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Here we have Beyoncé, whose name is synonymous with perfection, singing that “Perfection is the disease of a nation.”Fetters: Right?After hearing that, watching a parade of videos in which Beyoncé does, indeed, look perfect made me say, "Yikes, did this hurt?Then we’re back to Beyoncé, getting more confident: “We should get married / Let's stop holding back on this and let's get carried away.” At six minutes long, it’s this epic, shapeshifting, moody, shockingly honest (or seemingly honest) look at how one of the most public relationships in the world has evolved.Also, Ashley, I agree that “Pretty Hurts” is fascinating." Do you think there’s a logic to opening the album with that one?
The line "I woke up like this" revels in her fabulous, effortless brand of perfection—even if another track, “Pretty Hurts,” highlights her frustrations with maintaing that image. Given that she opens the album / video playlist with “Pretty Hurts,” which is all about the huge, painful amounts of effort that go into beauty, it seems like when she sings about looking flawless, her “I woke up like this” should be taken as a sort of caustic, yeah-right sarcastic remark. But the video for it muddled my perception of how she means it.It was a forward-thinking, next-level kind of moment. Feeney: We heard some of “***Flawless” when she teased it as “Bow Down” in March, but its final form is a completely different beast.Kornhaber: And then there’s the music, which at least on first listen, seems … Not the sound of a pop star regurgitating what she’d done before. More hip-hop vibes than she’s served up previously, but also a lot of ballads and experimental stuff—often all existing in the same track. Like other moments on the album, it’s a middle finger to the verse-chorus-verse-chorus format of pop songs, which makes the fact that it’s one of the catchiest tracks a particular triumph. Her lyrics about not being “just his little wife” take aim at those who link the overall quality of her previous album, , with its celebration of monogamy and domestic bliss.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.