For those just tuning in, this is A Thing We Do Here on Radio.com, in which two twenty-something editors — Jillian Mapes and Jeremy D. Larson — put down their iPads and log off Tumblr for as long as they can stand it, for a chat about a musical topic crucial to their generation. This time, it’s Beyoncé’s new self-titled album. This chat took place just 12 hours after the album was released, over the course of several hours. Here’s what transpired between these Two Millennials over Instant Messenger:
Jill Mapes: It’s Bey Day.
Jeremy D. Larson: And everybody’s celebrating.
Jill: OK, before we get into the listening portion of all this, I do wanna say that I bought the album on iTunes. I don’t do that. If I purchase music, I buy the vinyl, but mostly I get stuff from the publicist/label or use my Spotify premium. Bey was smart. She did not give fans a chance to get sick of her.
Jeremy: The last time I bought an album from iTunes was when Frank Ocean also released his album out of nowhere In 2012.
Jill: And you did that because it was all of sudden and you needed to hear it now. You had no preparation.
Jeremy: Two of the funniest parts about this record is 1) That old talent show announcer saying “Beyonse” and 2) When she says “Probably won’t make no money off this. Oh well.” You sold 80,000 copies of this record in three hours. [edit: hahahaha]
Jill: There is some stuff here, though, that is eye-roll-y when you think about it in the context of Beyoncé. The idea that she won’t sell, the idea that she’s unable to do whatever the hell she wants because a label is policing her…
Jeremy: The eye-roll-y stuff recalls the Beyoncé doc from last year, about her perception of herself, and what she shows to the public
Jill: It does.
Jeremy: That doc — which was pretty deflating to actually watch — sort of discounts the whole Beyoncé wearing the “Third Ward” sash in the “Pretty Hurts” video. Bey we know where you grew up. And it wasn’t the “Third Ward.”
Jill: I don’t think it comes from a place that’s seeking sympathy or even empathy. She’s trying to empathize with her audience and their Real Issues, be it standards of beauty or “working 9 to 5 to survive.”
Jeremy: But more on that as we go through this record! Which I really like!
Jill: OK, so let’s get into this listen.
Jill: Oh my goodness, this.
Jeremy: Well I can already call this the best album that opens with Harvey Kietel talking.
Jill: You know I Take Beyoncé Very Seriously, and after the teaser of “Grown Woman” and “Bow Down,” I was VERY excited to hear “Pretty Hurts.”
Jeremy: Why’s that?
Jill: So much of this album is overtly sexual—but on Bey’s own terms, which is very powerful of course.
Jeremy: “Pretty Hurts” is sexual in a very non-overt way.
Jill: See, I don’t think it’s sexual. My point is, here is a female empowerment song that is not about men. Look, I love “Single Ladies.” But that acknowledges a man’s role so much. “Pretty Hurts” inherently involves the male gaze, but it deals explicitly with issues only a woman could understand.
Jeremy: To which I will say: I do not exactly relate to this song in many ways.
Jill: Haha. Exactly.
Jeremy: But I will say it does hurt being as pretty as I am. I don’t just show up to work looking as good as I do.
Jill: You rub vaseline on your teeth, yeah?
Jeremy: No I’m like Lauren Bacall: I make everyone rub vaseline on their eyes when they look at me so I have a “glow.” Jokes aside: Isn’t this an odd song to kick-off the album? This totally seems like a song that she would bury in the album, you know? I kind of like that she leads with this chest-beating diva anthem.
Jeremy: Like leading off with a power ballad.
Jill: It’s bold as s*** lyrically, but musically, it’s not all that risky. It’s very 4. What if she led with one of those trap beats?
Jeremy: Yeah, when I first heard this. I was thinking “fan service” all the way, but enjoyed it enough for what it’s worth, and love the little “ahh ah ah” line. That’s addictive.
Jill: Felt like Bey was getting this out of the way first. Like, ‘this is Important,’ but now here’s a bunch of songs about how bangin’ her sex life is.