What’s Going On December 14th?
What have you done this year? Been on a nice holiday? Spent time with your children? Sung for the president? Performed at the Superbowl? Made musical history?
Okay, the chances are that you’ve only done one or two of those things; unless you’re Beyonce. It’s certainly been a big year for Ms Knowles, but she wasn’t about to let 2013 play out without one last firework. The entire world essentially shut down when, at minutes before midnight on Thursday night, the superstar casually released her fifth album on iTunes, with absolutely no build up at all.
iTunes couldn’t cope with the whole thing, and crashed with the pressure of millions of fans trying to download the album. In the space of 12 hours, 1.2 million tweets had been sent, all talking about Beyonce’s little trick. “Surprise!” she wrote in her press release; perhaps the understatement of the year.
Such an instantaneous release is something of a follow up to David Bowie’s sudden return earlier this year, when he released his first single in a decade. However, what Beyonce has done with this record is on a far larger scale, with the album consisting of 14 tracks, all with their own video. “I see music,” the star explained in the video on her Facebook page which announced the release. “It’s more than just what I hear. When I’m connected to something, I immediately see a visual or a series of images that are tied to a feeling or an emotion, a memory from my childhood, thoughts about life, my dreams or my fantasies. And they’re all connected to the music.”
She also says that much of the inspiration behind this ambitious project comes from her memories of watching the première of Michael Jackson’s iconic Thriller video in the 80s. There is clearly something she is trying to bring back from the days in which music was a total experience, rather than just a title on an iPod, an idea which she herself explains much more eloquently than me; “I miss that immersive experience. Now people only listen to a few seconds of song on the iPods and they don’t really invest in the whole experience. It’s all about the single, and the hype. It’s so much that gets between the music and the art and the fans. I felt like, I don’t want anybody to get the message, when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready and from me to my fans.”
The thing is, if you’re Beyonce, you don’t need marketing. You’re Beyonce. Beyonce can do whatever she wants. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if she even needs to eat or sleep like a normal human being; who needs oxygen when you’re Beyonce?
So, seeing as Beyonce is now truly Queen B, I thought I would take a look back over her journey to the top; and at what shoes she wore at every step of the way.
It all began way back when with Destiny’s Child. The crop tops, the crochet, the glitter, the matching outfits; how glad I am that we don’t live in that world any more.
Take a look at the three in all their orange, fringed glory at the MTV Awards in 2000. I was only seven at this point, and so my memory of the time is probably unreliable; but was their really that much fringing about? There is orange fringing on Kelly Rowland’s sky blue, PVC thigh-high boots. Was this a thing that happened regularly!? It also annoys me that Michelle had to be different, and wear silver boots rather than blue; but that’s probably just me being picky. The orange fringing is the real issue here.
Disclaimer; I know that in years to come, we will probably look back on some of the trends of today in similar horror. But, seriously? The 90’s and early 00’s are definitely my least favourite style period; I honestly don’t think that there has been such a horrible time in fashion history since the Dark Ages. I mean, what am I meant to say about this?
Here’s Bey at the VH1 Big in 03 awards, wearing a pink bustier with fur detailing paired with a copper satin skirt. I’m not quite sure what to say about this ensemble either, except that its a shame that a woman with one of the most enviable figures in the world is being so heartlessly swallowed by such a hideous skirt.
She looks quite a bit more svelte here, with an equally stylish Jay-Z (now, of course, her husband) at the 2005 Oscars. I think that superstar B is coming out here; she looks gorgeous in this strapless Versace gown, with that glamorous updo and those decadent diamond earrings.
There was slightly less gown and a few more bananas when she famously paid homage to one of her idols, Josephine Baker, at Fashion Rocks in 2006. Baker, who was not only a huge star throughout the first half of the twentieth century, but also an important figure within the American Civil Rights Movement. In the 1920s, at the Folies Bergère music hall in Paris, Baker would wear a skirt made of sixteen bananas to perform the aptly named “Banana Dance;” featuring a move which is very close to Ms Knowles’ famous Booty Shake.
Here we have Beyonce powerdressing her way through the BET Awards in 2009, wearing an extremely sparkly Balmain dress. Those shoulder pads and that ornate, embellished pattern reminds me very much of a 80s party gown, whilst the big hooped earrings and swirling, colourful pattern adds a 60s twist.
Here, BeyBey shows off her baby bump at the 2011 MTV Music Awards in this stunningly graceful Lanvin gown. The way that the material softly wraps around her frame and cascades gently to the floor is just the definition of elegance, and that shade of burnt orange compliments her skin tone and that casually sleek hair style. I really think she looks beautiful here!
Earlier this year, she (sort of) sang the American National Anthem at President Obama’s inauguration. She wore a sophisticated gown from Emilio Pucci’s pre-autumn/winter 2013-14 collection, with her best accessory, Jay-Z in Tom Ford, at her side.
Beyonce wore a custom-made outfit designed by Rubin Singer when she was once more reunited on stage with her Destiny’s Child band members for the half-time performance at the Superbowl earlier this year. Yes, they’re all still very matchy-matchy, but it’s in a decidedly more grown-up way this time around; and there’s no fringing, which is always a bonus.
In May of this year, B shot her debut cover for British Vogue; I’m surprised it took them so long, to be honest. This image is the definition of fierce; they call her “electrifying,” and she certainly looks it, with that Jonathan Saunders sequinned skirt and her strong, magnetic expression.
But what of this, her latest venture?
On the one hand, what Beyonce and her PR team have done with this little stunt is a stroke of genius. B’s fame is so great, and the internet is so powerful, that having no marketing campaign has turned out to be the best marketing campaign; we’ve done the job for them, spreading the news far and wide with our thousands of tweets, articles and blog posts (guilty as charged). People across the world knew about the album within minutes, and the combination of shock and intrigue had us all running to iTunes as quickly as possible. This is the cherry on top of the big money-shaped cake; no build up meant that the album could not be prematurely leaked, something which is increasingly becoming a problem for the music industry. For at least a short period of time, this album could only be bought from iTunes; they didn’t even start pressing physical copies until yesterday morning. Plus, obviously, it’s nearly Christmas; probably the best time to release an album if you’re looking to bring in the dollar.
On the slightly less cynical hand, Beyonce has injected some of the soul back into an industry which has largely become about vaguely floating singles rather than well-constructed albums, using the internet to reach directly out to fans and give them what is essentially a work of art, unclouded by critical reviews or hyped up advertising campaigns. She is giving us what she and her team have created, exactly as she wishes it to be viewed, inviting us to formulate our own opinions and take from it what we choose; you have to buy the album in its entirety from iTunes, as it is clearly intended to be experienced as a continuous whole, rather than as a disjointed collection of songs.
In this sense, the way in which the album has been handled is a more personal way of making music. She certainly has, I think, made her work more tangible; people used to experience an entire album through a physical record, with its artwork and lyrics to guide that experience. Perhaps this visual album is Beyonce’s way of bringing what she calls the “immersive experience” back into music, using contemporary, modern techniques.
Whatever the reason behind its surprise release, Beyonce’s fifth album is set to make musical history. So, all that is left to say is;
All Hail the Queen!
Happy December 14th!