Beyoncé – 4

July 21, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Posted in Beyoncé | 2 Comments
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  1. 1+1
  2. I Care
  3. I Miss You
  4. Best Thing I Never Had
  5. Party (feat. Andre 3000)
  6. Rather Die Young
  7. Start Over
  8. Love On Top
  9. Countdown
  10. End Of Time
  11. I Was Here
  12. Run The World (Girls)
  13. Dreaming
  14. Lay Up Under Me
  15. Schoolin’ Life
  16. Dance For You

4 is the first Beyoncé album that I’ve ever been interested in. Despite the lead single receiving unfavourable responses, I enjoyed it a lot and it got me hyped up for the album. I liked it so much that I decided to listen to her previous albums. After hearing that the lead single didn’t represent the album at all, my interest began to waver. I’m not huge on her slower songs so I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the album. Nevertheless, I kept my hopes up that maybe Beyoncé would finally win me over.

The album starts with 1+1 and it’s the complete opposite of what I was expecting. I thought that the album would open with a bang but it actually starts with a simple ballad. The melody is minimal and it’s made up of a piano and guitar which allows Beyoncé’s vocals to shine. Her vocals alone demand attention and her soulful tone carries so much power, “make love to me/when my days look low/pull me in close/and don’t let me go/make love to me.” One thing that doesn’t sit well with me is her weird pronunciation of algebra but besides that the lyrics are very relatable, “I don’t know much about algebra,/but I know one plus one equals two/and it’s me and you/that’s all we’ll have when the world is through.” While I find her voice to be incredible, this track doesn’t do much for me. I feel that her vocals are overpowering and the melody is too simplistic. The contrast between the two is too drastic. I like the electric guitar at the end and I would have liked to see it play a larger role. Things get a little better for I Care and it’s another power ballad. Her vocals are even more emotionally charged and you can hear the pain in her voice, “I told you how you hurt me, baby/but you don’t care/now I’m crying and deserted, baby/but you don’t care.” The melody has more going for it than the previous song because it incorporates light synths and percussion. Beyoncé belts out for the chorus which features soothing backing vocals, “well, I care/I know you don’t care too much/but I still care.” The “lalalalas” are unnecessary and it would sound better without them. For the bridge, she sings in a softer tone and her ad-libs that are accompanied by the electric guitar are really nice. I Miss You has some interesting beats and ambient synths that produce a dreamy atmosphere. Beyoncé’s vocals are subdued compared to the last two songs. It’s surprising to hear her sing in such a passive way because I’m used to her powerful singing. During the second half of the song, a second set of vocals are added and she sings in a slightly stronger tone. It’s a nice song but it gets somewhat boring because of the static and soft melody.

The introduction to Best Thing I Never Had does a good job of setting up the song with its sweet piano melody and Beyoncé’s light vocals, “what goes around comes back around, hey, my baby.” The percussion is added in the verses and her vocals are crisp and emotional. This song is similar to Irreplaceable in terms of the subject matter but this one has more depressing moments. It does turn to a more positive feel during the pre-chorus where she confidently sings “thank God you blew it/I thank God I dodged a bullet/I’m so over you.” The arrangement livens up in the chorus and her soaring vocals along with her backing vocals make for a strong, catchy hook, “you turned out to be the best thing I never had/and I’m gon’ always be the best thing you never had/oh yeah, I bet it sucks to be you right now.” In the second half, strings are added to give the song a grander feel and her belting at the end is fantastic. I was hoping Party (feat. Andre 3000) would be an up-tempo but it’s a mid-tempo. It has an old school R&B sound which gives it a distinct feel but it only ends up being an average song. Kanye appears in the intro and the outro but he doesn’t add anything to the song. On the other hand, Andre 3000 plays a bigger role and his rap is smooth and cool. The melody has a good, funky groove with all its retro beats and Beyoncé’s vocals have just the right amount of swag. The chorus is alright but it could have been a lot more interesting because its way too repetitive, “cause we like to party, hey hey hey.”

Rather Die Young is another slow tune but it has a nice surprise that keeps it from being too boring. The verses are typical ballad verses with a calm piano, some very light beats and Beyoncé’s voice, like the melody, is tender. The chorus saves it from being bland because the arrangement is livelier due to it’s groovy 70s sound and her aggressive singing, “‘cause I rather die young/than live my life without you/I rather not live at all/than live my life without you.” She continues with the powerful, soulful singing in the bridge and I really like how she sounds. All in all, the song does some things right but the verses bring it down a bit. Start Over is a huge improvement and it’s one of my favourite songs. The composition is actually interesting due to the strange beats and synths. Beyoncé demonstrates her vocal control and her crisp voice carries the song extremely well. Her vocals get stronger as the song progresses and when it enters the chorus the music crescendos into a dramatic sound, “let’s start over/let’s give love their wings/let’s start over/stop fighting about the same old thing.” The only time her vocals tone down is during the bridge and it’s got a nice soothing quality. This is short-lived because she belts her way back into the final chorus. I’m glad it turned out to be a catchy power ballad.

Love On Top is a feel-good throwback to the 70s/80s filled with snapping beats and funky horns. The bright, optimistic feel of the melody is infectious and it sets the song apart from the rest of the album. I love her vocals because they’re so much fun and this is the first song that isn’t too serious, “come on baby/I can feel the wind whipping past my face/as we dance the night away/boy your lips taste like a night of champagne.” The uplifting feel continues to grow as the track progresses and when it reaches the chorus it draws you in completely with it’s incredible hook, “baby it’s you/you’re the one I love/you’re the one I need/you’re the only thing I see.” This is the first memorable and catchy song so far. The production has a lot going on and it keeps it from being dominated by her vocals. The opening note in Countdown made me think it was going to be a down-tempo or mid-tempo but then the drums come in and this leads to an explosion of brass instruments. Beyoncé’s voice is on fire and she performs with a ton of swag. The song fuses hip hop, reggae and urban beats which results in an infectious club banger. The verses consist of the brass instruments while the pre-chorus incorporates the hip hop/urban sound and the lyrics are really fun, “me and my boo in my boo coupe riding/all up in that black with his chick right beside him/ladies, if you love your man show him you the fliest/grind up on it, girl, show him how you ride it.” The only downfall is the post-chorus where she does a countdown, “my baby is a 10/we dressing through the 9/he pick me up with 8/make me feel so lucky 7.” It disrupts the flow of the song and it sounds messy.

I don’t really like End Of Time but I do appreciate it’s unique sound. The tribal, marching band beat and brass instruments makes it stand out compared to some of the other tracks. While the verses aren’t that catchy, her vocals make up for it and the chorus is much better because it’s somewhat catchy, “I will love you so deeply/I will be the one to kiss you at night/I will love you until the end of time.” Her fast-paced singing in the second half of the song is good and it’s one of the things I like about this track. Besides the beat and the rapid singing, this song doesn’t do much for me. I Was Here is the first ballad to impress me and it’s because Beyoncé’s singing style matches the composition. The piano is hauntingly beautiful and her soft, soothing vocals compliment the melody. When the chorus comes in, the piano picks up and strings are added which makes the song even more stunning, “I was here/I lived, I loved/I was here/I did, I’ve done, everything that I wanted.” The second verse has more going on due to the backing vocals and the increase in the tempo of the melody. The gradual build-up is what makes the song so good and in the second chorus the instruments as well as her vocals become a lot stronger. This is easily the most memorable and stunning ballad on the album. It’s a shame the other one’s didn’t have an impact on me like this one. Run The World (Girls) is not only the most creative song but it’s also the best. I’m surprised that a lot of people don’t care for this song because it is the reason I was so interested in this album. It samples Pon de Floor by Major Lazor which makes this the club banger of the album. The melody is composed of a marching beat and crazy synths. Her vocals are as aggressive as the beat and I love how much energy she puts forward. This is a female empowerment song with typical lyrics, “some of them men think they freak this like we do/but no they don’t/make your cheque come at they neck/disrespect us no they won’t” but it’s so infectious. The melody stays the same for most of the song except for the pre-chorus where it dies down and she sings in drawn out vocals. The hectic beat blasts right back into the chorus and even though it’s repetitive I can’t help but love it especially when she starts shouting, “who run this motha?” The only negative thing I can say about this song is that it does not fit with the rest of the album but at the same time that’s why it’s so great.

Dreaming is a gorgeous mid-tempo and it’s a shame that it’s only included on the Japanese release. The piano melody is beyond addicting and her vocals are so sweet. The chorus is divine with her passionate vocals, ad-libs and loving melody, “let me know, if this is a dream/then I don’t wanna know/cause I ain’t ’bout to be without you babe.” It’s so breathtaking and I love the change in instruments for the bridge because it makes the atmosphere even sweeter. The clapping at the end is nice and does a good job of providing a dramatic ending. Lay Up Under Me opens with a vibrant, jazzy sound that is stunning and delicious. It has a happy melody and I like the way Beyoncé’s voice flows through it. The verses consist of groovy percussion and in the chorus horns are added to spice the melody up. The old school jazz works well and the chorus is so catchy, “we’re gonna hit the floor at home/we’ll let the candles be your light tonight/and I’ma DJ all of your songs.” This song is a lot of fun and she performs with bright vocals that are irresistible.

Beyoncé continues to channel the 70s/80s in Schoolin’ Life and it’s quite a cool track. The occasional synths carry a strong old school sound that’s nostalgic and her vocals are edgy. The synths in the chorus are brighter and funkier, “hot, top, flight/boy out of sight/and I’m crazy, all day, all night/who needs a degree when you’re schoolin’ life.” The end is surprising because the percussion fades out completely and the synths remain while she sings in a delicate manner, “don’t stop running until it’s finished/it’s up to you, the rest is unwritten.” The church organs in Dance For You make it appear as if it’s going to be very serious and soulful but it’s actually sultry and sexy. Beyoncé doesn’t go sexy in the verses, rather; she sings with soft but strong vocals. Things start heating up in the pre-chorus where she uses a higher tone, “I wanna make that body rock/sit back and watch.” This tone continues into the chorus which is the most seductive part of the song, “tonight I’m gonna dance for you/tonight I’m gonna put my body on your body/boy I like it when you watch me/tonight it’s going down.” It’s not really catchy but it’s nice. This is the longest song on the album and it does drag on near the end due to its length. The outro does help a little but it’s only because of her amazing ad-libbing.

Conclusion: 4 didn’t end up being what I wanted it to be but it’s a nice offering from Beyoncé. It doesn’t follow any trends and she sticks to the type of music she does best which is one of the good things about the album. However, the album only starts getting good halfway through. I’m disappointed that there aren’t any songs like Run The World (Girls) because I would like the album a lot more if there were. I’ve never really liked her ballads and they take up the majority of the album. The ballads I did like have compositions that hold up against her vocals whereas the simple ballads are overpowered by her vocals. There’s no denying her vocal talent but the album could have done with more interesting melodies.

Recommended Tracks: Run The World (Girls), Love On Top, Star Over, Lay Up Under Me, I Was Here and Countdown

Rating

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2 Comments »

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  1. Great review. I’ve been on the fence about listening to her music lately because, especially the last album, everything was just sounding too much the same. I heard snippets of the songs on her MTV special and they are extremely simple, but I like that from her.

    • Thank you. I had such a hard time getting through her last album because everything just blended together and there were so many tracks. 4 is much better and if you liked the previews you’ll most likely enjoy the album.


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