Talking Beyoncé: Five FADER Editors and an Art Director Discuss Her New Visual Album

The FADER staff offers some preliminary commentary on Beyoncé’s 2013 visual album, Beyoncé.

December 13, 2013

Beyonce's covert, self-titled album exploded the internet overnight, leaving smatterings of new tracks, videos, producers, directors, rappers and TED talks. Today, five FADER editors and our art director spent what will now be henceforth known as Bey Day huddled en masse to sort through the whole digital package together, with a video-by-video screening and chatroom discourse. It was sometimes smart, pretty LOL and perhaps a little too intimate. Read our thoughts below, starting with some pre-show thoughts. Apologies to Jessica's mom in advance.

ALEX FRANK: Can I just say that I’m really happy I listened to the album without the videos first? [Editor’s note: Alex chimed in while out of the office and had to leave early.]

EMILIE FRIEDLANDER: Kind of interesting that she's released an album that could potentially take weeks to digest, at least visually.

DUNCAN COOPER: In this Facebook announcement video, she says, “Now people only listen to a few seconds of a song on their iPods, they don't really invest in a whole album. It's all about the single, and the hype.” So this is supposed to be some kind of corrective of that. I wonder, at least partly, if maybe she took this approach because there are no hit singles.

ALEX: I feel like this is the rollout Kanye kind of wanted to do?

EMILIE: Well, Yeezus leaked, so who knows? I guess another interesting point about this album in itself is that it didn't leak.

ALEX: Man, she just made every pop artist look thirsty. How much did Art Pop cost to promo? I think the number was $25 million dollars!

EMILIE: I was thinking about that. Harry and I were talking earlier about how releasing an album with no press lead-up is sort of a privilege reserved for the already hyper-established music elite. This creates the illusion of doing it yourself to mask all the money that has gone into the production of the work itself, not to mention all the money that has been poured into her creation as a celebrity over the years—the kind of celebrity who could successfully pull such a move.

ALEX: Sure, but who's doing a better thing with the power of celebrity than Beyoncé? This is how 21st century celebrity should be used.

EMILIE: Tell me how.

ALEX: She just created a fully formed monolith. I always think about how so many albums feel disappointing because their months-long rollout is so intense that it's bound to make the payoff feel less than the hype. She kind of avoided that.

MATTHEW SCHNIPPER: But is not giving people the opportunity to be disappointed the same as being impressive?

Pretty Hurts

ALEX: She's generally not so literal with her videos—this is a very direct visual representation of what the song is about.

MATTHEW: I wonder what Lily Allen thinks about this song/video.

JESSICA: This is classic Beyoncé "feminism."

HARRY: The pageant coach is the same actor as "Adam" in Lana Del Rey's “Tropico.”

MATTHEW: That's Shaun Ross. He's having a moment it seems. He has been in another Beyoncé video as well.

DUNCAN: As an albino black man, his employment in these videos automatically brings up questions of race and attraction. But speaking of “Tropico,” Beyoncé's either a few weeks behind Lana Del Rey, or snuffing her out. I thought "Tropico" was very cohesive and provocative, maybe subversive, and it'll be interesting to see how this stacks up against it. (Another relevant comparison is Kanye's half-hour "Runaway" film—especially given the DONDA links to this album, with the cover art, presumably a lot of consulting re: these videos, etc.)

HARRY: The references to plastic surgery make me think of the French performance artist Orlan, who is famous for undergoing plastic surgery to look like classic beauties from art history. And for suing Lady Gaga.

ALEX: It's such a interesting theme for Beyoncé, since almost more than anyone, she pursues perfection so tirelessly.

JESSICA: Maybe this is her way of not-so-subtly saying that it's endlessly tiring, even for her.

MATTHEW: I think that's an interesting point. And surely has to do with her strong desire to keep power over everything she does. She may be seeking perfection, but it's her own version of it.

EMILIE: It's interesting to me that this is the video that she opens the album with—criticizing impossible standards of beauty as the "disease of a nation" at the start of a visual album that is essentially a Cindy Sherman-esque compendium of different feminine looks and personas.

ALEX: But it's also firmly in line with pop diva tropes, from Christina Aguilera to Katy Perry—songs that try to assure their female audience that they are beautiful as they are. I mean, this is the woman who doesn't want unapproved images of her in concerts on the internet. Perfection is an obsession for her.

JESSICA: Here, she uses that perfect image to project a message of empowerment.

EMILIE: And then, in the second part of the video, we see the dark side of that quest for perfection: plastic surgery, vomiting, running mascara from her tears.

HARRY: I find the clip of young Beyoncé Knowles at the end interesting. It seems to allude to the amount of work and time it took for her to become Beyoncé.

EMILIE: Yeah, it's really heartbreaking. We see the beginning of that quest for perfection, how long she's been in the spotlight.

JESSICA: As a person, but particularly as a woman.

ALEX: Could it be a darker read? That she is saying that her pursuit of perfection wasn't her choice? She's a pageant child, in some ways.

HARRY: I think so. It seems to speak to how much of a product she is, forged through years of being treated and preened like this. I think the smashing of the trophies would point to her wanting to destroy her pageant days

DUNCAN: It seems very strange that pageant-Beyoncé would ever feel less beautiful than "Miss Pretty USA," which is I guess the message of Beyoncé’s pageant loss? Or that anyone would judge her to be less beautiful? The winner has lighter skin and blonde hair, i.e. more whiteness, but all of her facial features seem less "standard white American beauty"—wider nose, bigger forehead—and it’s hard to tell what is disfigured via plastic surgery. I'm just confused as to what "Miss Pretty USA"'s plastic surgery and pageant win signify.

JESSICA: We also now know the origin of Beyoncé’s infamous pixie cut Instagram. She was revealing the secret project under our nose.


MATTHEW: This video reminds me of Drake and Rihanna's "Take Care" clip. It’s “arty." The video director Pierre Debusscher is a fashion dude. This is one of the songs that isn't on the "album,” just the visual album.


EMILIE: This video feels pretty abstract to me.

ALEX: This video is also very '90s gay house. A feeling of exuberant, artistic, fashionable liberation!

DUNCAN: This song's not for sale, she sings. But, of course, the video is.

EMILIE: Is she juxtaposing her disillusionment with the industry with the struggle of ordinary people, who are working 9-5 just to stay alive?” Is she contrasting her rich entertainer problems with that of ordinary Americans, or is she trying to align herself with them, when she says that she's not going to make any money off this?

DUNCAN: For Beyoncé to raise, as she does in this monologue, ideas of salability, or work, or even setting herself as a worker against record labels—and when she talks, as she does in her Facebook video announcement video, about Thriller, which was broadcast on MTV for no extra charge—these things always remind me of her status as a millionaire who still wants more millions. At $16 a pop, she moved 80,000 digital copies in the first three hours, according to Billboard. Could’ve just made it free. Didn’t have to only put snippets on YouTube. There's so much to say about Beyoncé/pop stars at large identifying with underpaid and underappreciated workers…just interesting for her to explicitly bring it up in the second song.

MATTHEW: It reminds me of dudes working at Goldman totally bewildered by a populist revolt against the banks. Her identification is probably earnest, if potentially laughably so.

HARRY: I find it interesting that the followup to "Pretty Hurts," which is about not wanting to be treated as a an aesthetic object, features her as a statuesque figure in a studio devoid of context.



DUNCAN: More potential race stuff: shot of a plastic white family made of mannequins.

EMILIE: I like the art deco aesthetics of this video.

DUNCAN: Beyoncé in this video is, of course, the opposite of a 9-5er.

EMILIE: There is definitely some kind of The Shining homage going on, in the exploration of corridors and the presence of the prisoner's clothes-wearing twins. Is the idea that Beyoncé is haunted by the ghosts of mansion owners past? Between the crown on her head when she's sitting on the bed and the sex scenes, I'm getting a getting a vibe of zomby-fied courtly sexual intrigue.

MATTHEW: This video is not cool. This song is really good though. Smashing TVs with sledgehammers zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

DUNCAN: How about that production… literally another day of my life thinking "SALEM" hahaha :(

Drunk in Love (feat. Jay Z)

MATTHEW: Here's the reappearance of the trophy motif from the first video, Beyoncé carrying it down the beach in a sheer gown. We're in stark black and white after so much hyper-color.

HARRY: This one seems to reflect “From Here to Eternity," or Calvin Klein perfume ads.

EMILIE: There is also that strange, suicidal dive into water that we see in the first video, and here she is, standing at the edge of a body of water.

JESSICA: She washed ashore? Reborn?

EMILIE: Having a hard time telling whether this is supposed to represent a drunk, rock bottom moment, or a birth of Venus one. It's like she's drunkenly yearning after something at the beginning, but then she suddenly seems really happy. Definitely is looking swimsuit issue-ready in this video, and not washed up. Lots of boob shots.

MATTHEW: Just want to take a moment to appreciate Beyoncé dancing around in the sand with a smoke machine and cavorting in the water. She looks like the most fun person in the world. And then here is Jay Z to say "Fucked up my Warhol."

JESSICA: Why would Jay Z call himself Ike Turner in a song with his wife?

MATTHEW: When he puts his arm around her, he looks like he is going to grab her boob and curves away last minute.

DUNCAN: Jay Z starts his verse by rapping, "Do say, do say, do say so myself," a pun on the cognac he's shilling, D'ussé. And he is wearing a Brooklyn Nets hat. And he is a temporary vegan wearing a leather hat.

EMILIE: Sort of like Kanye and Kim in the “Bound 2” video, it's a "celebration of our love" song where the two protagonists don't actually seem to be directly interacting. There's no direct chemistry between them.

DUNCAN: Well, I mean they're interacting but only as a visual pair, superficially.

EMILIE: But it's also kind of cute, like they're so comfortable together that they can just chill on the beach drinking and hanging without any ostentatious PDAs.


EMILIE: This video looks more like a series of animated GIFs than a video. With the roller rink setting and Skittles references, Beyoncé seems to be exploring a teenaged, infantilized aspect of sexuality. And I feel like that is kind of confirmed in the "cherry popping" reference.

MATTHEW: I just looked up from some light googling to say this is an excellent rollerskate jam and they are actually rollerskating. Glad we're on the same page Beyoncé.

DUNCAN: Interesting that the song with the most jokey-sexual lyrics has so far the least sensual video.

EMILIE: The exact lyric being, I can't wait till I get home so you can tear/turn the cherry out.

HARRY: This could be a Chromeo song.

EMILIE: Definitely sounds like Chromeo! I wonder if this is the influence of her little sister coming through, as I can definitely see Solange mining a similar, '80s funky vibe.

No Angel

MATTHEW: This is the @LILINTERNET directed video

EMILIE: It was also co-written by Caroline Polachek.

DUNCAN: I'm glad that Caroline and Lil Internet got presumably big paychecks here, and I think for that reason alone I like this song the most so far, lol.

HARRY: This video is offering what appears to be a documentary look at Houston.

JESSICA: James Harden jersey #represent.

MATTHEW: A lot of Houston all stars to be spotted here: Willie D, Johnny Dang, Bun B, Paul Wall, Slim Thug, Scarface… There's a guy on a horse on the sidewalk too, a lot of candy paint, but no Caroline Polachek.

DUNCAN: Beyoncé has the power to get a lot of people to stand around and say and do nothing. And woah, that's an interesting point about Caroline not being in this—like, of course the writer wouldn't be in this video, but it’s interesting to see the disconnect between where Beyoncé's music “comes from” and where she wants it to look like it comes from


EMILIE: What's the pill on her tongue?

MATTHEW: It's drugs. This is immediately my favorite song. This beat is great and her tone rules.

DUNCAN: This video was directed by the co-head designer at Supreme.

MATTHEW: That's Joan Smalls, Jourdan Dunn and Chanel Iman in the video with her. Good company. How do you get a job coming up with these videos? Do they like sit around being like, “How do we make Beyoncé look super hot in another way? Who else is hot? What about hot and opulent? Hot but also trendy?” Sounds cool.

JESSICA: Another woman just licked Beyoncé's boob, so I am precisely the target demographic for this video.


EMILIE: Here we are, back at the rhetorical mansion.

HARRY: This looks like an Agent Provocateur ad. Jay Z is back in the building.

MATTHEW: This is Eyes Wide Shut meets Downton Abbey. Turns out I really like mansion dramas?

DUNCAN: Note that rich Beyoncé does not treat her workers well—just like, tossing a napkin on the floor, because why not, giving a seductive look to the guy lighting her cigarette before.


JESSICA: He Monica Lewinski-ed all over my gown is the new hurry up with my damn croissants.

EMILIE: Interesting how one of the outfits she wears in the video—the one with the beaded cap—reminds me a lot of Josephine Baker. Early black female entertainer/singer/actress who lived in France, and was definitely one of the biggest sex icons of the ’20s and ’30s.

MATTHEW: Totally Josephine Baker, good call.

JESSICA: Exploration of role play: I just want to be the kind of girl you like.

DUNCAN: Emilie, what is the French part saying? Did you notice?

EMILIE: It went by too fast, but part of it was asking the question, “Do you like sex?” And then there was something about how men don’t think that feminists enjoy sex, and how in reality, it’s an activity that is very natural, and that women adore. An interesting narration for a video where Bey is essentially doing a striptease. French language part drives home the Josephine Baker vibe as well. Historically speaking, I guess people tend to think of the French as being much less puritanical when it comes to female sexuality.


EMILIE: Now, Beyoncé is the sad housewife who cooked a special dinner for her man, and he never showed up.

JESSICA: This video feels like a continuation of “Partition.” In this take she's being cheated on? She's the slighted housewife. In “Partition,” she was doing all her man wanted to satisfy him. Guess it wasn't enough. I cooked this meal for you naked. Sounds dangerous.

DUNCAN: I cooked this meal for you naked is the weirdest line by far, and it says a lot about how Beyoncé interprets male desire, re: I just want to be the kind of girl you like. I believe she believes that by actually doing cooking in the nude, she's somehow subverting her man’s power to make her want to do that, even though it’s something with a presumable risk of getting shit-burned from oil splatters… or something… I just don’t know how she’s taking ownership of it. Or maybe she’s not. I’d really like someone to explain different interpretations of this line to me.

MATTHEW: Just a general observation: I feel like Beyoncé was really into Spring Breakers.

HARRY: The people on the street recognize her. Feel like we’re meeting THE Beyoncé in this video, alone in a penthouse.

EMILIE: There’s also that image that everyone who lives in New York can identify with: the walking alone in the cold or rain because you're lonely and heartbroken thing. But who is the guy that she hugs at the end? Is the idea that it's a stranger, and she just needs some affection? Like the universal, "everybody needs a shoulder to cry on sometimes" sentiment.


JESSICA: "Rocket" is Beyoncé's "Anytime, Anyplace"

EMILIE: She's definitely having a quiet storm moment here.

HARRY: She spends a lot of time in lingerie in this whole set of videos.

JESSICA: I'm okay with that, Harry.

HARRY: Not complaining...

DUNCAN: This song was co-written by Miguel and Justin Timberlake.

EMILIE: I like the frank references to "personal trainer" and "therapist."

MATTHEW: They serve similar purposes.

HARRY: The reverse shower: getting unclean?

JESSICA: This is weird to watch with co-workers? Now, when I'm walking in Tribeca, I will forever wonder if Bey is watching over me in her undies. I'd like to think so.

EMILIE: What's the waterfall metaphor all about here?

MATTHEW: I think it's about sex.

Mine (feat. Drake)

HARRY: Beyoncé, the Virgin Mary.

JESSICA: You know, I'm really glad an artist decided to finally explore the Virgin Mary motif.

EMILIE: Also, some #realtalk about "not feeling herself since the baby."

HARRY: Beyoncé is holding a mask that looks like her baby’s face. Is a mask the only thing that makes her resemble her own child? Feels like Beyoncé is playing with staged identity, but this is so natural to her that it feels less like a comment on surface than simply a manifestation of who she actually is. Like, where it seems uncanny to see regular person like Cindy Sherman get lost in a constructed image, it seems de rigueur for a pop star like Beyoncé to dress up in different costumes for different videos.

EMILIE: Yeah, I felt that way about Sky Ferreira in her video for “Night Time, My Time” as well—like seeing her dress up as so many different personas didn’t feel so much like a meaningful artistic statement as just a natural extension of what the contemporary pop star does. Still, this is the most visually interesting/original video I think we've seen so far. Sort of a Merce Cunningham/modern dance vibe as well. I think she's exploring a different image of female beauty here, a more graceful, mature, almost neo-classical one, as opposed to a clichéd, sexualized one.

JESSICA: The word "mine" was on fire at the beginning of the video. The dancers are wearing black and have the word "yours" covering their face.

DUNCAN: So excited for Drake to fail to deliver… Here it comes… A negligible verse…

HARRY: Are the dancers stepping?

DUNCAN: Beyoncé apes a Drake flow so well on this chorus that it just totally obviates his showing up.

EMILIE: Drake just sounds musically really Drake to me in this video.

JESSICA: Nevermind: concept heavy-handed at the end.

EMILIE: Oh shit! That kiss between the people with the “yours”/”mine” flags covering their faces. Guess who checked out the Magritte exhibition at the MET this summer?

JESSICA: Why is Drake so obsessed with good girls?

DUNCAN: I feel that I truly identify with Drake in that regard lol… fml… true tho.

JESSICA: I blame Degrassi.


HARRY: Oh shit, Coney Island. The legit Cyclone ride.

DUNCAN: That sampled Intro is from the “Challenger” spaceship blowing up, fwiw.

JESSICA: This video is giving me vertigo. I feel like Beyoncé would say this is the most "Beyoncé" of all the Beyoncés.

DUNCAN: That’s funny, because I think it’s the least uniquely Beyoncé in look, and sound too. Interesting that Terry Richardson—someone with such a boring aesthetic sensibility—directed it. First time I thought about Miley in this whole series, which seems good for everyone.

EMILIE: This feels pretty tasteful/PG for Terry Richardson, while predictably glamorizing the carefree and beautiful aspect of youth. Kissing couples feel sort of Disney though, almost in a Spring Breakers kind of way.

MATTHEW: Style editor at large Mobolaji Dawodu has entered the room to say, "This is some Rihanna shit right here. This is a world anthem, lighters in the air type of shit right here." I personally feel like this song will get a lot of play at the Winter Olympics and World Cup next year.

JESSICA: I will definitely drunk cry and feel really good about humanity to this song over the holidays. Maybe New Years.

MATTHEW: Ryan Tedder co-wrote this one. This style of anthem is certainly his specialty.

EMILIE: This song seems to be about feeling something warm in the experience of being in the crowd, whereas other songs seem to be about feeling lost.

JESSICA: Can we go back to “Blow"? I like hearing Yoncé sing about her vagina.

***Flawless (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche)

HARRY: The Star Search clip at the beginning of this one—she keeps referring to her history as a performer, which makes me think of her more and more like a produced pop machine, à la Disney factory performers.

MATTHEW: Oh no, lots of skinheads in a moshpit. Trying to think of a good Sham 69 joke. Shoutout to Angelic Upstarts. I'm talking to myself now. Why is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's speech illustrated by Chelsea haircuts? Why not?

HARRY: Yeah, what’s up with the Rude Boys?

DUNCAN: Here's the full Adichie quote:

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls you can have ambition, but not to much. You should aim to be successful but not to successful, otherwise you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices only keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don't teach boys the same. We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or for accomplishments, which i think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.

So, here Beyoncé directly addressed the "Beyoncé is not a feminist" critique-meme, which was in part fueled by the original version of this song, “Bow Down.” Maybe I’ll come back to this, but I think she’s got bigger problems than that—it just seems to me much more interesting to consider Beyoncé's class politics rather than her gender politics, and maybe I think dropping a "feminist manifesto" blockquote serves to distract from other issues of oppression that might be related to Beyoncé???

EMILIE: It's easy to excerpt a block of text about feminism, not so easy to address the problem of self-objectification in a thought-provoking, visual way.

DUNCAN: Yeah—there’s a disconnect between her singing, I woke up like this, and how people actually look when they wake up. This idea was somewhat explored in her HBO doc, with her appearing without makeup, but that look—that calling attention to representation in order to present a “real Beyoncé—is so far not a part of these videos. So far, she's always entirely made up, so the manufactured-ness of her image isn’t really accessible for much discussion.

EMILIE: Yeah, in the HBO thing she was made up to look not made-up. But even within the context of gender, I'm not sure how aware she is of the politics of her own self-representation.

DUNCAN: In these videos, though her specific outfits and hairstyle change, her look is still always of a very particular type—she doesn't present sensuality/sexuality in non-obvious ways, she doesn't present beauty in non-obvious ways, etc. She always looks the Hollywood best that Beyoncé can look, despite maybe with the beauty pageant first video suggesting that she wasn't happy about doing that.

EMILIE: That's why I liked "MINE" before: it was the only video where she seemed to be pushing toward an expanded notion of the forms that female beauty can take, or at least one not in tune with the 21st century, mainstream male gaze. (Though, of course, you could argue that in dressing all skimpy, she's empowering women to feel "free to be sexual beings in the way that boys are," in keeping with the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie quote.)

Superpower (feat. Frank Ocean)

EMILIE: I have to say, I'm feeling pretty over-saturated by this point-- this is a cool exercise, but this album is WAY too much material to wade through in one sitting.

MATTHEW: Yeah, I find myself wishing for one cohesive narrative as opposed to all these little bits. Or that they would all be videos that said nothing, as opposed to many that kind of say something. I really like most of this music, and I think most of the videos seem to come from a “good” place, but maybe that place isn’t particularly clear. Like you said above, just dropping an out-of-context blockquote doesn’t make everything around it immediately profound. But there is some guiding principle. I just think it could have potentially been more finely guided. But I guess that is what an editor would say.

DUNCAN: This is the second or third video with surveillance footage, FWIW.

MATTHEW: There’s apocalyptic Burning Man protesters. And no Frank Ocean.

JESSICA: But Destiny's Child. And Pharrell.

EMILIE: The balaclava sort of reminds me of Pussy Riot. Or Bushwick crust punk glam. I feel like this video is more capitalizing on the aesthetics and excitement of revolutionary politics to provoke an emotional response in the viewer, rather than saying anything political.

DUNCAN: Occupy Beyoncé. The director who did Beyoncé's H&M ad showing millionaires in torn clothes leading destructive revolutions lol, they can play-act that they wouldn't be the very people being targeted.

MATTHEW: This song is excellent and appears to have nothing to do with its video. Frank Ocean wrote "Miss You" for Beyoncé on 4, which I think is one of her most incredible, powerful songs. They are such a great match in slow R&B. Maybe they can make their own version of Watch the Throne.

EMILIE: Yeah, it's definitely a very pretty song.


EMILIE: Here, I guess she's aligning herself with the church.

DUNCAN: It’s notable that Beyoncé co-directed this. It seems notable that the video features her crying and praying, that those are things other directors haven't shown her doing, but that she wants you to see. Going back to the Lana Del Rey connection evoked by Shaun Ross and just long video treatments—Beyoncé takes religion literally, Lana challenges it.


MATTHEW: I'm Jewish and don't believe in heaven, FYI. I just believe in Beyoncé.

DUNCAN: [Seizure warning]

JESSICA: Well. Fuck.

MATTHEW: This might be my favorite kind of Beyoncé. I mean, I love all kinds of depressing music the best, but heavy Beyoncé is really special. Heaven couldn't wait for you—I mean, it's not a new sentiment, but to me this is what music exists for. The video is fairly literal—BFFs with matching tattoos, photobooth pictures, etc.—but it's sweet, with throwbacks to a deceased BFF. This is maybe the most literal connection between the song and video. I think here, coming toward the end of a lot of imagery, it helps.

Blue (f. Blue Ivy)

EMILIE: Okay, here it actually looks like she's not wearing make-up.

MATTHEW: I feel like on the tail end of this Beyoncé trip I am learning the world is kinda fucked up, but that Beyoncé is fabulous. What does the Pope think of this visual album? Or Charlamagne The God?

DUNCAN: This video’s set in Rio—issues of class, issues of class, issues of class… beautiful babies. With Beyoncé appearing in a situation that's already evidence of her wealth—globetrotting vacation—she then doesn't need to be made-up or wearing expensive-looking clothes, etc.

EMILIE: Yeah, interesting that she's choosing to address the authentic joys of motherhood within a setting so fundamentally removed from the one she actually lives in. What's motherhood like when you're the real-life Beyoncé in New York?

MATTHEW: “Blue” is the official end. And it's her walking away with Blue. No Jay.

Grown Woman

EMILIE: Something about this reminds me a little of Dev Hynes' "Time Will Tell" video. Like the idea of rehearsing for your grand debut, getting ready to step out on stage. Here's that trophy again, here's that crown. Actually, wow, she's standing before all her trophies, looking like a beauty queen who's seen better days with her hair looking all crazy (though actually, she still looks really beautiful). It's hard not to be moved by all this archival footage.

DUNCAN: Interesting that the song that was used in a Pepsi campaign has the video that includes the most childhood footage—"this is who Beyoncé is." Alternately, it’s funny the most experimental video is a bonus track, and that the most experimental video was done by the director who did "Single Ladies."

JESSICA: Beyoncé is really just a bedroom dancer; it's her best stage. She's tried on personalities for years in front of her own mirror. That hasn't changed; only thing that's changed is the stage.

DUNCAN: With all these visual effects, and the beat, M.I.A. looms large. People should talk more about Beyoncé and M.I.A. at the same time—twin mothers of pop stardom, one aligned with the corporate establishment, the other aligned in opposition. I wish M.I.A. made a video for every song.

EMILIE: The vibe I get from this is that despite all the confusing and conflicting messages presented on this album about the identity of the grown woman Beyoncé is singing about, the show must go on. And that she's a natural performer, and that she always has been, and that performing feels good to her. And that at the end of the day, Beyoncé can do whatever the fuck she wants.

Talking Beyoncé: Five FADER Editors and an Art Director Discuss Her New Visual Album