Every Single Houston Reference in Beyonce's Suprise Album, Explained
Beyoncé's self-titled surprise album, which hit the Internet in December, is an unequivocal declaration of her womanhood. Her sexuality — and her much-debated feminism — are on display like never before in the 14-track release. But she also gives an unprecedented amount of airtime to her Houston roots — her previous album, 4, only had a couple of H-town shout-outs.
I first saw the Queen perform in 2001, when Destiny's Child debuted "Survivor" at the Houston Rodeo. (Jealous?) As a fellow born-and-bred Houstonian, I recognized even then how awesome it was that Beyoncé shared my city. She wasn't country, she was cool — and she was ours.
Now that we've all had time to absorb the more obvious themes in Beyoncé, I can't help but draw your attention to how Queen Bey is obviously using the album to claim her hometown. After a lifetime of having George Bush and Matthew McConaughey as Texas' most prominent representatives, girl, we are happy to give you the crown.
These 16 oh-so-trill Texas tributes in Beyoncé show that she can't really be a "Grown Woman" without first knowing, and repping, where she started out: her hometown Houston.
1. "Pretty Hurts"
Miss Third Ward
The first words of the first song set the theme for the whole album: a beauty pageant host invites Beyoncé to represent her hood among other, more well-known contestants like Miss Compton and Miss Jersey Shore. But her Miss Third Ward alter ego isn't new: She adopted a version of this name on her husband’s Magna Carta... Holy Grail album, in which her vocals are mysteriously credited to “Third Ward Trill.” Trill is a Houston-born word combining “true” and “real." Got it, y'all?
I love you, Houston (repeated)
After winning an award at a Houston talent show, a young Bey adorably shows her hometown love in this old footage. The fact that this line is repeated in the audio version of the song emphasizes the theme we'll be seeing again and again: Bey loves her some Houston.
3. "Drunk in Love"
Talking ‘bout you be repping that Third
Jay's line picks up right where his wife's left off. And Jay has been known to rep on behalf of his wife before (in "Empire State of Mind," he was driving so slow cause BK is from Texas).
4. & 5. "Blow"
Though there are no lyrical references to Houston in "Blow," the video more than makes up for it. Blink and you might miss the subtle but awesome Texas-emblazoned roller skates at the 1:48 mark.
Also, "Blow" was filmed at Funplex, a warehouse-sized arcade in Houston where all the cool kids had their birthday parties in elementary school, and where Beyoncé apparently had one of her first dates. (So, given our seven-year age gap, that means there's a definite chance we were there at the same time.) Bey rides up to Funplex in the video's opening shot, and she has since said she felt "ballin'" coming back home to rent out the place.
6., 7., 8., & 9. "No Angel"
Will you ride around with that H-town
This one small line in "No Angel" perfectly introduces its corresponding music video, which is shot as if you are actually riding around the city and features scenes from the annual Houston SLAB car culture parade.
The No Angel video has cameos from basically every famous Houston rapper ever, including Paul Wall, Scarface, and Willie. Only Houston's Queen would be able to pull off getting this group to collaborate together.
Though the video is shot inside Houston's Third Ward, the city's skyline is shown two different times, emphasizing the fact that Bey isn't just Miss Third Ward — she's repping all of Houston.
Bey looks flawlessly natural in a James Harden jersey. (For the sports disinclined, the Rockets are the only Houston sports team that aren't a total embarrassment right now.)
I ran into my exSaid what’s up to his bestiesNow we reminiscing how we used to flex in Texas
Oh girl, we've all been there. The ex she runs into in the song is said to be her first boyfriend, Lyndell Locke, who she dated for a whopping nine years.
Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction.
Beyoncé samples a 6-second clip of a NASA official announcing the tragic Challenger explosion. The use of the audio was criticized by NASA, but as Slate explains, it was anything but random. Beyoncé has used rocket metaphors before, in "Liftoff," "Rocket," and "Countdown," which makes it seem less like she was picking a random national tragedy, and more like a nod to Houston's space culture.
12., 13., & 14. "***Flawless"
Your challengers are a young group from Houston
The track opens with audio from one of Beyoncé's first big performances: the 1992 nationwide TV contest Star Search. Just like in "Pretty Hurts," Beyoncé is a representative for her hometown and eventually loses the competition — but this competition actually happened.
I’m out that H-townComing, coming downI’m coming down dripping candy on the groundH, H-town, town, I’m coming down
Critic Regina Brown has hypothesized that "dripping candy" refers to the huge hip-hop car culture in Houston, where cars are tricked out with super bright paint jobs.
H-town vicious, H, H-town vicious
After more than adequately proving her trillness (remember, "true" and "real"), Bey wants us to bow down because she's H-town vicious. To which we say: gladly.
15. & 16. "Grown Woman"
In her album's bonus track, Beyoncé says, "I'm a grown woman, I can do whatever I want." And she certainly does just that in the video, which is a trippy mix of home videos and new footage that shows present-day Beyoncé picking up where young Bey left off. After hinting about her childhood throughout the album, she now invites us into her Houston home to show us what made her who she is today. The visual integration of her current and past selves provides the perfect conclusion to the album's Houston-childhood storyline.
Told the world I would paint this town
What else is there to say? Beyoncé spent her childhood trying to make it in Houston. She left home over a decade ago and became famous in an era when Texas wasn't a big player in any musical scene other than country, much less hip-hop. Today, she's arguably the most important female pop star in the industry, and the most relevant celebrity to hail from Texas. With Beyoncé, she's made it clear that she hasn't forgotten where she started. She's more than ready to reign as Houston's queen.
Bow down, bitches. H-town vicious.