December 13, 2013


Beyonce's Surprise Album: A Track-by-Track Breakdown

From the video for "Blow" off Beyonce's self-titled album.
From the video for "Blow" off Beyonce's self-titled album.

It's Bey Day, a time when the whole world (or at least music fans) can listen to, analyze, dissect and exalt in Beyonce's surprising release of her self-titled album. We've already given you all the details of how the top-secret album came to be, but what does it sound like? Here's our track-by-track breakdown of each song and accompanying video: 

1. "Pretty Hurts": Bey opens the album with an assault on our insatiable need for physical perfection. "Perfection is a disease of a nation," she sings. "Try to fix something/But you can't fix what you can't see/It's the soul that needs the surgery." Posing as "Miss 3rd Ward" in a beauty pageant, the singer highlights vomiting, plastic surgery and other ways in which we try to achieve an impossible ideal. - Jason Newman

2. "Haunted": This eerie track could double as the soundtrack for a softcore porn, with Bey, in her best coo, singing over a repeated piano stab and pounding, dance floor-friendly drums. It's a slow, creeping burn; an erotic ballad that could still work in the club at four in the morning. Imagine Trent Reznor remixing Madonna's "Justify My Love" and you're almost there. The visual is equally frightening; part Korean horror film, part Lynchian psychosexual fantasy. - JN

3. "Drunk in Love": Over shimmering synths and skittering drums, Beyonce sing-raps about "waking up in kitchens wondering how the hell did this sh-t happen." Husband Jay Z comes in to make an Andy Warhol reference yet again and rhymes about "foreplay in the foyer" and "sliding panties to the side." One of the more overtly sexual tracks on the album, Bey accompanies the song with a video of her writhing around the beach in a black bikini, presumably hiding the Warhol tattoo Jay Z forced her to get (probably). - JN

MORE » Fuse is exclusively premiering all 17 'BEYONCE' videos this Monday at 8PM ET

4. "Blow": You instantly get a retro R&B vibe from "Blow," before realizing that this track is all about sex. Well, specifically oral sex. In one hook Bey sings "when you lick my Skittles/ It's the sweetest in the middle." Taste THAT rainbow! Timbaland appears later on for call and response with Bey over the sexy uptempo track. Matching the song's retro vibe, the accompanying video is set in a roller rink where Bey, looking like a gorgeous '70s disco diva, skates in slow motion (with blacklights!) - Mark Sundstrom

5. "No Angel": Over a sexed-up, midtempo trap beat, Bey reminds her lover (safe to say, Jay Z) that "you're no angel, either." Mrs. Carter's message here? She loves him more because she knows him entirely, accepting he's not perfect or without a past. It makes sense both sonically and visually that the video for "No Angel" is set in the 'hood of Beyonce's hometown of Houston. There's lots of fun appearances from Texas hip hop stars like Bun B and Paul Wall, plus, a slow-mo look at Houston's famous tricked-out car scene. - MS

6. "Partition": In this two-part club jam, Beyonce introduces us to a new alter ego: Yonce. Yonce likes Brooklyn, her grill, and and being the hottest girl in the club. Think "Diva," part 2. In the suuuuper sexy video equivalent, appropriately titled "Yonce," models Chanel Iman and Joan Smalls prance around in small clothes alongside Bey, also in small clothes. Smalls then licks Beyonce's chest, so expect a GIF of that soon. - Nicole James

7. "Jealous": "Jealous" is a silky slow jam about Beyonce being, well, jealous, which we didn't even know was an emotion she experienced. "If you give me a promise/ I'm keeping mine," she pleads with her mystery man who stood her up for dinner. In the video, instead of crying into the steak she just made for her date, she puts on a leather trench coat and hits the town. Ultimately, she wins.  - NJ

8. "Rocket": Beyonce is serving us major D'Angelo vibes on "Rocket," and the video also looks like an ode to the R&B icon. It's essentially a five-minute underwear commercial shot in black-and-white that soon becomes a shower commercial, complete with slow-motion water dripping off of her body. We're pretty sure we saw Bey's boob in there, and oh yeah, there's a sex scene! YOW. - NJ

9. "Mine" ft. Drake: As you might expect from a full album released by a major artist without warning at midnight, Beyonce is taking chances on this one. So it shouldn't be a surprise that her Drake feature is less about his clever punchlines and more about moody atmospherics. Metronome-like percussion and the distorted, disembodied voice of Drizzy make this understated ballad float along like a lovely, half-remembered dream. The video, however, is a Jodorowsky-esque hallucination thanks to an inferno and Beyonce wearing a mask of her own face. - Joe Lynch

10. "XO": Maybe the most uplifting pop song since Florence + the Machine's "Shake It Up," the chorus about "darkest nights" lit up by "your face" is augmented by a "whoa, oh-AAAH-oh" refrain that could brighten any Eeyore's day. A looped organ riff and electronic flourishes keep the music from veering into banal territory, and add quirky levels of sonic interest previously unheard on Bey's albums. As for the video [which you can watch here], it takes place in an amusement park at nighttime and shows Beyonce at her most flippant, casual best. - JL

11. "***Flawless" ft. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: This track is what "Bow Down," the gangsta-inspired joint Bey leaked earlier this year, morphed into. It begins and ends with vintage footage of Girls Tyme, the Houston rap group that would eventually turn into Destiny's Child, competing on Star Search. It also features a spoken word screed against sexism (reminiscent of the one on Madonna's "What It Feels Like For a Girl") provided by famed Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the author of best-selling African novel Half of a Yellow Sun. Btw, this one's a banger: It made our 41 Best Songs of the Year list. - JL

12. "Superpower" ft. Frank Ocean: Bey and Frank harmonize about the unbelievable ways love makes a couple feel. They coo, "I thought the world would revolve without us / But nothing I know could slow us down / I thought I could live without you / 'Cause nothing I know could break us down." The video sees Queen Bey leading a pack of fashionable rebels, ready to take over whatever or whoever's in the way. And guess who joins her? Pharrell and Destiny's Child bandmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams! It's reminiscent of Bey's "Run the World (Girls)" video, but this time the guys are invited too. - Jeff Benjamin

13. "Heaven": Sounding a bit like "Halo" Part II, "Heaven" is an understated piano ballad showcasing Bey's soaring vocals detailing someone taken from her too soon. There's a sonic shift at the last 20 seconds where a female voice recites a prayer. In the video, Bey dons a high-fashion look to meditate at a gorgeous church amid flashbacks of a friend she lost. Look out for a flashback where Bey and two friends throw off their tops and jump into a pool. Hot mama! - JB

14. "Blue" ft. Blue Ivy: Beyonce gets super-personal in this dedication to baby Blue Ivy: "Sometimes I feel these walls seem to cave in on me / But when I look in your eyes I feel alive." We don't want to give away everything on this album, so just trust us when we say the last 30 seconds will bring a huge smile to your face. The video shows Beyonce's personal travel footage of mother and daughter—Jay even meets them on the beach at one point—so cute!!! - JB