I can’t quite get over the congruity (and timelessness!) of writing a song about being an independent woman, while starting off the song referencing the Charlie’s Angels remake. Because, if the idea of Charlie’s Angels was ever feminist, well it’s a pretty dated and dumb version of feminism. (Smart, capable women whose lives are controlled by an invisible rich man, sounds like liberation to me.) Anyway…
A couple of these songs seemed even bigger to me at the time than the songs from the previous record. And though this isn’t exactly fair, I sort of chart my awareness of Beyonce the cultural phenomenon from this record. (I mean, I was in rural Quebec avoiding the radio and I was still very, very aware of this.) I don’t know how influential this record has been on pop – especially pop made by women – but I suspect it’s massively influential.
Most of the deep-cuts aren’t as catchy as the main singles but that’s to be expected. There are a few pretty clever interpolations (though I couldn’t find credits…) and I’d say, on the whole that Beyonce and her team are more mature songwriters now. (I don’t know if the team is the same.)
The lyrics can be inane, despite their good intentions. For example, the lyrics to “Survivor” are kind of dumb. On the other hand, they are capable of some sophistication, like how “Nasty Girl” walks a fine enough line that it took me a long time to figure out what they were actually saying. (It should have been obvious since it’s next to “Bootylicious.”)
They’re pretty good singers (if you don’t believe me go watch some live clips). Beyonce gets too many of the solos and fills, I think given I’m pretty sure it’s Michelle Williams who is really the best singer here. I can’t remember which song it was [“Happy Face”] but I heard a Mariah Carey-esque backing vocal fill and was kind of stunned. Googling seems to confirm it was Williams. I know Beyonce was totally in control at this point but it might have served the group to allow Williams’ a few more highlights and to push those further forward in the mix. (The perils of being in a “girl group.”)
Oh, am I the only one who absolutely hates the Outro? At least there aren’t skits this time, only a few interstitials, but that Outro…oof.
This is not my kind of music, it’s slight too long for the material (though not as bad as the previous record) and I think it would benefit from som democracy in the vocals (if not in the songwriting). But it’s well made – 20 years later it doesn’t sound particularly dated – and it’s women positive enough that it makes me feel better about it than so much of contemporary dance pop.