.
From there we proceeded to break down every single song/video:
1. “PRETTY HURTS”
LAIA: I just rewatched it and started tearing up—like, what is happening to me, guys, is this late puberty?
TAVI: The part where Harvey Keitel asks her, “What is your aspiration in life?” really chokes me up on two levels: (1) It makes you think about Beyoncé’s own life aspirations and how this album is such a definitive self-portrait (this feeling is intensified by the clip at the end of her winning a contest when she was very little), and (2) we (I) always forget that prettiness doesn’t = happiness, and it was just very real to hear it plainly put—like, “OK, but what is your actual aspiration in life?” (this is intensified when she sings, “Are you happy with yourself?”).
DANIELLE: Little beebee Bey at the end, ARE EYES SUPPOSED TO HAVE THIS MANY TEARS OR WHAT
GABI: I definitely think “Pretty Hurts” refers to the pressures she was under growing up and probably hearing that she was pretty a lot. I love that when Keitel asks her about her aspiration in life, she is TAKEN ABACK by the question—like, she literally had not thought about her aspirations because she was so focused on looking perfect. It reminds me of the spoken-word poem “Pretty” by Katie Makkai.
JULIANNE: I really admire how explicit she was willing to go, even mimicking bulimia, which was kinda triggering, but as a SURVIVOR or recovered E.D. CHICKADEE or whatever, it was really important for me to see that, because usually bulimia (and anorexia, see: the girl eating a cotton ball to feel full) is treated flippantly, as a joke, or at least without a decent understanding of it. Seeing it put in context with the pressures surrounding it—not just “look beautiful” but “you feel like total shit about everything, therefore you are barfing up your food”—was prettttty real.
Also, the first thing I thought of when I saw this video was [her father] Mathew Knowles, and how much pressure her parents put on her from a baby-age. This seems like her saying “I AM NOT AFRAID OF YOU” and “I AM THE MASTER OF MY OWN DOMINION.” GOD I LOVE HER.
TAVI: In “Ghost” she sings, “All the shit I hear is boring, all the shit I do is boring, all these record labels boring.” And then: “Perfection is so…*shrug*.” It feels like a little manifesto about her desire to step it up and try something new, and it reminds me of the feeling I get when I’m insecure about how I look and act and think, Oh, but it’s easier to be boring, and then I think, Yeah, but it’s so much more INTERESTING to try for something more. So I am probably projecting a lot onto this one, but yeah.
HAZEL: Can we talk about how different each video is, just aesthetically? It’s insane. She is so brilliant. I am still freaking out over all of this. I am literally not over it.
TAVI: Right, like EVERY SINGLE ONE is impeccably art-directed—none of them feels like filler—and the progression is so amazing, getting to see all these different dimensions of her life unfold and make up this unreal (but SO REAL) self-portrait. Also, I would like to audition for her next tour to play the creepy old lady in “Haunted” who cackles at about 3:40 minutes in.
GABI: THE LOOKS ON HER FACE IN THIS VIDEO ARE MY FAVORITE.
TAVI: When you see her over Jay’s shoulder and she’s smiling and laughing and goes, “Stop it!” like he said something sweet like omG
JULIANNE: ALSO ALSO: #SURFBOARD