Queen B strikes again.
Let me preface this review by saying I am one of the most hardcore B fans to ever walk. I listen to her every day, I own all of her albums, and she is just about the only thing I listen to in my car. I think she’s an incredible singer, performer, and person, and is no doubt my favorite artist of all time, which you might think is strange if you know my tastes in music (aka, I don’t like mainstream music). Anybody who really knows me knows my undying love for her. I can even play just about every single one of her songs by memory on the piano!
After “I Am… Sasha Fierce” came out (which I give a [10/10]), it was no doubt that this was her best solo album so far, and one of the greatest albums to date in mainstream music. Fans everywhere were wondering how she would ever top something like this off. Her interviews and statements about the upcoming “4” were promising and exciting. Wellllllllst,Now the leaked version of the full album is here, so I just have to do a song-by-song review (I’ll rate, compare to previous Beyonce songs, and give an explanation), and then give an overall album review. These are just my opinions — I’m sure not everyone will agree with me, and that’s okay!
*Let it be known that these opinions are based off of listening to this album numerous times. I gave myself a bit of time to get used to the tracks. Also, when I relate these tracks to her previous songs, I’m making that judgement based on tonality, lyrics, message, but most important the overall effect of the song, not just “the way it sounds”. I know these comparison will be arguable, but just let me have my 5 seconds of fame.
A subtle, yet empowering ballade. (Relate to “Smash into You”)
She first sang this live on the recent finale of American Idol, and it blew everyone away. Ashton Kutcher stated “Beyonce is operating on a different level right now… just sayin”. In my opinion her performance on AI was more impressive than this studio recording, which in itself is a sign of true talent.
2: I Care
Just an average, medium to slow tempo-ed song. (Relate to “Scared of Lonely)
Nothing impressive. I think if the producers spent a little more time making this song interesting, that it would be a real hit. This song definitely does not showcase her talent or creativity. This probably won’t be heard on the radios.
3: I Miss You
A slow, low-key expressive song (Relate to “Satellites”)
Harmonically not the most song thing ever. Lyrics are pretty straightforward, but appropriate for the title and style of the song. Something I’ll probably listen to when I’m in a reflective mood.
4: Best Thing I Never Had
Great medium tempo ballade. (Relate to “Irreplaceable”)
She shows her strong vocals in this song. The lyrics are easily relatable, and there are a few surprising chord progressions that Beyonce is known for. This song will go very far. The bridge reminds us of the B that we’ve all grown to love. Tyler Oakley claimed: ”It’s definitely “Irreplaceable” Pt 2 - and I’m completely okay with that”, and I would definitely have to agree.
5: Party (ft. Andre 3000 & Kanye West)
80’s inspired, old school R&B track (Relate to “Kitty Kat”)
I was anticipating this song more than any other track off the album, which may have further led to my disappointment. With a track name like “Party”, I was expecting something I could really dance to; something groovin, like “Crazy in Love”-esque). But, this is nothing I would dance to. To me, this is awful, but then again, I’m not the biggest fan of pre-era R&B. The bass line is soooo Paula Abdul, and the feel is very pre-mature Janet. FAndre 3000 & Kanye were awful feature choices. Beyonce is known for having incredible class in everything she does, and these guys’ verses are anything but classy. I’ve tried listening to this multiple times to get into it, but it’s not happening anytime soon. Definitely a track I will skip over, which is truly a rarity when it comes to me and Beyonce.
6: Rather Die Young
Continuing with the 80’s tribute vibe. (Relate to “I Can’t Take No More”)
I don’t really have much to say about this track. Lyrics are simple… the point is easily portrayed. When know B, you’d rather die young than live your life without Jay. You only said it 35 times in 4 minutes. Definitely not one of my favorites, but not one of the worst.
7. Start Over
A repetitive, yet expressive anthem. (Relate to “Broken-Hearted Girl)
I like this song. It’s on the slower end of medium (like the majority of this album). There is a sense of desperation and mild emotion. Beyonce shows her strong vocals and it’s pretty catchy. There are a few cheesy lyrics, but what album doesn’t? I will definitely be singing this in my car, though there really isn’t anybody this song would apply to in all honesty…
8. Love on Top
The best way to describe this is: Mariah Carey. (Relate to any Mariah song)
Upon first listen, I HATED this song. But I listened to the album a few more times, and I found myself doing the good ole foot tap and head swag. There are 4 chromatic key changes, but it fits the style and era of this song. This is definitely a reflection of the Dangerously in Love era. I do see myself liking this song a little better as time goes on, but for now it’s just mediocre… not my style.
An upbeat song that you probably won’t hear in the clubs. (Relate to “Catch Up On it”)
I was confused in the beginning where the beat should be placed… maybe that’s just me, but I had to listen 3 times to figure out the displacement. The song is pretty catchy, but I can’t stand the chromatic countdown… I think if she used more of a Sasha style for this song (Along the lines of Video Phone or Diva) then it would really be a true hitter. It’s going to take some time to get used to this one.
10. End of Time
A medium tempo song with great rhythmic drive. (Can’t really find anything to relate this to)
This is my favorite song from this album, for now — (on the Sasha Fierce album, Video Phone was my favorite, then Halo became my favorite, and then Diva, then Broken-Hearted Girl, then the Video Phone remix, etc. etc.) I think it’s creative, positive, and something that you can definitely dance to. It will take a good minute to figure out all the lyrics though. I love the percussion through this. If you search her inspirations for this album you’ll see where this idea came from. Some people expressed their dislike for the bridge… but that might be my favorite part. I love the progression during the “I just want to be with you; I just want to live you” part. Love this song!
11. I Was Here
Empowerment anthem/ballade. (Relate to “If I Were a Boy”)
I really like this song. Comparing the ballades (all 8 of them) on this album, this one and “Best Thing I Never Have” are my favorites. I like the message she’s portraying, albeit repetitive, and I like the motion of the beat. This tracks instrumentals hint towards some post-rock influence, which is my favorite genre of non-classical music. I think this will be the most underrated song of the album, just as “Smash Into You” or “Hello” was. I hope this song gets the recognition it deserves.
12. Run The World (Girls)
NOT a Major Lazer ripoff (Relate to “Ring the Alarm”)
When I first listened to the song, I would have probably given it a [2/5]. I was pretty upset they she used the Major Lazer beat, because I wanted to hear something fresh and original for the first preview into the long-awaited album. I had to be a fair musician and realize the quoting other artists (In the contemporary and classical worlds) is completely legitimate and a huge risk. However, Beyonce took this song, and made it her own. Though the syncopated beat might be familiar, there is no confusing this song with “Pon de Floor”. The song serves as an anthem for woman empowerment, which is a platform Beyonce strongly supports. Even if you are a little distraught that she used Major Lazer’s beat, you have to admit, the song makes you want to move. Also I love the bridge, though most people don’t. Approach this song with an open mind, and you’ll love it. I give this song a [4.5/5], because she made it very obvious that girls run the world. I wish the other songs on this album had more of this style.
Technically, based off the ratings of the individual songs, this album would receive [40.5/60] or a [6.75/10]. However, based off the effectiveness of the whole album, I would have to rate “4” as a [6/10]. Trust me, it’s difficult giving your favorite artist such a low rating. Like I said previously, I Am… Sasha Fierce was no doubt a [10/10] album. The only way she could have topped this was to come out with an equally impressive, creative, strong album.
When she released her first track, “Run The World (Girls)”, which contained an obvious flair of Sasha Fierce, excitement stirred tremendously. Fans were anxious to see the other material be unleashed. When she released her second upbeat track “End of Time”, the exhilaration only grew. Her performance on American Idol of “1+1” suggested the softer, more emotional, side that the album would contain… But upon the unofficial leak of the album “4”, it was a disappointment that the three tracks before this release were not an appropriate preview for the rest of the content on the album. The album contains 9 slow or ballade type songs, and 3 upbeat “Sasha” songs. The album’s flow is a bit misguided with many similarities between certain tracks, and a few of the styles of the songs are questionable.
Overall, this is not Queen B’s best album to date. I’m sure that the reviews of this album will push her to work smarter on her next studio album, and to create an exceptional worldwide tour of “4”. This is also herfirst album without her father, Matthew Knowles, managing. This was a huge decision for Beyonce, but she believed it was time to become completely independent and grow in a musical and mature way. BUT DON’T GIVE UP HOPE FANS: Beyonce is knowing for releasing a “deluxe” version of her albums which contain tracks that have always received positive reactions. Let’s hope that Honey B releases a deluxe album with strong tracks that we are more familiar. As a true fan, I will not step down and I will continue to support her and this album. She is still my favorite artist and I commend her for taking such a huge risk. She strived to achieve a different sound and more mature persona. I love you B!
Review by: Josh Franklin
Rolling Stone observes, “Beyoncé’s new album, 4, is a change of pace for the R&B queen … 4 is a more relaxed, personal set that emphasizes ballads over bangers and showcases the singer’s nuances; it’s very much the sort of album a pop star makes when she doesn’t feel like she has anything to prove.”The
Atlantic compares her latest to her last album: “In between, there’s an unmistakable, if gradual, turn from melancholic top 40 ballads to the confrontational snap of military drums and giddy proclamations of love. Is this I Am … Sasha Fierce part 2? Not quite. The course of 4 documents a progression, a maturation, of Beyoncé’s worldview.”
"This album is so not her, she took chances, went off in a new direction as far as sound, her vocal techniques are off the charts on this album," Lee Joseph Chaisson wrote on MTV.com. "She brought it vocally; the sounds are so uniquely different, her whole approach."