Beyoncé | 4

Album Review: Beyoncé | 4
by Brent Faulkner

Beyoncé’s fourth studio LP 4 is certainly her most intriguing album.
The ‘intrigue’ is that the R&B/Pop chanteuse is truly ‘all over the
place’ stylistically on this album, which proves to be a mixed blessing.
While the ‘crossover’ tactics show Beyoncé’s sense of exploration and
evolution, some work more effectively than others. Beyoncé’s vocals
are always top notch, but the material is so ambitious or such a radical
departure at times that it comes off as off-putting or bewildering. To
Beyoncé’s credit, it is nice to hear the artist stretch herself and 4
does deliver some ‘knock-out punches.’ The biggest flaw, however maybe
merely the ordering of the track list on 4, which is a bit odd.

“1+1,” the low-key second single from 4 opens up the effort rather
reserved. While “1+1” is a solid cut and Beyoncé sounds polished, it is
too ‘under-the-radar’ to serve as the opening cut of a Beyoncé album.
Sure, I Am.. Sasha Fierce opened with “If I Were A Boy,” which was
somewhat reserved, but “1+1” takes ‘reserved’ to the nth degree. Had
the ballad been placed closer to the end or even just a couple slots
later, it would have a much more desirable effect. It does yield the
corny, but notable line “I don’t know much about algebra, but I know 1+1
= 2.”
“I Care” is odd at first, opening with a mysterious synthetic
pad. The track propels once the drum programming enters. Certainly no
“Halo,” “I Care” is the type of cut that takes several repeated listens
to ‘get into it.’ It’s not valedictory from an initial listen, but it is
interesting. The vocal production is an anomaly in itself, not to
mention Beyoncé’s upper register improvisations.

“I Miss You” continues a bizarre ‘air’ that lingers throughout this
effort. Vocally, “B” remains solid, but the cut itself comes over as
‘second-rate’ compared to her best hits. Despite the experimental air
the characterizes so much of 4, “I Miss You” just lacks ‘gusto.’ “Best
Thing I Never Had” saves the day, trumping everything that precedes it.
Beyoncé sounds more herself – more natural on this cut. “Best Thing I
Never Had” is a bit melodramatic, but Beyoncé works best with cuts that
allow her beautiful, dynamic voice to shine. The crossover appeal of
“Best Thing I Never Had” is one of its strongest attributes.

“Party,” featuring André 3000 is enjoyable, if the slightest bit clunky
as a cut. The harmonized vocals give off an inherent 80’s vibe, not to
mention the lift off of Keith Sweat’s classic “Right and a Wrong Way To
Love Somebody” which finds Beyoncé singing “I may be young, but I’m
as if she’s responding to Sweat’s lead vocals. André 3000’s
guest turn is a bit clumsy, but others may differ in opinion on that.
“Rather Die Young” starts as odd as anything else, but evolves into a
nice vintage soul feel once the track settles in. The chorus works well
here in separating itself from the verse. “Rather Die Young” is more
effective in its experiments than many other cuts. “Start Over’s” major
selling point is the drum programming, which is driving and almost
‘tribal’ in sound. The cut takes too much of its short duration to
build up, but if nothing else, is a solid attempt by Beyoncé to ‘spread
her wings.’

“Love on Top” is a solid cut with a nice 80’s sound that is a departure
from “Start Over.” The production is solid, the background vocals
enhance, and the use of constant key changes add to the ‘over-the-top’
feel that Beyoncé is clearly trying to achieve here. “Countdown” isn’t
too shabby, but it is a bit ‘much.’ While Beyoncé thrives on
over-the-top (think B’Day’s “Freakum Dress,” “Ring The Alarm” or “Suga
Mama”), “Countdown” certainly takes it to another level. Intriguing,
innovative (I think…), and ‘over-the-top,’ “Countdown” will appeal to
some and be loathed by some as well. “End of Time” is a ‘B’ cut, as is
the Dianne Warren penned “I Was Here,” which is too casual and slow to
truly evolve, particularly following so many ‘over-the-top’ cuts. “Run
The World (Girls),” closes the album, but once listening to the album in
its entirety, one would have preferred the promo single to appear at
the beginning (some might say this because of their dislike of the cut).
“Run the World (Girls)” receives the same mixed reaction that
characterized Beyoncé’s “Dejâ Vu” and ultimately her B’Day album.

Essentially, few would label Beyoncé’s fourth studio album as
valedictory, but certainly most appreciate Beyoncé’s willingness to
experiment. A few less experiments would have made 4 a bit more
cohesive as an album, but Beyoncé does reap some positive rewards and
accolades from this effort. Worth the listen? Certainly – the album
will definitely ‘blow your mind’ if it does nothing else.

Brent Faulkner

The Urban Music Scene

MORE Music Reviews on T.U.M.S.!:

Lalah Hathaway's Starry Starry Homecoming Night in L.A.
L.A.'s RnB Live Club; Serving up "A Night to Remember" Every Wednesday of the Week."
Andrea Helms | Moving Forward
Robert Glasper Experiment | Black Radio
Rhythm Will Be Queen at The 34th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival
The Angela Bofill Experience f/ Maysa | at Anthology in San Diego, Nov. 5th
Eric Clapton & Wynton Marsalis, Play the Blues: Live from Jazz At Lincoln Center
Richard Elliot | In The Zone
Judith Christie McAllister | Sound the Trumpet
Concert Review: Return to Forever IV/Zappa Plays Zappa
Hidden Beach Presents "The Original Jill Scott - From The Vault Vol. 1"
Deitrick Haddon | Anthology: The Writer & His Music
Joss Stone | LP1
Trombone Shorty | For True
Global Noize | A Prayer for the Planet
Medicine – Live at The Black Academy of Arts & Letters
Lorenzo Johnson | Things Are Looking Up
LaTina Webb | Hush
The Jade Element
Al Green | The Best of the Gospel Sessions
Reggie Young | Steppin’ Up
Gail Holmes | I Receive Your Love
Kindred the Family Soul | Love Has No Recession
Jill Scott | The Light Of The Sun
Patsy Moore | Expatriates
Pat Metheny | What's It All About
Alicia Keys | songs in A minor: 10th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
Ledisi | Pieces of Me
Our Review of The 33rd Anniversary Playboy Jazz Festival
Michael Franks | Time Together
Soul Togetherness Presents The Skip Scarborough Songbook | Various Artists
Monday Michiru | Don't Disturb This Groove
"An Evening With Dave Grusin" (DVD-Blu-ray Disc)
Raphael Saadiq | Stone Rollin'
Dennis Coffey | Dennis Coffey
Mateo | Love & Stadiums