Beyonce, Beyonce, Beyonce. Friday was all about the pop star thanks to the Kamikaze release of a visual album that broke all the rules: No set-up, no radio, no traditional press, no retail version (yet), no proper single or focus track, and a video for every song and then some.
How'd it do?
Numbers wise it looks like a smash: Billboard editor Bill Werde is reporting she's sold approx 600k units via the iTunes exclusive making for a #1 chart debut even though it only had three sale days in the charting window:
Final Beyonce 1st "week" numbers coming on @billboard next hour or so. She did more in 3 days than all but a few stars did in 7.— Bill Werde (@bwerde) December 16, 2013
Creatively? Most of the rapid reviews were stellar. The sure-to-be forthcoming thinkpieces will likely be the same.
Looking back at the videos, it's interesting to see how they actually do hold together as a Visual Album. There's not a true narrative that runs throughout, but there are recurring themes and imagery, in addtiion to an overall emotional journey (much like any great album). In this case, it's a loose three act arc: Beyonce revisiting her childhood pressures at beauty pageants and talent shows, then finding her confidence, and finally a pivot onto her own daughter and starting fresh.
None of the videos except for "Drunk In Love" are yet available in full online — only via iTunes — but here's the full rundown with stars to indicate the especially recommended clips, although every one of these videos are all full-on productions and damn good in their own rights:
BEYONCE - 17 Videos
**** "Pretty Hurts" (Melina Matsoukas, dir.) — This first video sets the tone perfectly with Beyonce grappling with childhood memories and pressures.
"Ghost" (Pierre Debusschere, dir.) — A celebration of beauty and the body.
"Haunted" (Jonas Akerlund, dir.) — A detour into a bizarre bordello of sorts...
**** "Drunk In Love" (Hype Williams, dir.) — Beyonce and Jay getting close on a nighttime beach stroll, in the Herb Ritts b/w beauty tradition.
"Blow" (Hype Williams, dir.) — Rollergirls and videogirls...
"No Angel" (Lil Internet, dir.) — A gritty street video set in her Houston hometown...
**** "Yonce" (Ricky Saiz, dir.) — A slicker street fashion vibe directed by Ricky Saiz (not a traditional music video name, but someone very well-known in the style worlds via his role at Supreme)
"Partition" (Jake Nava, dir.) — A fantasy about how Beyonce can get her man's attention. Spoiler alert: It involves a limo and lingerie.
"Jealous" (Beyonce, Francesco Carrozzini, Todd Tourso, dir.) — Same initial set-up as "Partition" but the fantasy is much more emotional than carnal.
**** "Rocket" (Beyonce, Ed Burke, Bill Kirstein, dir.) — Another b/w beauty piece, but intensely intimate.
**** "Mine" (Pierre Debusschere, dir.) — Where the album makes the pivot from being inwardly focused to thinking about motherhood, made very clear with the Mother Mary imagery.
"XO" (Terry Richardson, dir.) — A fun day break at Coney Island.
"Flawless" (Jake Nava, dir.) — A look back in anger at her childhood — this time focused on a fail Star Search appearance.
"Superpower" (Jonas Akerland, dir.) — A redirection of that anger as Beyonce leads a Los Angeles rebellion.
"Blue" (Beyonce, Ed Burke, Bill Kirstein, dir.) — Beyonce and her daughter Blue Ivy, plus shots of a Favela filled with energy and love...