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2011 from the R&B superstar. Inspired by a diverse range of influences, from Fela Kuti to Debarge to Adele, this fourth full length solo release is her most diverse yet. The 60+ songs recorded for the album have been whittled down to the 12 that make up 4. This collection of very personal tracks reveals an artist who is unafraid to take chances. Features the single "Run the World (Girls)",
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The album has an incredibly diverse sound but manages to blend well and maintain an identity. The 80's influenced "Party" relies heavily on a thick vocal harmony and a catchy saw synth pad/bass combo with simplistic synth drums providing the rhythm in the background. Beyonce keeps it in the 80's realm with the upbeat groovy jam "Love on Top". Sexy horns accent her vocals for much of the song while Beyonce croons about her love being the priority in her lovers life. "Rather Die Young" continues the trend of throwback old era influence with production and vocal arrangements stripped straight from the 70's.
Beyonce takes it to the club with the catchy "Countdown", "End Of Time", and "Run The world (girls)". All with a minimalist production with militaristic, bombastic, marching band appeal. Of these I'm partial to "End Of Time" with it's melodic sing songy chorus and blaring horn arrangement. "Run This World" while bound to be a hit in clubs wasn't the best choice for single as it's not as immediately appealing as her past singles.
The album slows down with the vocally ambitious "1+1", "Best Thing I Never Had" and "I Was Here". "1+1" doesn't quite live up to the ambitions set forth as the vocal inflections begin to sound slightly annoying, especially during live performances but it provides a decent but somewhat forgettable ballad. "Best Thing I Never Had" is the most commercial of the bunch(and hence her 2nd single). A vengeful but very likable celebratory ode to a love that never was. While "I Was Here" has Beyonce proclaiming her desire to be remembered and having a great legacy. A mournful, plodding delivery leaves something to be desired but certainly a meaningful and heartfelt ballad.
Other favorite is hard to pin down but very catchy "Start Over" with it's powerful and moving chorus. On the other hand "I Care" and "I Miss You" bring up the rear. While not bad they just prove to be filler material or to put it more politely, the most likely to be forgotten.
As a whole I was very satisfied and impressed with this album. Vocally Beyonce brings it while only faltering on rare occasion. The production is great with throwback soul sounds, bombastic club anthems and melodic ballads. If you're expecting a transformed Beyonce that departs from her howling, bootylicious, hair swinging ways then you might look elsewhere for your R&B fix. But if you know the larger than life artist and performer Beyonce is and enjoy hearing her doing what she does best than I would completely recommend this album.
Like I said earlier this album is not her most upbeat and for that, some of her fans will be and are disappointed as you can see here already in many of the reviews for the standard edition. They will find most of the ballads and mid-tempos boring unless they can appreciate B in a bit of a different light. B'Day, as fun as an album as that was, this album is not! And I'm actually happy for that. She needed to switch it up a bit to impress me from the so-so Sasha Fierce and she did just that. The main thing I was impressed with on that album was the downbeat and mid-tempo tracks which most of were winners (Faves being "Halo" and "Broken-hearted Girl").
Songs get intimate ("1+1, "I Miss You", "I Was Here", "Lay Up Under Me") playful ("Best Thing I Never Had", "Love On Top", "Countdown", "Schoolin' Life") and thoughtful ("I Care", "Rather Die Young", "Start Over"). I swear. There's a track for just about anyone on here.
Favorite downtempo: "I Miss You" (So intimate the lyrics might give you goosebumps. Love the head voice she uses at the end of certain lines.)
Favorite mid-tempo: "Rather Die Young" (A ride or die song. Think Bonnie & Clyde '03 but less chill.)
Favorite uptempo: "Countdown" (This track was so unexpected. It's true that it's genre-busting and some might think it sounds like a B'Day reject but I can say that it rivals ANYTHING on B'Day. Perfection.)
All in all, this album is not only Beyoncé's work of art (finally!) but it's a big surprise and treat for the real fans who have been waiting for B to get serious with her music and give her all. She did, believe me! B'Day, although juvenile to some was my favorite album by her until I heard these infectious tracks. Give them time to sink in. I loved most of them on full listen the first time I heard them but they might have to grow on you. Lots of great music has to do that sometimes.
If you don't get the album...
"Rather Die Young"
"I Miss You"
"Start Over" &
"Love On Top"
HONORABLE MENTIONS (you can't download legally):
"Lay Up Under Me" &
Maybe "Run The World (Girls)" (the original).