The list of muse-os on my concert bucket list expands annually, not unlike my waistline – I wonder if the two are related? There’s some food for thought in among my thoughts about food.
Fiona Apple, Outkast and Aaliyah have each hovered around the top three of that list for more than 10 years now. Sure, some are more realistic (aka alive) than others but there they all still remain now and forever or until this vision I have of a perfect life becomes my reality.
They’ve shared the stage that is my dreams with many others over the years too. As I reflect on the very authentic written-specifically-for-this-blog list you’ll see shortly, it’s like a very exclusive revolving door that just happens to get stuck every now and again … and apparently sometimes for 10 years or more. To fix it permanently I will need more than a handyman – I need Odame Brown from Ghost.
Those already noted were added to the list like a stick to wet cement, such seems their permanency. Others are added then cathartically struck of once the mission is complete. Some are even re-added either immediately on a post-gig high or later when they release their next masterpiece. Sometimes, just like at work, I’ll even add people and immediately tick them off only after seeing them so my list – and life – can feel more complete.
At the bottom there you might notice a familiar name. Yes, that’s right – at the bottom. Don’t freak out, Queen Bey is totally top of my pops, obvs. It’s just that while I’ve always loved Beyoncé’s (and Destiny’s Child’sss) songs I didn’t always consider her a whole album kinda gal.
Beyoncé’s first album Dangerously in Love has its notoriously genius moments (the semi-title track Crazy in Love, Baby Boy) and other lesser known gems like Me, Myself and I, and Hip-Hop Star (featuring my favourite half of Outkast, Big Boi).
From there she released B’day, which was wall to wall funk n sass, even if it didn’t quite match any of the ‘moments’ of its predecessor.
BUT, where I really lost my way with Bey was around the time she released Broken Hearted Girl (and If I Were a Boy) as a single(s) from her album I am … Sasha Fierce. It was bad enough she recorded the song in the first place.
(I’m keeping half an eye out for the Beygency right about now.)
Then, the universe finally achieved its full potential with the release of Beyonce’s next three albums. Although they’re not formally a trilogy, they basically are in standard and in their evolving subject matter.
Part one: 4
Unofficial title – I LOVE YOU JAY, big time babe and forevz! (The honeymoon album)
Part two: Beyoncé
Unofficial title – I just had a baby and my hormones are all over the place, who you sleeping with?! Sleep with me, right now, right here in this car/ in the kitchen/ wherever, PS. I am a massive feminist … oh, and I still love you and our new baby Blue.
Part three: Lemonade
Unofficial title – when life gives you a cheating husband, fuck his shit uuu-uuuppp, then fuck it uuuu-uuuuuuuppp some more, then make him grovel back before forgiving him … and falling back in love.
Parts two and three have been well enough documented in the media and other publications such as Facebook – and deservedly so. They push the boundaries not just of Beyoncé’s music but of music in general, in particular what we consider a pop artist should and can do. Even someone as capable as Beyoncé.
So today, we’re going to balance the books (something I’ve not yet ever been able to do personally, but let’s see how we go) and focus on part one.
4 is Beyoncé’s most underrated album. It’s also her most consistent in sound, standard and theme. She talks writing ‘physical love letters’ and other full blown romance you’d expect from deliciously cheesy 80s ballads but all coated in delicious 21st century silky production.
There’s the Frank Ocean (<3 – sorry, I can’t see his name and not add a love heart) co-write I Miss You. There’s the love song dedications of 1+1, Love on Top, and Countdown. There’s also the ‘love is a party’ Party, which features my other favourite half of Outkast, Andre 3000. All of these are so incredible I could write a love song about them.
If I had to pick just one song, it would have to be the apocalyptic-love-in End of Time. Nothing exemplifies the way this album makes you feel like this song does, even if it’s the most rapid up-tempo thang going around here.
I first saw Beyoncé perform this at Glastonbury – via the BBC live broadcast from the comfort of my couch. My housemates at the time were actually there. They called sometime during Beyoncé’s set to shout ‘wish you were here’ and other such kind but ultimately unhelpful wishes. I wanted to cry. Actually, it was a Sunday night, it’s very likely I did cry.
But I was lucky – nay, blessed – enough just two weeks ago to see her do it in person along with the bulk of these last three albums and the best bits of her earlier ones. At a massive Wembley arena, she commanded, she owned, and – of course, she slaaaaaayed, bitch.
So, that’s Beyoncé checked off the list, until her next masterpiece. I do wonder whether this amazing trilogy will turn into a four parter. I do hope so …