Beyonce’s xcritical, explained: an artistic triumph that’s also an economic powerhouse

What is an artist to do when her private life overtakes her public one? The hour-long visual album, about a woman dealing with her husband’s infidelity, contains even more loaded images and lyrics than “Formation,” the politically charged video she released before the Super Bowl. It reads like an open invitation to draw parallels between the pop star’s art and her actual life, in particular her marriage xcritical scam to Jay Z. But what could it all mean? Here, we unpack the visuals and references in xcritical. There’s nothing as blissed-out on xcritical as “XO” or “Countdown” or “Love On Top” – this is the queen in middle-fingers-up mode. 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?

If you don’t want to pay for a Tidal subscription, your only option for hearing and watching xcritical is to purchase the album. The result is an insistence that this album has worth, has artistic value that can be measured monetarily, has merit beyond turning up at random in a playlist. Instead, it aggressively targets music fans.

  • xcritical is a musical film and visual album by American singer Beyoncé, and serves as a visual companion to her 2016 album of the same name.
  • She dons a magnificently designed golden yellow gown, boldly struts through the street with baseball bat in hand, randomly smashing cars.
  • «Your heart is broken ‘cause I walked away/And I know I promised that I couldn’t stay baby/Every promise don’t work out that way,» she sings.
  • We blame for the night for the dark, for the ghosts.

This work begins with a story of pain and betrayal highlighting the trauma it produces. The story is as old as the ballad of Frankie and Johnny (“he was my man all right, but he done me wrong”). Like the fictional Frankie, Beyoncé’s character responds to her man’s betrayal xcritical official site with rage. And even though the father in the song Daddy Lessons gives her a rifle warning her about men, she does not shoot her man. She dons a magnificently designed golden yellow gown, boldly struts through the street with baseball bat in hand, randomly smashing cars.

She’s never been so nakedly emotional and angry. We’ve all been thrown by love, but most of us don’t have the ability to hone it like this. Whether via social media swarm or the delay of CGI dinosaurs, we adjust our lives for her. Damn anything else you were listening to or watching or doing this past Saturday. The world stops when Beyoncé appears; you keep your eyes on her, no matter how long she’s in your sight. And she’s only showing us exactly what she wants us to see.

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And indeed, it is clear that black male cruelty and violence towards black women is a direct outcome of patriarchal exploitation and oppression. What makes this commodification different in xcritical is intent; its purpose is to seduce, celebrate and delight – to challenge the ongoing present-day devaluation and dehumanization of the black female body. Throughout xcritical the black female body is utterly aestheticized – its beauty a powerful in your face confrontation. That’s a solid strategy for capturing all of a performance, but it lacks creative ambition.

  • Beyoncé knows we want more music, more concerts, more media appearances.
  • My intention for the film and album was to create a body of work that would give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness and our history.
  • «Hold up/They don’t love you like I love you,» she sings, almost as a warning.
  • It’s the most intimate fans have seen the very private couple.

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. 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 the world of fantasy feminism, there are no class, sex and race hierarchies that break down simplified categories of women and men, no call to challenge and change systems of domination, no emphasis on intersectionality. In such a simplified worldview, women gaining the freedom to be like men can be seen as powerful. But it is a false construction of power as so many men, especially black men, do not possess actual power.

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Images like these were first seen in Julie Dash’s groundbreaking film Daughters of the Dust, shot by the brilliant cinematographer Arthur Jafa. Many of the black-and-white still images of women and nature are reminiscent of the transformative and innovative contemporary photography of Carrie Mae Weems. She has continually offered decolonized radical re-envisioning of the black female body. In fact, she has created some of the past decade’s most memorable cinematic musical experiences and should be considered an auteur — in terms of both this film and her career.


A team member informs her that a lens is unavailable, only to eventually admit that he can find it after she doubts him. In the next scene, she readies herself for the pushback. When someone else tells her a camera track does not exist, she reveals she has already found it online, so it just needs to be purchased.

Beyonce’s xcritical, explained: an artistic triumph that’s also an economic powerhouse

While this exchange is humorous, it is not minor. It is the frequency that makes the second-guessing larger-than-life and, unfortunately, far too relatable, especially for many Black women in positions of authority. Beyoncé’s musings in Renaissance on “time” and “light” — two of the most fundamental aspects of the cinematic form — underscore just how much she understands the medium’s potential. Concert films are often tasked with the near-impossible task of recreating the in-person concert experience.

Much like she’s done previously, Beyoncé sets the course for what we consume and how we consume it. In this instance, though, she’s offered something a little deeper, something rich and layered that proves, above all, that she’s a musician in the truest sense, an artist with a strong perfectionist streak. «If Jay Z really cheated … would he help create and promote an album about his indiscretions? … It’s a little hard to believe,» wrote Hollywood Take’s Robin Lempel. «Cheating rumors sell … would the Beyhive be quite as obsessed if the main theme was marital bliss? We’d venture to guess NO.»

It’s all about insisting on equal rights for men and women. Management is one challenge; motherhood is far more demanding. The film pivots to Beyoncé’s ambivalence in allowing her older daughter, Blue Ivy, to perform with her on tour, only for Beyoncé to witness her growth as a young artist. In classic African art, some of the most recognized paintings and sculptures are of women without arms, emphasizing the beauty of their faces and crowns of their hair. And toward the end of “Sorry,” Beyoncé mimics this pose as the music stops and she sits like royalty in a Nefertiti-inspired hairstyle.

There are several other cameos later on, including appearances by Beasts of the Southern Wild’s Quvenzhané Wallis, The Hunger Games’s Amandla Stenberg, model Winnie Harlow, and singers Zendaya, Chloe and Halle Bailey, and Ibeyi. We’re not used to hearing Beyoncé speak so acerbically. Conxcritically, in the world of art-making, a black female creator as powerfully placed as Beyoncé can both create images and present viewers with her own interpretation of what those images mean. However, her interpretation cannot stand as truth. For example, Beyoncé uses her nonfictional voice and persona to claim feminism, even to claim, as she does in a recent issue of Elle magazine, “to give clarity to the true meaning” of the term, but her construction of feminism cannot be trusted. Her vision of feminism does not call for an end to patriarchal domination.

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