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It’s 8:00pm. Candles lit. Takeaway ordered. Wine bottles at the ready. That’s great, but if you really want to set the scene and make an impression, it’s time to compile your slow jams playlist.

Whether they are played quietly in the background during an intimate moment at home or are part of a liquor-fuelled bump and grind in the club, slow jams are enjoyed by all R&B music fans, and everyone has their favourite. Here are the best of the best from the past 20 years.

  1. Ashanti – Movies 

Pre-Young Money it was Irv Gotti’s hip-hop label Murder Inc. that was dominating the charts, lead by rapper Ja Rule and R&B singer Ashanti. “Movies”, which was taken from her self-titled debut album in 2002, talks about the fairytale, head over heels type of love seen in films. “I wanna be like those girls in the movies, to have a man so in love it makes him drop to his knees”, she sings.

  1. Mya – Fallen 

If you’ve ever fallen in love, listening to this song will certainly have you reminiscing about the good old days. Although, if you’re single, it may wrongfully encourage a cheeky “I miss you” text to the ex or have you trawling through all those unanswered DMs on Twitter. Be careful.

  1. Ginuwine – When We Make Love 

Playing out like an A-Z songbook on the sounds of lovemaking, the next track on the countdown comes in the form of Ginuwine’s “When We Make Love”. Lyrically, he talks about… Well, take a listen for yourself below. #NSFW

  1. Brandy – Put That On Everything 

How far would you go for bae to show you love them? Pull a star out the sky? Walk through the desert heat? Apparently, Brandy would do just that! Pick up some more tips and take a listen below:

  • Aaliyah – At Your Best (You Are Love)

The Isley Brothers originally released “At Your Best” back in 1976, but today it is probably more recognised as an Aaliyah track, produced by R. Kelly for her debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number”. What’s impressive is that Aaliyah, while only 15 at the time of release, sounds beyond her years. In a genre where vocal trills and frills are aplenty, she delivers a sublime performance demonstrating both restraint and control in her voice.

  1. Jon B – They Don’t Know 

“They Don’t Know” is a classic slow jam by one of R&B’s forgotten stars, Jon B. Released in 1997, the track was the singer’s biggest hit to date.

Having already pulled stars from the sky and walked in the desert heat, your relationship will now be moving rather quickly and just about everyone will want to share their opinion – with some being less welcome than others. Despite your best efforts, all the outside chitter-chatter is starting to impact the two of you moving forward together. Unfortunately, we’ve all been there. Jon B’s solution? Don’t listen to what anyone else has to say. Simple.

  • Ashanti – Baby 

“Baby” was the third consecutive hit single taken from Ashanti’s self-titled debut. Although lyrically very simple (I counted approximately 77 repetitions of “baby”), you’ll struggle to listen to this one and not find yourself murmuring the lyrics and melody over the next day or so.

  1. SWV – Rain 

SWV’s “Rain” has all the right ingredients of a classic slow jam. Great vocals. Great Melodies. Great lyrics. However, coexisting in a discography of huge hits such as “Right Here” and “Weak”, “Rain” feels somewhat underrated. Still, it doesn’t take away from the fact it’s a great song.

  1. Keisha White – The Weakness In Me 

While a top 20 hit for Keisha White in 2006, the original was recorded by Grammy Award-nominated British singer Joan Armatrading in the early 80s. However, Keisha brought the song up-to-date and made it her own, proving that, in a genre dominated by US singers, the Brits can certainly hold their ground.

  1. Usher – Can U Handle It? 

No slow jam list would be complete without one of the genre’s biggest stars of the past 20 years, Usher Raymond. Taken from his Diamond-certified 2004 album “Confessions”, the track has become a classic. “Can you handle it if I go there baby with you?” he asks.

  1. Brandy – He Is 

Dubbed by many R&B fans as “The Vocal Bible”, it was only fitting for Brandy to kick-off the countdown’s top 10 tracks. “He Is” was taken from the singer’s third studio album “Full Moon” and, whilst unreleased, it remains a firm favourite among her fans. It’s not hard to see why:

  1. Brandy – Have You Ever? 

Here she is again, B-Rocka AKA Brandy. Big song. Big Vocal. Enough said.

  • Keith Sweat – Nobody 

Any song with the opening lyric, “I wanna tease you, I wanna please you” is bound to make for a great slow jam, and this song does not disappoint. Released in 1996, the track features Athena Cage of 90s R&B trio Kut Close, who collaborated with Keith on another classic slow jam, “Get Up On It”.

  1. Usher – Lifetime 

The highest entry for Usher is “Lifetime”, a track from his fifth studio album, “Here I Stand”, on which he sings about finding eternal love. “When you find that special someone, you will be willing to give them a lifetime”, he croons.

Usher is the go-to singer when you’re looking for those slow numbers to help set the mood. “Nice and Slow”, “Slow Jam” and “U Got It Bad” are just some of the tracks that didn’t make the list, but are worthy of a mention.

  1. Floetry – Lay Down 

“Lay Down” is the first of two entries on the list for Floetry, a neo-soul duo from the UK comprising Marsha Ambrosius AKA The Songstress and Natalie Stewart AKA The Floacist. Simple, subtle and understated, it’s a great track to accompany a late night or early morning (see what I did there?) CUDDLE!

  1. Jill Scott – Getting’ In The Way 

Love isn’t always fairytales and roses, in fact quite the opposite. Having already proven how much you love them and ignored all the unwanted commentary from your friends, the two of you have decided you’re both in the relationship for the long haul. Great, if only the ex would let go and move on too. What do you do? Grab him or her in the middle of the street and whoop their “tail”, according to Jill Scott. “You better back down before you get smacked down, you better chill”, she sings. Ouch!

  • Beyoncé – Speechless 

“Speechless” was released as part of Beyoncé’s debut solo album, “Dangerously in Love”, back in 2003. Although one of the more underrated cuts from the album, it’s aged like a fan wine – getting better over time. Whilst “Speechless” is her only track to make this list, the album was packed with many great slow jams – “Be With You”, “The Closer I Get To You” and “Dangerously In Love 2”, to name a few.

  1. Floetry – Say Yes 

Now, this one is for the grown folk only. “All you gotta do is say yes, open up your mind and let me undress you baby”, Marsha sings on the track, which talks about… (It’s all pretty self-explanatory, I’m sure). Lyrics aside, it’s the soft, breathy vocal from Marsha that elevates the song to the next level.

  1. Aaliyah – One In A Million 

You’ll be hard-pressed to find an R&B fan that does not know this song by the late Aaliyah Haughton, released in 1996. Missy Elliott and Timbaland, who would later become pioneers in the field, wrote and produced the track, which went on to become Aaliyah’s joint highest charting single in the UK (at the time) and her third single to top Billboard’s R&B chart.

Its best quality is its versatility. The thunderous bass is enough to draw a large crowd to the dance floor of any club, yet it’s also a track you can easily wind down to at home. What’s more, despite being produced in the mid-90s, it sounds as if it could have been recorded yesterday and will probably still sound as fresh as it does now in 20 years’ time, a testament to Timbaland’s production.

  1. Eric Benét – Love of My Own 

Here we are at the number one spot – Eric Benét’s “Love of my Own”, a song that is quite simply the epitome of an R&B slow jam. Lyrically strong, it draws on themes of loneliness and yearning for true love, while vocally Benét opts for a mellow delivery, working hand in glove with the song’s quiet production.

The track may not have been the most obvious of choices, as it was never released as a single and only appears as the album closer to his sophomore release, “A Day in the Life”. However, in a world where radio DJs hammer the same songs to the point of them no longer being bearable, the somewhat unfamiliarity of this track adds to its appeal. Take a listen below:

Listen to all the above songs and many more favourites on my Slow Jamz playlist below:

What is your all-time favourite?

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Yesterday the Academy Awards came under scrutiny for what has been labelled its “whitest year” since 1998, after this year’s nominations revealed no non-white actors had been nominated in any of the four main categories. However, ahead of the upcoming 57th Annual Grammy Awards on 8th February, let’s have a look at what impact race has in other areas of entertainment today.

Last month, US rapper Azealia Banks caused a media frenzy after an interview she gave with New York based radio station Hot 97 in which she talked openly about fellow female rapper Iggy Azalea and the cultural appropriation of black people in America. On the surface it may have appeared as nothing more than a nonsensical celebrity feud – the pair have had an on-going rivalry of sorts for a few years now stemming from a lyric in which Azalea, in her song “D.R.U.G.S.”, referred to herself as a “runaway slave master”.

However, the interview delved much deeper than that. Banks, who broke down in tears at several points, expressed her concerns with what she refers to as “cultural smudging”, her phrase for appropriation. Azalea, a white rapper who originally hails from Australia, was recently nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Rap Album category, although many of her contemporaries, including Banks, feel such a nomination is unwarranted.

“The Grammys are supposed to be accolades for artistic excellence… Iggy Azalea’s not excellent,” Banks said during the interview. “I have a problem when you’re trying to say that it’s hip-hop and you’re to trying to put it up against black culture… It’s like a cultural smudging.”

She continued, “When they give these Grammys out, all it says to white kids is, ‘you’re great. You’re amazing. You can do whatever you put your mind to.’ And it says to black kids, ‘You don’t have s***. You don’t own s***, not even the s*** you created yourself.’ And it makes me upset.

“Put her in the pop category. Put her with Katy Perry. Put her and Miley Cyrus in the same f****** box together. Don’t put her in hip-hop… just because she’s not singing, does not mean it’s rap music.”

Fellow rapper J. Cole shared similar sentiments in “Fire Squad”, a track taken from his new album, “2014 Forest Hills Drive”, where he says:

“History repeats itself and that’s just how it goes.
Same way that these rappers always bite each others flows.
Same thing that my n***** Elvis did with Rock n Roll,
Justin Timberlake, Eminem, and then Macklemore.

“While silly n***** argue over who gon’ snatch the crown,
look around, my n****, white people have snatched the sound.
This year I’ll prolly go to the awards dappered down,
watch Iggy win a Grammy as I try to crack a smile.”

He later clarified the lyrics in an interview with Power 105.1’s Angie Martinez:

Cole’s frustration came in the wake of Macklemore sweeping the rap categories at last year’s Grammy Awards along with producer Ryan Lewis. The duo took home the prize for Best Rap Album, trouncing stiff competition from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, who’s album “Good Kid M.A.A.D City” received widespread critical acclaim. Many felt this album had been snubbed and, in a surprising turn of events, Macklemore agreed. Shortly after the win, he posted a snap on Instagram depicting a text he had sent to the “Good Kid” rapper to declare he had been “robbed” since, like many were saying, he had released the better album.

The question is, where do the concerns with Iggy Azalea and Macklemore receiving accolades in the hip-hop genre derive from? Is it because they are white or because their sound is non-traditional hip-hop and influenced by pop music? Let’s not forget Nicki Minaj’s pop-fused debut album, “Pink Friday”, which spawned huge crossover hits like “Superbass”, was also previously nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Rap Album category, as have many other contemporary hip-hop albums without adversity.

An artist’s success, either in the form of sales or industry recognition such as the Grammys, can be attributed to their popularity, which is increased considerably through being embraced on the radio. In the aftermath of the Banks/ Azalea media storm, Macklemore also did an interview with radio DJs Ebro Darden and Peter Rosenberg at Hot 97 to weigh in on the debate.

Darden: “Do you believe that your music got embraced by ‘white radio’ [contemporary hit radio stations] because you’re white and you rap?”

Macklemore:

“Yes, I do. Absolutely… Why am I safe? Why can I cuss on a record, have a parental advisory sticker on the cover of my album, yet parents are still like, ‘You’re the only rapper I let my kids listen to?’ Why can I wear a hoodie and not be labelled a thug? Why can I sag my pants and not be a gangbanger? Why am I on Ellen’s couch? Why am I on Good Morning America?

“If I was black, what would my drug addiction look like? It would be twisted into something else versus maybe, ‘Get back on your feet!’ The privilege that exists in the music industry is just a greater symptom of the privilege that exists in America. There’s no difference, this is just a by-product. This is just an off-brand of what’s happening in America. People see me, they resonate with me – America’s predominantly white. There’s relatability.”

Macklemore was well received for acknowledging what many in his position would choose not to, at least not publicly. Music fans listen to what they can relate to. If the majority of American people are white, it would make sense that many would identify with and listen to Macklemore over Kendrick Lemar, for instance. While this allows Macklemore – by his own admission – to be embraced by contemporary hit radio stations more easily, it could be seen as the very reason why he, along with a host of other white artists boxed in the urban genre, find it difficult to secure the same support from urban radio stations, which primarily play black artists.

Eminem has received acclaim and respect from his peers since he made his major label debut in 1997 with “The Slim Shady LP”. Despite this, he has never been embraced entirely by the urban radio format and instead gets a lot of his support from pop radio stations. While a lack of authenticity or an over reliance on pop music may plague Iggy Azalea and Macklemore, Eminem has long proven himself, so why is he still unable to attain the same backing as his black counterparts?

If mainstream radio stations that have much larger audiences embrace certain artists more than others, it is no surprise that these same artists are more popular with the record-buying public. A domino effect is then created, as these popular rappers are front of line when the Grammys and other accolades are being handed out – you have to be seen before you can be heard. Case in point: Azalea, who released one of the most commercially successful singles of last year, “Fancy”, recently picked up two gongs in the rap categories at the American Music Awards, ahead of both Drake and Eminem. Again, likely due to her mainstream popularity given her album was widely panned by music critics.

But, wait; have we not seen this same story played out countless times over the years already? Going as far back as the 1940’s, for example, Elvis Presley was dubbed the “King of Rock and Roll” in favour of the many black artists who wrote, recorded or inspired much of his material. His 1954 debut single “Alright Mama” is often cited as the first rock and roll song, despite being released a few years earlier by African-American singer Arthur Crudup.

Crudup was eventually forced to give up his recording career due to an on-going battle over royalties and the small wages he received as a singer. In contrast, Presley went on to garner millions. This was an era in which a host of black musicians, such as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Little Richard, were successful in their own right, but often unable to match the mainstream recognition of their white equivalents. One of the more known cases was Richard’s “Tutti Fruitt”, released in 1955. The single, which is considered as one of the founding songs of rock and roll music, reached number 17 on Billboard’s pop chart. The very same day Pat Boone, a white American singer, saw his cover version of the track chart at number 12. On the contrary, over on the R&B chart Richard reached number two, and Boone’s version did not even chart.

Here we had two versions of the same song that were appealing to two separate audiences. One was labelled rock and roll; one R&B. Boone’s version went on to be a huge mainstream hit, while Richard saw success of his own version pale in comparison. R&B had been adopted, given new faces, and rebranded as rock and roll.

However, at what point does merely “covering” a song turn into appropriation?

The question is a tricky and complex one to answer, as there have been many varying definitions as to what constitutes appropriation. Website Afriendlyletter.com offers 10 different explanations, although the general consensus seems to refer to the process whereby a majority group takes elements from a minority culture for personal gain, which can often damage and dishonour the original source.

Nevertheless, it’s a proven model that, rightly or wrongly, appears to work. Last year in an interview with radio station Power 105, Rita Ora explained how many people often confuse her ethnicity. She commented, “A lot of people think that [I’m black], but I like that – it gets me places.” Radio host DJ Envy later agrees that she does indeed look non-white to which she responds with “thank you”.

Joking or not, she wasn’t mistaken. In the entertainment industry there’s certainly, at times, a distorted view of black culture as merely a fashionable trend that, once adopted, reinforces street credibility. Pop star Katy Perry has been accused of this a number of times, most recently for her “This Is How We Do” video.

Moreover, in 2013 a “blackout” was referred to, as it was the first year in Billboard history that no black artist topped the Hot 100 chart as a lead performer. This resulted in a paradox whereby several white artists, such as Macklemore, Emimen and Robin Thicke, were still able to achieve this feat through using urban music. This sparked a satirical open letter by Sebastien Elkouby, a former publicist for rapper KRS-One, which looked at how black artists were being marginalised in popular culture.

It’s evident to see that race still plays a role in today’s music industry, particularly within the urban and pop genres where radio airplay is concerned. However, unlike previously, we’re now seeing artists discuss this more openly and publicly, even outside the US, as most are striving for a fair and level playing field rich in diversity, not one dictated by who appears to be the most relatable.

 

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“Changed the game with that digital drop, know where you was when that digital popped. I stopped the world, male or female, it make no difference, I stop the world, world stop”, Beyoncé brashly boasts on “Feeling Myself”, a new track taken from Nicki Minaj’s third studio album, “The Pinkprint”. And, yes, it seemed the world did stop for a second.

Last year Beyoncé “dropped” her self-titled fifth studio album and it challenged the way mainstream albums are traditionally released. However, an album campaign that started off so slick and robust in its offerings was not without its pitfalls. With a special focus on the US, her biggest market, here’s a recap of what happened…

After being released exclusively on iTunes worldwide with 14 tracks and 17 videos, the eponymous album shot to the top spot in a staggering 104 countries and gave the 17-time Grammy winner her best opening week on the Billboard 200 with 617,213 copies sold in just three days. In going against the typical first-single-followed-by-gruelling-promo-campaign release format that we’d all become accustomed to with popular artists the singer tried something a bit different, something more daring, and it caught on.

Sales were strong out the gate due to word of mouth and the hype generated from the surprise release. A Twitter Spokesperson confirmed that, at its peak, the album was responsible for 5,300 tweets per minute, a record at the time! Usually when artists release their music we can anticipate an onslaught of iTunes links flooding our social media timelines as they, or “HQ”, scramble to force-feed the new music to their doting fanbases. Beyoncé, however, more silent in her approach, opted to let the fans do the talking for her. This included an ensemble of America’s A-listers such as Katy Perry, Alicia Keys and Snoop Dogg, who all flocked to Twitter in support of the album that “changed d game”, according to Snoop.

You’d be forgiven for questioning whether Beyoncé was even aware the album had been released. Just hours afterwards, the singer was back to playing house – she had just made some vegan cakes and couldn’t wait to share them with you all…

Of course, there was a big advertising push through iTunes and, of course, Beyoncé had already pre-recorded a behind-the-scenes video series to give fans an insight into the project’s recording process and release strategy, but there were no big bells and whistles. Over the next few days the videos were uploaded one by one across social media platforms, which was enough to sustain the album’s hype through the remainder of its release week.

The album wasn’t selling purely on hype alone, however. Strip away the novelty factor of the surprise release and you’ll uncover some of the singer’s best work to date. Recently nominated in the prestigious Album of the Year category at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, the album is the star’s most critically applauded work in her 17-year career, receiving rave reviews from publications such as Spin, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard, NME and Pitchfork. At Metacritic, which compiles reviews from professional publications and assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100, the album was awarded an average score of 85, indicating “universal acclaim”.

Sales were through the roof, everybody was raving about the album and phrases like #IWokeUpLikeThis quickly became “a thing” on social media. After the lukewarm response to the album’s predecessor, “4”, it seemed that Beyoncé was on to a winner this time round. Earlier this month the singer sought to capitalise further on the album’s success by issuing a “Platinum Edition” in time for Christmas, packaged with remixes, new tracks and live performances.

So, after selling well over half a million copies in just three days, why did sales stagnate at 2.2 million? While an impressive figure compared with her contemporaries, given the critical acclaim and social media backing of the project, the album had the potential to extend its legs beyond its first few months of release. However, several factors prevented it from doing so…

Sales vs. Streaming

Undoubtedly, album sales are not what they used to be, as less people are buying cds (the industry’s cash cow – although now less than ever) in favour of digital downloads and more increasingly streaming services, such as Spotify – a platform the album was not available on until recently. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) recently revealed, in their Mid-Year RIAA Shipment and Revenue Statistics report, that overall US music streaming revenue grew 28% to $859 million in the first half of 2014. Streaming services now account for 27% of the overall music industry revenue in the US. Gone are the days where an album would effortlessly sail past one million copies, the platinum certification point. In fact, only 4 albums so far in 2014 have achieved this feat, a far cry from 10 years ago when 38 albums scanned 1 million copies in the first 8 months of the year. However, can this really be the sole reason for sales of the album tailing off?

Art vs. Radio

“It’s all about the single… There’s so much that gets between the music”, Beyoncé proclaimed in her behind-the-scenes video series.

For pop artists to really catapult the album charts, singles that will resonate with the general public are needed. Record labels want tracks they can service to top 40 radio stations. While such tracks were noticeably absent from “Beyoncé”, it was what many critics and fans praised about the album. The throwaway, club-ready, pop radio singles of her previous efforts were replaced with slicker, darker and edgier productions.

Beyoncé’s move away from mainstream pop is arguably why none of her releases have reached the summit of Billboard’s Hot 100 in the six years since Singles Ladies began a four-week run in November 2008. While the lead single from the latest album, “Drunk in Love”, was a permanent fixture on urban radio stations and peaked at number two on the Hot 100, thanks to a surge in streams following a steamy performance at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, it didn’t reach the top 10 on Billboard’s Mainstream Top 40 chart.

When speaking about the development of her sound, in 2011, Beyoncé said, “I feel that it’s important that I start shaping my legacy and doing things that have a little more substance… I want people to think when they listen to my music.” The question arises, then, should an established singer with multiple Grammy’s really be trying to appease the masses and score hits at top 40 radio stations? Is an artist’s creative development more important?

Promo vs. Touring

“The Pinkprint” was released earlier this month. Nicki Minaj appeared on household TV shows such as The View and Watch What Happens Live, as well as being visible to her main audience on radio shows Hot 97 and Power 105, in addition to the release of the album’s short film, The PinkPrint Movie.

We didn’t see this type of promo from Beyoncé; instead she opted to spend most of 2013 and early 2014 touring. The 132-date “Mrs Carter Show” world tour went on to gross $229 million, making it the second highest grossing tour by a solo female artist this decade – second to only Madonna. While it would seem the decision to tour in place of the traditional promo push implemented by record labels paid off, her absence from TV meant there was less visibility to the casual music buyer. Her main fanatics attending the concert dates will have already purchased the album, but those music fans that needed a little more convincing before being able to justify the initial $15.99 price tag may have been missed. It would be senseless, however, to gloss over the banner ads her team rolled out on iTunes to coincide with the album’s release, which, if this is where you buy your music from, would have been inescapable. Evidently, promo was there, but a different and more understated strategy had been used, and it was doing the trick.

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What’s more, the touring figures are undeniable and helped the singer earn a cool $115 million in 2014, according to Forbes, where she resided in second place on its annual list of highest paid musicians. As touring and endorsement deals are a primary source of income for many artists, is this now the way forward, particularly for R&B singers who will typically sell less albums than their pop counterparts?

“I don’t trust these record labels, I’m touring.”

Privacy vs. Accessibility

Social media Q&A’s, selfies outside the hotel and other forms of fan interaction may not be an unusual occurrence if you’re one of Lady GaGa’s Monsters or one of Nicki’s Barbs. Beyoncé, however, prefers to maintain an element of mystery and has created an invisible wall between her and her fans, dubbed the BeyHive.

While it is understandable that the singer, now in her mid-thirties, married and with child in tow, would want to keep her personal and professional life separate, with social media being as dominant as it is today, fans want to be closer to the artist. They want to know how their favourite singer “woke up”, what they had for breakfast, their likes, dislikes and so on. They want to tweet them endlessly, clinging to the near impossible likelihood they will get a response. Although Beyoncé is active on Instagram, we wouldn’t be able to tell if is actually her posting the pics or the social media guy at the record label. There isn’t much personal interaction with fans either, for instance she is unlikely to post a drawing or a picture a fan has sent her. Instead we see a series of carefully, well-placed snaps depicting a lifestyle that those who are following are likely to never experience and therefore may have trouble identifying with. In an interview with Essence magazine in 2008, Beyoncé said:

“I feel that, especially now, with the Internet and paparazzi and camera phones, it’s so difficult to maintain mystery… I feel like not being that accessible is really important. If you think about Prince or Michael Jackson, or any superstars, you couldn’t see them when they got off their planes or when they got out of the pool and didn’t comb their hair. It’s great that people see we’re not perfect. But it’s almost impossible to have superstars now, because people will never get enough.”

To mark the one-year anniversary of the album’s release Beyoncé released a short film, titled “Yours and Mine”, in which she echoed similar sentiments. “I sometimes just wish I could be anonymous and walk down the street just like everyone else”, she says. “When you’re famous no one looks at you as a human anymore, you become the property of the public. There’s nothing real about it.” This begs the question, do artists have an obligation to interact and be visible to the fans paying their bills, or is this simply an unwarranted demand caused by the increase in popularity of social media? Do artists have the right to share these frustrations given they know what life in the public eye involves when they ‘sign up’?

When taking all the above into consideration and summarising the album’s campaign, the truth is, the secrecy and unique promotional strategy were its strongest points. Releasing the album without warning was different to what her peers had done previously and allowed her to reinvent herself as a leader in the industry, rather than a trend chaser. What will be most interesting, though, is where Beyoncé chooses to go from here, as she finds herself in a unique position. Releasing a follow-up of disposable pop hits would see her audience expand and back at the top of the charts, but after releasing her most critically applauded work to date, it would likely be viewed as taking a step backwards artistically.

One thing is for certain, the fans who have stood by and watched her evolve from the frontwoman of Destiny’s Child to the self-assured, fearless “Drunk in Love” singer we see today are not going anywhere. They are not merely interested in one or two albums, but her as an artist, and it is this fan loyalty that will secure her future as a force in the industry for years to come.

What should Beyoncé do next?