Y’all need to take your stilettos off for this one.
For the most part, anyway. If your looking for the up-tempo, radio-friendly feel that was ever so present on I Am…Sasha Fierce then you better go give that another spin because, apart from a few, 4 is filled with emotion, not club beats.
There has always been mixed opinions when it comes to Beyonce’s solo albums – some who love it and some who hate it. And with her forthcoming album 4 things are no different. With this effort, I am spilt. The material on this set is far from “bad,” however there is nothing ground breaking to found either and is it not what some are calling “her best album yet” for the glorious B’Day holds that title. It is filled with soothing, heartfelt and sometimes mellow ballads which is admirable to a certain extent as one can appreciate the fact that there may be just too much of the same type to hold an album together.
The 4 era got off to a troublesome start when a demo from the controversial Girls(Who Run The World) leaked, so B and her team rushed the original to release. But, unlike previous lead singles(If I Were I Boy, Déjà Vu) Girls was met with generally negative reviews. Some commented that whilst she has taken risks, this was too diverse from her previous efforts. Others even went on to state that “[Knowles] misses the mark big time here” and that it is “plain daft.” Hell, even I wasn’t impressed and I’m like a baby with a dummy when it comes to music – give me a good enough beat and I’ll shamelessly strut to it. But, two months on and my opinion has completely changed. For I have grown to love Girls(Who Run The World).
Yes, it take risks, but it does pay off. It portrays a much fiercer, gritty Beyonce and opens up a different take on female empowerment with heavy club beats and chaotic drums set for the dance floor. Plus, it could go down as one of the best songs she has done lyrically – “my persuasion could built a nation.” Don’t be put off by its aggressive vibes, give it a catch! However, after a stunning music video and numerous high profile performances to follow the song stalled at #29 on the Billboard Hot 100, a shameful number for the diva. In some ways is was a good choice for a comeback. It’s ‘out there’ nature is a great way of grabbing attention, but it is a misconception from what to expect from 4.
The same fate was to be cast upon the album opener 1+1. The promotional single sees Beyonce once again step into balladry. The set up is pretty simple except only this time her voice showcases the harsher, rawer tones that we’ve heard at her concerts, but never really with her material. The lyrics however, are rather embarrassing “I don’t much about algebra/but I know 1+1=2” and instead of a massive vocal toward the end we are left with a rock guitar solo. I like it and it sets the mood for the album, but it is a lackluster all the same. Despite, a strong American Idol finale performance, the song failed to make much of an impact, peaking at #57 on the charts.
Next, we have I Care. Playing through echoing drums and rich synth keys complete with la la la lala lala harmonies it falls into the same territory as its precedor. She is still clinging to a relationship, calling out on her less-interested lover, almost as if he has turned his back on her. She angrily sings “I know you don’t care too much/but I still care” fighting back the tears. As we reach the climax, the pace quickens and the harmonies rise, but once again Beyonce’s vocals fade out and leave us a little dumbstruck.
Someone call the love doctor because by the third track, I Miss You, B has lost her man and as you may have guessed – she misses him. This is slow, down-tempo track driven by weak, bare beats isn’t meant to take off. Focusing only on her breathy lyrics, it is something you can sit back and relax to, but careful now. You just might fall asleep.
Luckily, we are awakened by the sweet piano keys to a much more confident Beyonce. Best Thing I Never Had sees the gurl return to her radio-friendly, pop sound. Unlike the previous 3 tracks, she has come out on top as she doesn’t need a man any more, she is better off without him. “So sad, you’re hurt/boo hoo, oh, did you expect me to care?” she proclaims over a symphonic beat. “You don’t deserve my tears/I guess that’s why they ain’t there.” Although Beyonce seems a little too classy for a line such as “It sucks to be you right now.” Her second single is reminiscent of her hit Irreplaceable, but just doesn’t quite hit the mark. However, Best Thing I Nver Had is her strongest vocally on the record so far.
I barely made it through the next track. A song entitled Party which features from Andre 3000 and the legendary Kanye West sounds pretty darn exciting, but the real thing blows out like a deflated balloon. This is pure old school and is down right boring. A 90’s throwback track which should have been made a quarter of a century, but not now. A party it is not.
Rather Die Young is yet another ballad *rolls eyes* which explores a variety of sound, with hip-hop, R&B and hints of electronica found between this track. Unlike the other ballads, the song contains a section of heavy horns which adds a certain flair to it. A fine addition to the Dream Girls soundtrack it would make, but to a Beyonce album it is simply not good enough.
Thankfully, as we get to track #7 things start to pick up(finally). Start Over begins with B crying “I feel weak/we’ve been here before” over timid African beats. I know what your thinking. This is just another woeful ballad about being lovesick. But, the topic does not run dry on this one. It is has more upbeat tempo to it with more edge and leaves a lasting impression. The beat continuously builds into a massive chorus whilst Beyonce pleads “Let’s start over/Let‘s give love their wings/Let’s start over/Stop fighting bout the same old thing.” What is more with this with one is that you can feel Beyonce emotion and she smashes the vocal.
Then things go retro on Love On Top. It comes complete with a funky base line, horns and finger snaps. Although it has an obvious 80’s influence, their are some modern pop and electronica twists hidden in there. This care-free jam is one of 4’s standouts, but shamefully bettered by its follow up. Things continue to better themselves as we reach Countdown. The Beyonce that we have come to know and love has returned on this track. The production is a little bit chaotic, but that is a positive in this case and it returns to her trademark sound. The lyrics however, are a bit hypocritical “All up in the kitchen in my heels / dinnertime” coming from the woman who demanded empowerment to all females. It is playful, it is fun, but most importantly it is modern.
Beyonce then regains her wig on album highlight End Of Time. I cannot tell you how much I love this track. It has everything you could ask for. This is a guaranteed smash without having the generic euro-pop sound. It has a fierce military drum beat, catastrophic horns and infectious almost cheerleader chants. Beyonce shouts “I will love you till the end of time.” Its got mounts of attitude and is a different direction from her radio friendly tunes of past albums.
Then, for the final moments of the album were are taken back to another ballad and the diva has left the best one till last. I Was Here is 4′s answer to Halo. It may not be as powerful or have such a familiar hook, but it is good enough to hold it’s own ground. Its strength and emotion makes it so much more than just a simple song. Beyonce breaths life into this track and the outcome is beautiful.
With the creditability Beyonce has been given over her career, she has built a legacy. And because she has such legacy, she thinks she can put together any old ballad and it’ll impress. I’m sure the woman herself knows that this album has been half-heartedly put together. I appreciate that she has chosen a totally different direction for this album, a direction that today’s pop chart toppers wouldn’t even of going down, but the songs actually have to be good. But, its not until halfway through the album that thinks start to elope. None of these songs are equal to her voice. But, it doesn’t really matter because if she keeps pulling out flawless performances when headlining Glastonbury she’ll have nothing to worry about. This so called ‘flop’ is in the top 3 of most countries.
4 isn’t a fail, but it is far from a win.
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