Is four days enough time to digest Beyonce‘s surprise fifth album, a sprawling R&B epic on motherhood, feminism and dirty, dirty sex? Probably not. But everyone’s going to try! The rushed reviews are in, and they’re uniformly excellent. In fact, not since Yeezus, or maybe Vampire Weekend‘s latest, have I seen such glowing critical consensus this year.
Our own Mike Wass raved about the release, calling it “a cohesive work of art, not a meaningless collection of singles,” and theorizing that “only Queen Bey could waltz in at the last second and snatch 2013′s wig so ruthlessly.”
Head below for our roundup of the reviews from across the Web.
:: SPIN handed out a 9/10, calling it “her best album, more textured than its predecessors in both sound and content” and “an unquestionably personal tour de force that’s as much about love and motherhood as it is about sex,” paired with “the relentlessly perfect succession of videos, 17 impossibly detailed vignettes of expensive, fashionable, highly GIF-able Tumblr fodder that makes for a multi-sensory listening experience.”
:: Entertainment Weekly gave an A- grade to her “least overtly pop” album. “Here more than ever Bey indulges clashing impulses — between strength and escape, megapop and fresh sounds, big messages and resonant lyrics… it balances formal inventiveness with emotional directness.”
:: The Los Angeles Times echoed that sentiment, saying “What’s exciting about the record, beyond its means of delivery, is how the music similarly blends the intimate and the extravagant,” adding, “ In spite of the misgivings she airs in “Haunted,” she’ll make money off this — loads of it, no doubt. But, perhaps more important, she’ll also keep hold of our attention long enough to surprise us again.”
:: Billboard heaped on the praise with a 90/100 score in their track-by-track review. “Once the initial novelty and shock wears off of Beyoncé’s impressive stealth-release feat, the brilliance and creative audacity of the album itself can sink in… It’s as impressive an accomplishment creatively as it is for shifting the industry towards a more nontraditional take on the ‘single-album-tour’ strategy.”
:: The New York Times predicts Beyonce will “long outlast the initial stir,” writing, “The songs are alert to the current sound of clubs and radio, but not trapped by it; the refrains are terse and direct, but what happens between them isn’t formulaic.” The reviewer concludes: “Superstar and striver, impossibly accomplished without forgetting a humble start, Beyoncé has it both ways, and Beyoncé makes it believable.”
:: Rolling Stone scored it 3.5/5. “Beyoncé throws in too many pageant-ready ballads about believing in your dreams and reaching your goals – but the highlights are the sex songs… Only massive hubris could have made a feat like this album possible. And Beyoncé’s hubris makes the world a better, more Beyoncé-like place.”
:: Consequence of Sound‘s 4/5 review posits “Beyoncé should carve out a place among pop’s most important moments… It trafficks specifically in lost arts like sequencing, pacing, and mastering. It’s not concerned with moving units. It’s concerned with Beyoncé’s self-exploration, in a complicated, incredibly intriguing way.”
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