With so many people involved in such a large production, I hope the lawyer who wrote up the nondisclosure agreements gets a hefty Christmas bonus.(Something to think about: While many videos feature guest stars and extras, shots of Bey are often separate footage, as if filming these didn't require the participants' full knowledge of what exactly what was going on.)We’ve had a few clues about her filming music videos—we knew she went to Coney Island to shoot a clip for an unreleased song—but nobody anticipated a project of this scale.What makes this album release brilliant isn’t just that she kept fans out of the loop, but how she envisioned and executed a project her fans never saw coming.The release was not an old-school music moment, where every fan got the same product at more or less the same time because of a fast production turn-around.The fact that a song/video like this opens the album almost inoculates Beyoncé to accusations of self involvement.She’s fierce and flawless and swaggering for much of the rest of , but we never forget that there’s an element of criticism and self awareness to that. I think this is a message we don’t hear often enough: “Effortless” or “natural” female beauty, for many women, actually takes a significant, sometimes truly disgusting amount of effort.That’s probably what Beyoncé wanted, but is it a good thing?
This album’s existence must be one of the best-kept-but-then-revealed secrets in music history.And the extended spoken word bit from Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie feels like a response to original pushback against the song.The “bow down, bitches” line got plenty of heat for dissing women, but when Beyoncé samples Adichie’s suggestion that competition among women for jobs or accomplishments isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Beyoncé seems to say that calling her out for being anti-feminist is just another case of a patriarchal society trying to police her behavior.Here, the videos are much more integral, as much a part of the song’s DNA as the music and lyrics, and they bring out ideas and interpretations I wouldn’t pick up on otherwise.