Parkwood / Columbia
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Accompanying her new concert film on Netflix, Beyoncé released her fifth live release, Homecoming: The Live Album, which was recorded during her performance at Coachella 2018. Since its release, the nearly two-hour-long behemoth has been widely met with glimmering reception from critics and publications alike. Rolling Stone and AllMusic both gave it 4.5/5 stars. LA Times writer Sonaiya Kelley called it “one of the greatest live albums ever.”
Those sentiments aren’t shared by everybody. However catchy and danceable Homecoming may be, it’s far from moving, at least not in as profound a way as Rolling Stone and LA Times writers would have people believe. Ultimately, Beyonce’s music is pop: top 40, mass-marketed songs that each had at least half a dozen different producers working on them.
For this genre, there seems to be very little that one can do to translate the energy of a heavily polished and produced pop track into a live environment without making a backing track played from an iPhone. Sure, there are live horns and percussion sections—a nice touch but with much to be desired.
In the album’s defense, no performance can fully be appreciated simply by listening to the audio recording of it. Surely, accompanied by the video of the performance, it becomes much more memorable.
That isn’t to say that this album doesn’t have its moments of particular nostalgic delight toward the end of the set with the 1999 Destiny’s Child hit “Say My Name,” with similar strong feelings invoked by the scattered guest appearances from Jay-Z, Kelly Rowland, and others.
For Beyoncé fans, this album may well be “one of the greatest live albums ever.” But for the everyone else who never understood the religious cult-like admiration for Beyoncé, it’s just that: a live Beyoncé album.