Album Review: Beyoncé Delivers On 4
Beyoncé‘s solo albums always elicit mixed reviews and her latest set 4 (out tomorrow) is no different. After listening to it on repeat for the past two weeks, we’re going on record to say it’s some of her best work to date.
Queen B has eschewed the current electro phenomenon and opted for an album full of beautiful love songs and dance floor hits. Nothing sounds better than when Beyoncé sings with unbridled passion on a ballad, or gets a little ‘hood with it on an uptempo, and 4 sees her doing both exceptionally well.
“1 + 1″
With a simple guitar heard throughout the whole track (and a perfectly-timed break towards the end) “1 + 1″ is a throwback to classic love songs of the past, where earnest lyrics like “I don’t much about guns, but I’ve been shot by you” highlight the classic “against all odds” theme that makes ballads like this one a success.
Angry Beyoncé shows up for the second track, singing madly and deeply over dense percussion about a man who “likes when I’m in pain.” The song is a short but strong tirade against an ex who obviously doesn’t give a damn anymore, with B busting out lyrics like, “Ever since you knew your power, you made me cry/And now every time our love goes sour, you won’t sympathize.”
“I Miss You”
If she was in power mode with “I Care” B softens up on “I Miss You.” Over a simple, metronomic beat, her understated vocals convey a heartfelt yearning for missing love. Not one of the stronger tracks on the album, but “I Miss You” becomes more effective with each listen.
“Best Thing I Never Had”
This is already the anthem for women who’ve ever loved someone prematurely and they then turned out to be the wrong one. When Beyoncé belts out, “When I think of the time that I almost loved you/You showed your ass and I saw the real you/Thank God you blew it/Thank God I dodged a bullet/I’m so over you/So baby, good looking out,” you can almost hear thousands of females singing along in unison. She ends the power song off repeatedly saying “Sucks to be you right now,” and empowering her lady listeners once again.
Hallelujah for “Party” and bringing rhythm and melody back to the dancefloor! The first uptempo track of the album, “Party” not only features a cocky Kanye West (who produced the song) but a surprising (and welcome) verse from perennially sexy Andre 3000. According to the album’s engineer DJ Swivel, ‘Ye had an early 90s sound in mind when he crafted this and he achieved it; a sexy throwback perfect for summer backyard parties and hot club nights.
“Rather Die Young”
The placement for “Rather Die Young” should have been reconsidered; coming off the hype of “Party,” listeners have to get straight back in chill mode. A little too dramatic in its vibe (“I’m holding on to you ’cause this might be our last night”) “Rather Die Young” would have thematically sat better in the earlier part of the album.
One more slow track before we get into the fun stuff. “Start Over” is another power ballad about picking up the pieces of a broken relationship and giving it all another go ’round. Just like “Rather Die Young,” the song kinda misses its mark and is one of the album’s weaker tracks, however with big speakers and a hairbrush to sing into, it’s the perfect “in-the-mirror” song to perform in your bedroom.
“Love On Top”
Rolling Stone calls “Love On Top” a “shameless throwback to perky, squeaky clean mid-eighties R&B,” a perfect description. An instant feel-good track, we dare listeners to sit still to this. The key change towards the end may be the only thing that throws music purists off, but Beyoncé’s joyous vocals make up for any transgressions here.
This is the 2011 “Get Me Bodied,” a fast-paced jam guaranteed to pack dance floors with droves of women eager to cut a rug. Steel drums and a furious beat add to the carnival vibe of the song, not to mention a crazy interpolation of Boyz II Men‘s “Ooh Ahh.”
“End Of Time”
Drums, trumpets, sax, live percussion—”End Of Time” is a musical feast, with a festive vibe to what would otherwise be depressing, lovesick lyrics. The song was a hit when B debuted it at Glastonbury this past weekend (with African-inspired choreography to match).
“I Was Here”
Slowing things down for the last time, “I Was Here” is a big ballad written by the best in the biz, Diane Warren. Once again, the song’s placement is a curious one (you were sweating out your hair for the past few tracks and boom—now you’re depressed again) but we can definitely see it being used for a big-budget movie of some kind.
“Run The World (Girls)”
The album’s lead single definitely kick-started the mixed reviews that have ensued for the album. Based on Major Lazer‘s indie dance hit “Pon de Floor,” the frenetic song confused fans when it first dropped and honestly, it’s still a little confusing as part of the album’s full lineup. That said, it’s definitely a fun way to close out an album big on emotions and energy-zapping qualities. One last booty shake before you rewind back to track one.