Friday, June 10, 2011


Song: 1+1
Artist: Beyonce
Album: 4

I'm not a huge Beyonce fan.  I like a lot of her singles, think she is an electrifying performer, and has established herself as a true superstar, no question.  But musically, she's never made an album that I would listen from start to finish.  But, if there was one thing you could always count on her for... was a FIERCE single.  From "Crazy in Love" to "Irreplaceable," to of course... "Single Ladies," every single record contained at least one killer track.  So I think it's come as a surprise to everyone just how "meh" her new single "Run the World" is.  Sure, "Deja Vu" was kind of just okay when that came out... but then she killed it with a slew of tracks from "Irreplaceable" to "Get Me Bodied" to "Green Light" to "Ring the Alarm..." "B'Day" turned out to be one of her most hit packed records.  So was "Run the World" a lackluster misnomer from her new album "4" with the really off the wall stuff just waiting?  Well, it is a misnomer... but the surprising thing is that it is actually the most upbeat track on the record.  What happened to Beyonce?

Well, this is a new Beyonce.

I've been listening to "4" and for the first time, I find myself really trying to wrap my head around a Beyonce record.  Her output, while of unquestionable quality, was pretty straight forward.  But nothing quite prepared me for "4," and the first track "1+1" which is by far one of the most mesmerizing things she's ever laid down.  It's starts with a light strummed electric guitar, and then B's voice comes in... deep soulful, emotional... it's a song that commands attention not by being noisy or brash... just stark and sweeping emotion.  In a way it's the first time I've felt Beyonce wasn't singing at me... but to me.  This song envelops you, and then this 80's Prince electric guitar kicks in and you're sure you've left the earth... let alone a Beyonce record.  What the what is this?  Put your hands up!

Next is "I Care," a stark electro track that builds from her amazing, measured vocals, until the chorus kicks in... and while it's anthemic, it's restrained, and totally mesmerizing.  "I Miss You" slows things down once again for another stark, vocally strong, and emotional churner.  Second single "Best Thing I Ever Had" is a pretty, straight-forward Beyonce ballad that does have a nice chorus... it doesn't thrill me.  Kanye West and Andre 3000 pop up in "Party," which makes it seem that we're back to a regular get-the-party-started Beyonce album, but it's pretty mid-tempo, and goes for an 80's R&B sound that does NOT scream club-banger.  I hear a little Pointer Sisters, though that's not quite right.  "Rather Die Young" is another ballad and admittedly... she started to lose me here.  And mid-way point "Start Over" seems like more of the same, though it has a nice build, and lush synths that are odd married with Beyonce's voice.  "Let's start over" she says...

The end of "4" is a little maddening... from another 80's throwback ("Love on Top") to the trumpet call/Caribbean strut of "Countdown," then the koo-koo-carazee "End of Time" which mixes marching band strut, army of Beyonce vocals, and a "Dancing in the Streets" elation that's hard to deny.  There's another odd ballad, "I Was Here" that left me a little cold, and then "Run the World" which ends the album and feels WAY different capping off "4" than it does as a single.  It feels much more like the call-to-arms anthem it seemed it wanted to be when following such an emotional tour-de-force of an album.  It could be a precursor to what's next for her.  (And not for nothing, the video below is beyond-thunderdome crazy... not to mention her performance of it for Oprah AND the one from the Billboard Music Awards.  Shit girl can work.)

"4" is not the Beyonce of old.  Sure there are elements of her old style in here but this is something new. This album is bold in its indifference to writing catchy radio and/or club bangers.  It's by far her most adult statement and could be the most "classic" sounding of anything she's done.  I've never had this much to say about anything she's done, but it sounds like a rebirth of sorts... and I am so happy the girl has written a true album and not just another collection of ringtone-ready radio singles.  It might not sell like her previous output, and fans of her fun singles may be scratching their heads, but I'm happy she's done this album.  it's often quite captivating, in a disarming way.  She runs this mother.


I Care

Run the World

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