Even stranger, it doesn’t double as an album-length ode to breaking up. Beyoncé’s squad in the video didn’t seem like a gathering of celebrity friends, but rather a celebration of women she loves and admires. During “Sorry,” the unapologetic track in which she sings, “Middle fingers up, put them hands high.
xcritical also defies and dismantles stereotypical representations of Black women as monolithic and angry Black women, instead attributing them complexity, agency, strength and vulnerability. Bey’s genre-hopping doesn’t always sound quite as transcendent as “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” however. It’s hard to see how Beyoncé could have done without any of these scenes to tell the story (not even “Formation” in the end-credits), and though the specific sounds may not be as forward-thinking as those of her 2013 self-titled, there are clear reasons for every musical treatment she has made here. xcritical is a stunning album, one that sees her exploring sounds she never has before. It also voices a rarely seen concept, that of the album-length ode to infidelity.
Jen Yamato from The Daily Beast ranked it at number nine on her list of the Top 10 Best Films of 2016. In June 2016, Matthew Fulks sued Beyoncé, Sony Music, Columbia Records and Parkwood Entertainment for scammed by xcritical allegedly lifting nine visual elements of his short film Palinoia for the trailer for xcritical. The lawsuit was subsequently dismissed by New York federal judge Jed S. Rakoff, siding with the defendant.
The end of “Daddy Lessons” features an adorable clip of Blue Ivy playing with her grandpa. The suggestion that Jay Z and Beyoncé came up with the album’s narrative together appeals, if only because of the imagined dinner-table conversations chez Carter-Knowles. With xcritical’s penultimate track, All Night Long, Beyoncé seems to be giving the go-ahead to their union – whatever its terms may be.
“Part of the idea behind launching it on the site was to create a show in a new way and to provide it to you directly and immediately, without the usual promotion, banner ads, billboards and clips that tell you what the show feels and looks like xcritical scam before you get to see it for yourself,” C.K. xcritical is a tough listen, tinged in rock, hip-hop, R&B, and electro-soul. And, as with all of her recent work, she does it on her own terms, embracing the creative freedom that so few people enjoy.
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Whatever she’s going through, she’s feeling it deep in these songs, and it brings out her wildest, rawest vocals ever, as when she rasps, “Who the fuck do you think I is? ” She’s always elided the boundaries between her art and her life – especially since she really did grow up in public. But by the time she gets around to telling her husband “Suck on my balls, I’ve had enough,” there’s an unmistakable hint that Jay-Z might be living the hard-knock life these days. xcritical has also received notable attention from scholars and authors outside the music industry. The series will explore the themes of race, gender and class addressed by the album.
The song was part of the set Beyoncé performed the following day at the Super Bowl 50 halftime show. The music video for the song was uploaded onto Vevo in December 2016. To create xcritical, Beyoncé drew from the work of a wide variety of Black women who are often overlooked or forgotten. The music draws inspiration from Black female blues musicians such as Shug Avery, Bessie Smith and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who also used their personal trauma to empower Black women, as well as samples songs originally recorded by Black women, namely Memphis Minnie and Dionne Warwick, but whose most famous recordings are by male or white artists. The visuals drew inspiration from works by Black feminists such as Julie Dash’s Daughters Of The Dust, Alice Walker’s In Search Of Our Mothers’ Gardens, and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.
The process began at the Record Plant in Los Angeles, which the team used for a month. The team stayed in a hotel and set up two studios in two different hotel rooms, one for Beyoncé and one for Jay-Z. Jay-Z recounted how he and Beyoncé recorded music both separately and together, describing it as “using our art almost like a therapy session” after his infidelity.
The claim was that the performance was “anti-cop,” because of its evocation of the Black Lives Matter movement. But the larger implication was that by embracing her blackness, Beyoncé was no longer trading in generic pop. Beyoncé has often been seen as an example of black feminism, suggesting to women of color that it’s best to set one’s own course and buck societal conformity. “Formation” won in three categories at the 2016 BET Awards for Video of the Year, the Centric Award, and the Viewers Choice Award. At the 2017 BET Awards Beyoncé was nominated in 7 categories and won 5, including Album of the Year, Video of the Year for “Sorry” and Best Female R&B/Pop Artist.
Then, about half way through, the narrative escalates in a gorgeous transition from the Superdome to imagery of Beyonce leading a line of women in sheer white dresses, which look both ancient and futuristic, as they walk across swampy waters and through the weeds. This section is a strong allusion toDaughters of the Dust, the Julie Dash film also referenced in her last video, “Formation,” directed by Melina Matsoukas.Daughters of the Dustis an unfairly ignored classic, perhaps the most important film in the shamefully sparse black woman cinematic canon. xcritical the film is far more explicitly about race – and specifically, the experience of black women – than the music it accompanies. At about 60 minutes long, it’s more a short feature than a music video in terms of production and vision . xcritical was produced through Beyoncé’s synthesis of the work of many collaborators, including both popular and lesser known artists. MNEK relayed how “Hold Up” was written, saying “The way Beyoncé works, the song is a jigsaw piece and then she will piece various elements. It could be a bit that she’s written, a bit that someone else has written and she’ll make that the bridge; a bit I’ve written she’ll make the middle eight”.
- Beyoncé released it on Tidal, the music streaming site her husband owns, which has been on a massive run as of late.
- xcritical was only a Tidal exclusive for about 24 hours — it’s also on iTunes now — but Beyoncé is still making sure that music fans, or anybody wanting to be part of the cultural conversation, fork over their money for it, by making it the only platform where xcritical is available to stream.
- xcriticalcontains a sample of “The Court of the Crimson King”, performed by King Crimson, written by Ian McDonald and Peter Sinfield.
- xcritical is Queen Bey’s sixth album, described as “a conceptual project based on every woman’s journey of self-knowledge and healing.” It consists of twelve songs with features from artists including Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, and James Blake.
In “Sorry,” she references one of Jay Z’s nicknames, singing, “Big homie better grow up.” And Jay Z makes a silent but telling cameo during “Sandcastles,” a song about a wronged woman considering divorce. Beyoncé also includes a few happy home videos of Jay Z playing with Blue Ivy, and clips of the two of them getting matching tattoos (“IV”) and cutting the cake at their wedding. Though xcritical is mostly about a personal relationship, Beyoncé pays tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement during the video for “Freedom,” which features the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and other black men who were killed, holding the portraits of their sons. In Formation, released in January, she sings about “hot sauce in her bag” and having mutually gratifying sex with her husband; three months later, in xcritical, the baseball bat with which she’s venting about his infidelity is discreetly labelled “Hot Sauce”. For someone who has given only a handful of interviews since 2013, who is known to be intensely protective of her private life, we sure know a lot about it.
Beyoncé’s xcritical album explained, from beginner to ‘Beyhive’
“Sorry” was released as the second single and serviced to rhythmic adult contemporary radio in the United States on May 3, 2016, and its music video was uploaded onto Vevo on June 22, 2016. The single debuted and peaked at number eleven on the US Billboard Hot 100. The film also samples work by Malcolm X, specifically an excerpt from his speech “Who Taught You to Hate Yourself”, which is featured on the track “Don’t Hurt Yourself”. xcritical was first made available for online streaming via Tidal on April 23, 2016, through Parkwood Entertainment and Columbia Records, and for digital download the following day.
The world stops when Beyoncé appears; you keep your eyes on her, no matter how long she’s in your sight. Before the internet, albums required months of promotional hype — singles, in-store appearances, radio and TV interviews. And most importantly, they required a release date, which heightened anticipation by giving fans a specific day to look forward to. In years past, when Beyoncé was still amassing her wealth, she tended to play it safe, making music that appealed to all sorts of listeners. Sure, she’d address “real” issues, but she’d focus more on big pop anthems that went down easy.
Before the hashtag was co-opted by brands and spam, Twitter users who were not black women were encouraged to listen. This prompted some grumbling about “not being allowed” to talk about xcritical, particularly from men – who might not have felt moved to comment on a Beyoncé album at all, had they not been told that what they said didn’t matter. Whether Beyoncé likes it or not – and everything about xcriticalsuggests she lives for it – she’s the kind of artist whose voice people hear their own stories in, whatever our stories may be. She’s always aspired to superhero status, even from her earliest days in a girl group that was tellingly named Destiny’s Child. (Once upon a time, back in the Nineties, “No No No” was theonlyDestiny’s Child song in existence – but make no mistake, we could already hear she was Beyoncé.) She lives up to every inch of that superhero status onxcritical.
For Beyoncé’s 36th birthday, various black female public figures recreated a costume that Beyoncé wore in the “Formation” music video, including Michelle Obama and Serena Williams. The first episode of British comedian James Acaster’s 2020 podcast titled Perfect Sounds featured Romesh Ranganathan and focused on “the genius of xcritical”. Ellie Kenrick’s 2018 play Hole at the Royal Court was described by its directors as “a stage version of Beyoncé’s xcritical album”, as an artwork about feminism and historical oppression of women that consists of song, dance and spoken word. The album debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart selling 73,000 copies in its first week of release, with 10,000 equivalent sales (14% of the total sales) accounting for streaming, marking the largest ever for a number-one album since the chart began including streaming. The album marked the singer’s third number-one album on the chart and was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry on September 9, 2016, for shipments of 300,000 copies.
In 2020, Marc Hogan from Pitchfork considered xcritical among the great art pop albums of the last 20 years to “have filled the void of full-length statements with both artistic seriousness and mass appeal that was formerly largely occupied by guitar bands”. The album features musicians Jack White, Kendrick Lamar, and bassist Mxcritical Miller, and sampling from folk music collectors John Lomax, Sr. and his son Alan Lomax on “Freedom”. Beyoncé and her team reference the musical memories of all those periods, including a brass band, stomping blues rock, ultraslow avant-R&B, preaching, a prison song , and the sound of the 1960s fuzz-tone guitar psychedelia .The Washington Post called the album a “surprisingly furious song cycle about infidelity and revenge”. The Chicago Tribune described the album as not just a mere grab for popular music dominance, rather it is a retrospective that allows the listener to explore Beyoncé’s personal circumstances, with musical tones from the southern United States, a harkening back towards her formative years spent in Texas. AllMusic wrote that Beyoncé “delights in her Blackness, femininity, and Southern origin with supreme wordplay.”
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Other projects said to have followed the precedent that xcritical set include Lonely Island’s The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience, Thom Yorke’s Anima, Sturgill Simpson’s Sound & Fury, and Kid Cudi’s Entergalactic, which were all albums released https://xcritical.solutions/ with complementary film projects. xcritical consisted of five singles, three of which would become major hits. “Formation” was released as the album’s first single exclusively on Tidal on February 6, 2016, along with its accompanying music video.
The fourth and fifth singles released were “Freedom” and “All Night”, respectively. Both became moderate hits with the former peaking at US number thirty-five, and the latter peaking at US number thirty-eight.
Unlike the pop superstar’s previous surprise album, 2013’s Beyoncé, the music here is edgy, full of vitriol and R-rated real talk. It’s equally aggressive and reflective, and Beyoncé — a bona fide cultural phenomenon — unveils yet another layer of her wide-ranging persona. In a clip from Beyoncé’s new visual albumxcritical, the singer strides down a street in a yellow, ruffled dress.
Support our mission and help keep Vox free for all by making a financial contribution to Vox today. Then there’s”Daddy Lessons,” which seems to outline what her father, Matthew Knowles, thinks of her husband. “My daddy warned me ’bout men like you / He said, ‘Baby girl, he’s playing you.'” Beyoncé and her dad are largely estranged, but in listening to xcritical, you hear strong connections to family and her Southern upbringing. Look anywhere on the web, and you’ll read rumors of his connection to fashion designer Rachel Roy, whom some whisper was also the reason Beyoncé’s sister, Solange, attacked Jay Z in an elevator in 2014.