4 (Album Review) – Beyonce

Beyonce - 4 - album cover

I have to admit. When I first heard “Run The World” my expectations for this album by Beyonce sank lower than the Dead Sea. I am not the biggest Beyonce fan but I’ve come to appreciate her as an artist and come to like a few of her songs (Halo, Sweet Dreams, If I Were A Boy, Listen, Irreplaceable…) so it was with caution that I approached listening to this album.

And it is drastically different from what I expected it to be. If the norm is for an artist to release a sample of the album’s sound with the leading single, Beyonce simply shattered that. “Run The World” has nothing to do with any other song on the album. And that’s a very, very good thing.

4 is an album full of ballads where Beyonce showcases her amazing vocals. She’s the kind of artists that’s always underestimated when it comes to her vocal chops, mostly because she caters to an audience that doesn’t really care about such things. So with 4, she shows impeccable growth in that department and she delivers the album that she wanted to make, regardless of how much it would sell or how well radio would respond to its singles.

4 is also an album that could well be the exact theme opposite of the Adele’s brilliant “21”. Where the latter was an album about sweet heartbreak, 4 is an album about falling in love. Even the heartbreak ballads on 4 are songs about how Beyonce still has love for her significant other.

The album opens with the gut-wrenching ballad “1+1”, which I reviewed earlier after Beyonce debuted it in an impeccable performance on American Idol. And if you thought that performance was great, a video of Beyonce singing the song in her dressing room for select friends and family where she was even better, showing that what you get on stage is who she is – not just a synthetically improved gimmick.

The album continues to a song titled “I Care,” a balland about Beyonce’s significant other not caring about her anymore but she can’t help it that she still cares about him. On “I Miss You,” Beyonce sings: “It hurts my pride to tell how I feel but I still need to… I miss you.” Another album highlight.

“Best Thing I Never Had” is the album’s second – and much better – single, where Beyonce declares to the person she was interested it that he doesn’t deserve her tears and she was the best thing he never had.

A change of tempo in the upward direction comes in the form of “Party”, a song that I cannot wrap my head around, mostly because it feels like sub-quality compared to the songs around it. But for those who like dancey Beyonce sound, this song is for you.

On “Rather Die Young,” another vocal-showcase ballad, Beyonce declares to her love interest that even though he smoked too much and drove too fast, he gave her a rush – made her feel like she was seventeen – and she’d rather die young than live her life without him.

“Start Over” is another album highlight where Beyonce acknowledges that the relationship reached a very rough patch, but she can’t help that she still loves the guy. And then she invites him to “start over” because they can’t let their good love die.

“Love On Top” is another declaration of love on the album where Beyonce’s love interest put her love on the top list of his priorities. How he’s the one she always calls, how his lips taste like champagne, etc…

I cannot also wrap my head around “Countdown,” another song for uptempo Beyonce fans. The song is basically a countdown from ten to one that ends with him being the one.

“End of Time” is rumored to be a strong contender for the upcoming single off 4. Many people are loving this song but I feel the album has many stronger songs but I do get the radio potential in this. And after all, you need a strong radio performance of a single to sell the album. On this song, Beyonce declares that she’ll “love you until the end of time.” The song is filled with a tribal-like rhythm.

“I Was Here” is the album’s most personal song. It is a testament of Beyonce’s achievements, what she has accomplished and what she still wants to do: “I wanna leave my footprints on the sands of time… When I leave this world, I’ll leave no regrets. Give something to remember so they won’t forget I was here, I lived, I loved. I did, I’ve done everything that I wanted…”

And the album is concluded with “Run The World (Girls),” which after the series of brilliant songs that precede it sounds like an out of place song on a much superior record. You start thinking what Beyonce was thinking when she released this song as the album’s lead single when she had much stronger songs that could have helped her sell the album more.

It’s always refreshing when a capable artist decides to deliver true artistic songs that display their talents and not just some brainless pop songs that only get you to dance. 4 is an album with many influences, the most prominent of which is an 80s RnB sound. It feels to be a natural evolutionary step for an artist who made her career by walking across genre lines. 4 is a great album that could be considered as Beyonce’s best.

Songs to download:

1+1, I Care, I Miss You, Best Thing I Never Had, I Was Here.

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1+1 (Single Review) – Beyonce

After the horrid Run The World, Beyonce has unveiled another song off her upcoming album “4”. The song was performed live on the finale of American Idol in what could be described as an emotional performance where Beyonce gave her all to get across the song titled “1+1”.

Don’t let the urban-styled title fool you. This is not a song about math, nor is it about dancing or anything with street-cred. It’s about love, as simple as that. Beyonce’s vocals, though somewhat harsh (as in too overpowered) at some points of the song, are very good, as she usually is on ballads (Halo, If I Were A Boy, Listen are three impeccable songs that come to mind).

Beyonce starts: I don’t much know much about algebra, but I know 1+1 equals two and it’s me and you. That’s all we got when the world is through… because we got nothing but love. It is an interesting approach to the subject matter, to say the least. She later draws a resemblance with guns as well to get her point across before going into deep calls to “make love to [her]”.

Moreover, the song has basic instrumentation: they’re not very complicated, compared to other songs currently released, which leaves more focus on the lyrics and Beyonce to masterfully deliver the song.

1+1 is a song that is confusing to judge. Why so? because as a song in itself, it holds its own. It does its job of delivering the message clearly (and I do mean that literally, Beyonce’s pronunciation is somewhat impeccable) and it shows a different sound that Beyonce is definitely trying to introduce this era. But does it work as her follow-up single, as revealed by Ryan Seacrest on American Idol, to Run The World? Definitely not.

Beyonce is going way off mainstream with her releases so far and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, Adele’s Rolling In The Deep is also not really mainstream and it’s currently the biggest song in the US. So an artist can go on the radio wild-side, so to speak, with good enough material. This is not good enough material. It’s good, but not that good.

And since Beyonce needed a radio-friendly single to help salvage what’s rest of her attempt to have a successful album launch, 1+1 fails at presenting her with a better launch pad for her upcoming work. Moreover, 1+1 does not feel very structured as a song. It’s very hard to see yourself finding this song “catchy” enough, even for a ballad, for you to sing to.

I hope Ryan Seacrest misspoke when he said this is Beyonce’s next single. It’s a good song that should be left where it belongs: as an album cut, on an album that is shaping up to be a huge let-down, both musically and from a marketing perspective, after a great era: I Am Sasha Fierce.