Bey’s focus on the past adds depth and context to Remember Your North Star’s stories about the relationships in her life today. Vacillating between come-ons and teardowns, her stances are always moving. On the woozy “don’t fucking call me,” as she ruminates on post-breakup loneliness in an airy upper register, she describes a toughened sense of adoration for a challenging lover: “Love you like cooked food, baby, you’s a meal,” her pitch-shifted voice chants, “Only cost a few gray hairs/That’s a steal.” She constantly shifts into different modes of lyrical and vocal expression, each one more poetic and surprising than the last. “keisha” is a masterclass in melody, adopting the swagger of R&B’s greatest shit-talkers while retaining Bey’s coolheaded style. The song’s washed-out guitar melody and drums open up into a sunny beat for the instantly memorable, sprightly chorus: “The pussy so, so good and you still don’t love me,” she sings, braiding confidence and vulnerability into one.
The oscillation between moods reflects Bey’s mind, jumping from one thought to the next as quickly as she changes flows. Even the album’s sparer elements—a looseness of form and structure, the textural and lo-fi production on songs like “street fighter blues” and the dubby “meet me in brooklyn”—are in service of amplifying her words. Bey’s approach to creating a thesis is freeform and conversational; she doesn’t hand you a roadmap, instead establishing a mutual trust that her listeners will understand her more deeply than that.
For all of the hardships and complexities she’s working through, Bey also knows there’s no pain without joy. The album expands her scope toward more upbeat production, turning Remember Your North Star into an engaging, shapeshifting listen that places it among other recent R&B albums that pull from neo-soul and hip-hop for experimental spare parts. “Pour Up” takes her to the dancefloor, where she and Washington, D.C. producer DJ Nativesun envision a hedonistic night out with a thick bassline and a thudding beat. She sounds as natural in a raucous setting as she does on the smoky standout “alright,” where her tempestuous modulations attain a dreamy weightlessness. Here, her message snaps into focus, creating a mantra-like salve over breezy, rolling percussion and keys. “Don’t it feel like love is on the way?” Bey ponders, turning the question into a passionate affirmation for Black women in every walk of life. Remember Your North Star assures that working through messy emotions and behaviors—whether inherited or learned—is integral to receiving and giving love. With her deft voice and casual rhythms, Bey makes the process sound freeing.
All products featured on Pitchfork are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.