GMG - Las Vegas Weekly

December 19, 2013

Las Vegas Weekly

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A&E | NOISE > H TO THE IZZO Jay Z, in your face. ALBUM SURPRISE PARTY Beyoncé's bombshell features some unexpected treats C O N C E RT MUSIC STATE OF MIND Jay Z strips away the excess to remind us he's still hip-hop's loudest voice BY ANDREA DOMANICK But Jay Z's gift for hitmaking is a double-edged Kanye has his Jesus figures and pyrotechnics, and sword. A decade of pop collaborations, business venDrake has his neon lights and aerial walkways. Jay Z seems tures and now fatherhood have only served to further intent on proving he doesn't need more than his own talent distance him from the street life at the center of much to fill an arena. The rap king's Friday night set at Mandalay of his work. While parts of new album Magna Carta... Bay was downright austere by comparison: a tower of Holy Grail deal with conflict over this elevated class stablack scaffolding seating his four-piece band, which was tus, its songs about jet-setting and art dealing feel less flanked by video screens and grids of flickering white LED like genuine triumph than water treading. While tracks panels; no backup dancers, no hype men (save for producer like "Tom Ford" and "Picasso Baby" were Timbaland, who helmed the keys and synths); improved live with the added intensity of the and even Jay's outfit was tempered, a casual black backing band, even they ultimately couldn't ensemble adorned by a single gold chain. aaabc mask Jay Z's detached delivery. It wasn't that surprising. Jay Z has always JAY Z Jay Z is at his best when we see him relishing been less about image and bravado than his December 13, his greatness rather than mulling it over. During music. Effortlessly charismatic, the rapper Mandalay Bay a breakdown in "Encore" toward the end of the born Shawn Carter held the entire arena's Events Center. set, he commanded security to "stand down," attention for nearly 30 songs doing nothing ordering fans scattered across the bleachers to but rap. And that unto itself is Jay Z's unique come down and pack the aisles. "I need a little disorder," brand of spectacle. he said, chatting nonchalantly with individual admirers There was a certain thrill to watching a legend stalk as they gathered before him. His swagger recharged, Jay the stage alone, as if challenging onlookers while casually Z took the set home with nostalgia-laced favorites like delivering a career's worth of hits, from "Dead Presidents "Empire State of Mind," "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" and the Nelson II" to "99 Problems" to "On to the Next One," with all the Mandela-dedicated "Young Forever," imploring his fans ferocity and perfection of the originals. "I got a million of to hold fast to their dreams. After all, the king of rap was these!" he crowed, launching into 2000's chart-topping once one of the people, too. "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)." 50 LASVEGASWEEKLY.COM DECEMBER 19–25, 2013 50_Noise 1_20131219.indd 50 Beyoncé Knowles certainly knows how to make a splash: Last week, she released her fifth studio album on iTunes, with no warning or prepromotion. Appropriately, the surprise self-titled effort is also her most confident album. Lyrically, Queen B and her co-writers—a star-studded list including Justin Timberlake, Sia, Timbaland, Frank Ocean and husband Jay Z, to name just a few—tackle self-confidence and gender disparities ("Flawless"), the soul-crushing oppressiveness of physical beauty standards ("Pretty Hurts"), maintaining a united relationship front ("Superpower") and the special mother-child bond ("Blue," which features cute babbling from Blue Ivy herself). More noBEYONCÉ tably, Beyoncé's songs Beyoncé also feature plenty of aaacc graphic sex references, in the form of raunchy pillow talk ("Blow"), unbridled lust ("Drunk in Love") and steamy fantasies ("Rocket," "Partition"). With so much intriguing songwriting material, it's unfortunate that the album's music isn't as memorable; anyone expecting an upbeat anthem to rival "Run the World (Girls)" or "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" will be disappointed. "Pretty Hurts" resembles any number of Rihanna ballads, while dated beats (e.g., tinny syncopation) and bloated arrangements make Beyoncé feel slightly lethargic, when it also shows it's capable of better. The funky "Blow" sounds like a Donna Summer disco hit crossed with a jazzy Prince number; "No Angel" is the kind of slurring electro R&B favored by modern indie rockers; and "Rocket" is sultry neo-soul. The attitude-laden "Partition" is even better: The song jumps from trilling singing to sassy hip-hop to snapping doo-wop and purring R&B. On these songs, Beyoncé feels like pop disruption of the highest caliber. Overall, though, the lack of consistency makes the album's initial rush of excitement fade all too fast. –Annie Zaleski JAY Z PHOTOGRAPH BY L.E. BASKOW 12/18/13 4:10 PM

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