Monday, April 29th, 2019

Beyoncé – Before I Let Go

Good job, Beychella!


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[7.78]

Alfred Soto: Lionized by black radio and concert scene stalwarts, Maze remain unknown to white audiences; the band never scored a crossover hit. They specialized in silken ardor, with the electric guitars forming a warm quilt under which Frank Beverly called upon his vague inamoratas. The RIAA has certified gold every one of their eight studio albums. No doubt the Knowles family grew up with Maze. Covering live favorite “Pride and Joy” would’ve been too easy — a move by the young Beyonce for whom pyrotechnics were often an end. Instead, by speeding up the horns to keep apace with the drum machine, she extends Beverly’s encomium so that it encompasses her relationship with her audience (“You make me happy”) and, in a hubristic gesture that only she could have made, situates her as part of an R&B lineage. Finally, she has awarded Frank Beverly a helluva pension. 
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Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: If you want a history of R&B from 1980 to now, you’ve got it here: Diana Ross into Michael Jackson into Frankie Beverly into Cameo into Aaliyah into Ty Dolla $ign into Tay-Keith, with a recursively referencing Beyoncé, resplendent in glory, at its center. It’s a victory lap on a victory lap on a victory lap, but it feels earned for two reasons: (1) Beyoncé is still Beyoncé, giving a performance that fully showcases both her vocal ability and sheer charisma (2) its awareness of history and reverence for its precursors makes it less a definitive statement than a piece of living history. It’s an archive of sound within itself, wrapped in Tay-Keith’s insistent drums and Beyoncé’s own drive.
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Thomas Inskeep: So Beyoncé took what some would argue is, if not the Black National Anthem, then damned close, and made it blacker. How? By adding in the melody line of Cameo’s “Candy,” which is “the unofficially official Electric Slide wedding song.” Ms. Carter covered “Before I Let Go,” the classic by Frankie Beverly and Maze, did that damn thing, added in marching band horns and drumline, and made it Blackity-Black. And you know what that is? It’s a testament to her — yeah, I’ll say it — musical genius. Fifteen years ago, I never could’ve believed that we’d be where we are with Beyoncé’s art. But here we are. This is one of the smartest cover versions I’ve ever, ever heard, and it’s just in time for cookout season.
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Ashley Bardhan: I want to have a steamy, spicy take but honestly, this song is hot as fuck as it is. I’m sorry. 
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Stephen Eisermann: This cover is full of dirty, muddled vocals and ends with a welcome wink from the queen, which feels so right because if anyone deserves to serve some swagtastic, raw vocals just for the hell of it – it’s Beyoncé. And we’re just lucky she lets us even have this. 
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Pedro João Santos: Sounds like Beyoncé doing a first take on a (rebuilt) classic she reveres: high performance with little varnish added, and that’s how “Before I Let Go” achieves its balance of celebration and poise — even if it should go even more all-out, like it does later on. It does an excellent job — an admittedly hard one — being an appendix to Homecoming, even if it dials down the fanfare when it could do even better by keeping it epic. But Bey still manages to get transcendent on our asses, during the Coachella-referring, “Get Me Bodied”-nodding verse. Pure joy.
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Joshua Minsoo Kim: Hearing Tay Keith’s (truncated) producer tag at the beginning of a song that celebrates decades of Black music? Yea, it’s poignant and beautiful. The rest of the song is joyous too, and “Before I Let Go” succeeds because of how tightly the arrangement helps Beyoncé navigate it all. Even then, a part of me wishes this sounded even more full and bombastic. Regardless, it’s still a victory lap that knows it sounds like one.
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Jonathan Bradley: The drumline, the infusions of “Triggaman” and Cameo, the building sense of joy throughout: it sounds like this cover would have been a highlight at Coachella. Standing alone, however, it is perfectly inessential: a bonbon between Beyoncé projects.
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Iris Xie: It is quite a gift to have a relaxed Beyoncé, who I initially thought was just going to grind herself into the ground right after “Formation,” and suddenly retire in an abrupt disappearance. Beyoncé has a lovely and warm mood to her singing here, where she seems to have finally “let go” and found her sunny spot. It’s like she decided that she longer needs to prove herself as a superhero who can power the energy of a thousand suns with intense, brilliant determination. Good, because, how boring and exhausting to upkeep that level of superhumanness, for Beyoncé surely has far more facets than just that persona. “I want to be comfortable” feels like her intention for this song, because it is so full of exhalations and exaltations. When she sings, “Before I let you go” and glides effortlessly from “go/Oh, oh, oh, oh,” she sounds so free, like she managed to find a way to connect all of her music together to a core, the fierce her, the fun-loving, silly her, and the her who loves passionately, trusting herself to be without having to do the most-y most-est most. Now Beyoncé lets her voice do the work of expressing what is going on with her and enjoying it, rather than trying to make a point to you, the in-awe listener, of how to perceive and understand her power. In comparison to “XO,” which sounds like a song designed for the radio to exalt the importance of joy — if constructed by a Type-A overachiever who decided to read 100 texts on joy and video chatted with the Dalai Lama before recording her final thesis — “Before I Let Go” rides on an easy syncopation of trumpets, drums, claps, and crowd exclamations. She still pulls on all of those sounds and elements that are familiar and so loved by her, but Beyoncé isn’t trying to integrate Sasha Fierce into her singular being anymore and force it out in order to prove something to everyone anymore; the pressure is all off. Instead, she’s going to relax with her friends, family, and community and express how happy she is to do so, and she’s just gonna do her thing. It’s soothing to hear someone go, “I am enough and I like this” and make a good song based on that self-affirmation and self-care. I’m happy for her.
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Reader average: [6.75] (4 votes)

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