Review : Beyonce Knowles - 4
CulturebullyBeyonce’s back with 4, her follow-up to 2008’s I am… Sasha Fierce. Since Sasha, the vocalist announced that she would be killing off her alter ego and merging her disparate personalities to create music that fused all of her influences into a new, unique sound. It’s an ambitious vision but, unfortunately, one that 4 fails to deliver.
4 has been in production for two-and-a-half years and has involved many mega-producers, including Babyface, Kanye West, Ryan Tedder, and The-Dream. At the end of the project, Beyonce submitted a staggering 72 songs to her label, though the final album has been pared down to just 12. You’d think that with the talent involved and abundance of material that the final cut would be a well-edited, polished collection of exciting music. You’d be wrong.
The album starts with “1+1,” a ballad ripped straight from The Bodyguard-era Whitney Houston. Beyonce does a sufficient impersonation but fails to add anything new or unique to the sound. It’s the type of track that would fit at home on some forgotten cassette tape next to the acid-wash jeans in my basement. The rest of the first half of the album feels like a trip down memory lane to the early ’90s, complete with cheesy electric piano and guitar riffs lifted from a cancelled sitcom. In one of the most troubling spots on the album, Beyonce channels “Do the Bartman” on the song “Love on Top.” (Seriously, listen to them together. They both have the Janet Jackson-inspired rhythm and early-’90s dance synth bassline.)
I’m sure that Beyonce finds great value in the early ’90s music, but it comes off as self-indulgent on 4. If you’re going to retread familiar musical territory, you either have to do it with exceptional style and ability or add some new twist to make it fresh. 4 does neither and falls into the same pitfall that Lady Gaga’s recent release, Born This Way exhibited: It blatantly copied her influences without adding much of her own voice. Although the songs are all originals, 4 smacks of karaoke night for Beyonce as she revisits her favorite memories from the early ’90s....full text
IamboigeniusBeyoncé returns with a vengeance on her fourth studio album – 4. While putting the finishing touches on it, Bey revealed the album would boast an immense amount of sounds and instruments. Her words were accurate. 12 tracks and they all are uniquely different. Kanye West, Consequence, The-Dream, Babyface, Ryan Tedder, Switch, Jeff Bhasker, Diane Warren, Shea Taylor and Symbolyc One all man the production boards on the project.
Surprisingly, the overall album doesn’t have a techno/urban sound – it leans more towards an R&B/Hip-Hop album; what I (and many others) have yearned for from Beyoncé....full text
PitchforkOne of the year's best music videos was directed by Jay-Z and cost about zero dollars to make. The camera phone clip shows Beyoncé rehearsing her new album's opening eternal-love ballad, "1+1", backstage at "American Idol". There she is: eyes shut, standing in front of a mirror, singing her guts out while family and friends look on in quiet awe. The video has a similar impromptu charm to the many intimate, one-shot performance clips popularized by Vincent Moon's "Take Away Show", its appeal compounded by the shock of seeing such a notoriously manicured superstar without embellishment. "Help me let down my guard," she belts. And, as Beyoncé finishes the song, you hear her proud husband let out a joyous "woo!" It's all quite endearing and personal-- two words one might not often associate with this superhumanly talented and famous couple. "Sometimes you need perspective," wrote Jay in an intro to the video on his Life + Times website. "You've been right in front of greatness so often that you need to step back and see it again for the first time."
It's a fitting sentiment and song to introduce 4, which largely deals with monogamy and all that comes with committing to one person for a potential lifetime. Which, like a bad marriage, might sound boring, repetitive, staid. But, in Beyoncé's more-than-capable and still-in-love hands, a relationship that lasts can seem as complicated and rewarding as anyone would hope. "If I ain't got something, I don't give a damn/ 'Cause I got it with you," she testifies on "1+1"-- potentially dubious words from a woman who certainly has "something," but her mainlined vocals quickly dismiss mere logistics. The song boasts some of her finest-ever singing laid over a bed of warm and flowing synths, strings, and bass that manages to connect the dots between Sam Cooke and Prince without sacrificing any Beyoncé-ness. "1+1" is that rare wonder: a wedding song that pleases but doesn't pander.
The only recent pop ballad that comes close to its power is Adele's stunning "Someone Like You". But where that song-- and its massively successful corresponding album, 21-- wrung out the aftermath of young heartbreak, Beyoncé is aiming for something a bit more challenging with 4: love the one you're with, and have some fun doing it, too. The album's relative riskiness extends to its music, which side-steps Top 40 radio's current Eurobeat fixation for a refreshingly eclectic mix of early-90s R&B, 80s lite soul, and brass'n'percussion-heavy marching music. All of the album's best elements, thematically and sonically, burst ahead on Jay-Z ode "Countdown", a honking, stutter-step sequel of sorts to "Crazy in Love". The new track makes 10 years of loyalty seem just as thrilling as the first time, with Beyoncé offering her partner copious praise in that famed half-rap cadence: "Still love the way he talks/ Still love the way I sing/ Still love the way he rock them black diamonds in that chain."...full text
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