Tuesday, November 30th, 2021

Beyoncé – Be Alive

In the absence of one of 1000 terrible tennis puns, here’s a song by Beyoncé.


Anna Katrina Lockwood: It’s kind of incredible how depersonalized a vibe “Be Alive” achieves, given its significant starting advantages. The arrangement is really excellent, Beyonce’s vocal is of course unimpeachable, and it’s all round very nicely composed. There’s just a little too much of the vaguely motivational sports movie word salad lyrics for me to really connec t– you know, like, the road is paved with gold and look how far we’ve come, etc. Perhaps I’d have a better time with this if I’d actually seen the movie? 

Nortey Dowuona: GODDAMN. GODDAMN. GODDAMN. If the drums didn’t suck this would have stayed a 10.

Harlan Talib Ockey: The percussion sounds like both marching feet and the Williams sisters demolishing a 200km/h serve. The insistent, sizzling bass feels like it’s constantly on the verge of bursting into a joyful roar. Beyoncé’s vocals — well, it’s Beyoncé. This is how you do catharsis.

Claire Biddles: Always happy to hear that “Freedom” beat! A Generic Inspirational Soundtrack Beyoncé Song is still a Beyoncé song I guess! 

Andrew Karpan: A soundtrack loosie with a surprising amount of elasticity, the way Bey’s voice bounces around the beat is catchy in a way that I haven’t associated with the award-gathering singer in a while. She accomplishes this, I think, by picking a collaborator behind the boards who is technically adept, but usefully boring — from what I could gather, the somewhat recently-rebranded DIXSON is mostly notable for notching a load of credits on Chance the Rapper’s largely forgotten 2019 flop-rap album, The Big Day. But the fake Ratatat-type beats here gives her voice a lot more room to move around, to fill up space with urgency. This befits the canny collection of tweaked inspirationals that she goes on about, which run the gamut from “the path was never paved with gold” to “this is hustle personified,” the latter sung with particularly convincing zest. It’s smart that we can’t quite tell if she’s singing about the travails of the Williams tennis family, for which the song was made, or her own. Instead, she manages to extrapolate the whole deal onto some larger, collective experience; telling us everything without the tediousness of intimacy. 

Thomas Inskeep: A solid, march-tempo number clearly written for Oscar glory. (cf, uh, “Glory“) (If you don’t think Beyoncé is craven, you haven’t been paying attention.)

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Everything Beyoncé has done since Lemonade has felt thoroughly tangential to the upkeep of pop stardom (even when it’s been great) and this does not break from that mood. Its inessential nature works in its favor, though — the song, co-produced with DIXSON, is nervy and skeletal in a way that sounds compelling in contrast to her voice, which has only become a more powerful instrument with time. It feels like a sketch or a demo, an exciting hint at whatever she’s got coming when she decides to get back to pop stardom.

Alfred Soto: She’s coasting even as she flexes a craft she was incapable of even a decade ago: the multitracked vocals, mosquito of a guitar line, the way she sneaks “personified” as a lyric. Slogans need more than craft though.

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