Beyoncé – 4
3.5 out of 5 stars
Beyoncé has proven time and time again that she is a force to be reckoned with. Combining her sheer vocal prowess with consistently improving performance ability and an unparalleled work ethic have put her in a class all of her own. However, one of the apparent problems that prevents her from joining some of the all time greats is the deliverance of a classic LP; one where no one can deny its pure artistic merits. 4 is a step closer to that goal, but still misses the mark.
Those who will buy the album based off of the schizophrenic lead single “Run The World (Girls)” maybe shocked to realize that the track, co-produced by The-
TerrorDream and Switch, has been pushed to the end of the album, seemingly as an afterthought. My guess is because it is undeniably inconsistent with the rest of the record and is frankly one of the worst songs Beyoncé has ever recorded and released as a lead single.
Despite a lead single that truly does not represent this body of work, the rest of the album is concise, simple, and straightforward in the effect it is meant to have: to be the album that showcases the 29 year old married woman that Beyoncé has become. Opening torch ballad “1+1″ sets up the album as an exploration of love, both lost and found. The slinky “I Miss You”, co-penned by the soon to be ubiquitous artist Frank Ocean, seems to be an honest, earnest plea to her husband about the troubles of separation. “Party” with production from Kanye West and another sporadic guest appearance from André 3000 is one of the funkiest tracks B has done, with its 80′s rhythms and harmonies.
Yet, for every good step there is a meandering ballad in the middle of the record bringing it down. “Rather Die Young” and “Start Over” almost ooze desperation out of the speakers. The Diane Warren-penned “I Was Here” is another weeping ballad that begs us to recognize that when all is said and done, B has made a lasting impact on us to which I reply, maybe. “Best Thing I Never Had” will probably do well across radio formats but still feels like a rewrite of “Irreplaceable” or even “Me, Myself and I”. The sunny “Love On Top” channels the music of yesteryear, but is not as effective as it wants to be. “Countdown” is probably the closest to “Run The World” on the album; it also feels like it was the last lingering piece of Sasha Fierce that Beyoncé felt the need to get out of her system.
However, The-Dream fortifies the existence of his music career with one of Beyoncé’s best tracks ever “End Of Time”. The foot-stomper kicks off with horns that build into a riveting drum-thump, and is solidified by B’s soaring vocals. You can hear a touch of Michael Jackson in the horns and harmonies. When I think of music that is meant to be epic, this is the song that fits the bill. This should have been the kickoff to the album as it truly showcases the maturity of Beyoncé’s musicality.
This is definitely one of Beyoncé’s best albums and the star that shines most on this record is her voice. Never has she channeled her emotions so clearly. Angst-ridden with aggression, smooth and sophisticated, but most importantly control and technique, Beyoncé has never sounded so good. Now, we will have to wait for her music to catch up. I, for one, am stilling waiting for her to deliver the classic that, with all of her access and ability, has yet to come out of her. Until then, I will listen to 4.