Beyoncé may be Queen of Pop. But she’s also mistress of the surprise album drop. As it was with Lemonade and last year’s Carters collaboration with husband Jay Z, so it is with her new live LP, which similarly materialises without fanfare out of the blue yonder.
Surprise-released to coincide with a Netflix documentary chronicling behind the scenes preparations for her 2018 Coachella music festival headliner, Homecoming is a spiky, forceful and agreeably bumpy-at-the-margins survey of Empress Bey’s reign as our most important pop star.
So we get a cyberpunk cut-up of ‘Formation’, strobed by stuttering beats and a screaming crowd that can’t seem to decide whether to hug itself in joy or combust on the spot.
“Coachella, you ready…?” she says elsewhere. “Let’s go get ‘em.”
That’s by way of introducing ‘Crazy Right Now’ — super-sized into a desert epic and an unsurpassable reminder of Beyoncé ’s knockout prowess as a singer.
That she can flit from imperious to raw, strident to vulnerable — as she does throughout this 40-track double record will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen her live.
She stands tall as one of the great vocalists of her era and it is that firebrand
reach that elevates so much of the material here. A case in point are turbo-boosted versions of ‘Say My Name’ and ‘Soldier’ for which she is joined by old Destiny’s Child muckers Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams.
Jay Z, the subject of Beyoncé’s anger, frustration and love on Lemonade, meanwhile pops up on ‘Déjà Vu’. Later their daughter Blue Ivy joins Beyoncé on ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’.
But the true star at every moment is Beyoncé. And whether you prefer the cyberpop warrior on ‘Run the World (Girls)’ — “Thank you for allowing me be the first black women to headline Coachella” — or the more experimental artist duetting with sister Solange on ‘Get Me Bodied’, what’s indisputable is that Homecoming is a gold-star knockout from start to end.