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Beyonce, ’4′ – Album Review

Beyonce
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Who run this mother, you ask? Well, Beyonce, of course! The smokin’ R&B siren is preparing to conquer the airwaves this summer with the release of her fourth studio LP, fittingly titled ’4,’ on June 28. The album will feature her already smash hit ‘Run the World (Girls)’ as well as 11 other tracks that vary in sound and subject material. Check out our track-by-track review of Beyonce’s ’4′ album and let us know what your favorite ’4′ track is in the comment section below.

1. ’1+1′
This soulful love song allows Beyonce’s voice to take center stage, considering the instrumentation is quite sparse in ’1+1.’ Beyonce channels one of her idols, R&B icon Etta James, with the emotional way in which she delivers the lyrics, in addition to showing off her ability for hitting a vast range of notes, switching between high, sweet ‘Halo’-esque and emphatic, powerful pitches. ’1+1′ is a simple song with a simple message, but Beyonce’s vocal performance is far from ordinary. (Listen Here)

2. ‘I Care’
Beyonce gets deep in the emotional track ‘I Care,’ which features a gospel/tribal-like choir, as B sings about a love that has gone sour, singing, “I swear you like when I’m in pain / I try to tell you all my fears / You still don’t care / That’s OK.” The start of this song reminds us of Alicia Keys‘ ‘Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart,’ with a rhythmic pounding drum, which soon gives way to a shredding guitar solo. This one is a catchy sing-along, that also shows off Beyonce’s talent for being able to move with ease between pop, soul, R&B, hip-hop and many other genres.

3. ‘I Miss You’
This percussive-driven song, which was written by Odd Future’s Frank Ocean, features layered vocals from Beyonce; This gives the song an especially interesting effect as she sings the second verse in a varying tones: “Words don’t ever seem to come out right / But I still mean them / Why is that? / It hurts my pride to tell you how I feel / But I still need to / Why is that?” The stripped-down beat reminds us of an R&B twist on the opening portion of Phil Collins’ ‘In the Air Tonight,’ with Beyonce belting it out one second, and almost gently whispering another.

4. ‘Best Thing I Never Had’
Although the first three tracks off of ’4′ are very modest in terms of actual music, Beyonce brings us back to her larger-than-life studio, almost symphonic production with ‘Best Thing I Never Had.’ The songstress kicks off this song with a piano beat reminiscent of Bruce Hornsby’s ‘The Way It Is‘ and Beyonce, who sings from the perspective of a scorned lover moving on, singing “what goes around comes back around.” Not only does this tune display B’s girl-power persona — she bluntly tells her ex “it sucks to be you right now” — but it also is a sure fire sing-along. (Listen Here)

5. ‘Party’ Feat. Andre 3000
Beyonce recruited Outkast’s Andre 3000 for a feature on ‘Party,’ and she also brought in none other than Mr. Kanye West as the song’s writer (he also appears on the intro and outro). This track has an old-school feel that makes you want to groove along with Beyonce’s interlaced voice, as she sings back up vocals for herself. Andre 3000 hasn’t recorded new solo material in quite some time, focusing mostly on features; Despite this, he shows off his penchant for adding smoothness and fluidity to tracks, bringing extra zing to Beyonce’s already spicy swag tune.

6. ‘Rather Die Young’
The Queen B recruited a very unlikely collaborator to pen her track ‘Rather Die Young’ — Luke Steele of the electronica group Empire of the Sun. The end result is quite the mashup of sounds, with both hip-hop, R&B and electronic elements finding their niche in the moving track. ‘Rather Die Young’ also contains a heavy horn section, giving the song an extra flair. This track is truly beautiful, as Beyonce sings with great gusto about being completely and utterly devoted to her man.

7. ‘Start Over’
‘Start Over’ was written by chart-topping songwriter/producer Ester Dean, who has produced songs for  Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj and many more. Although it is easy for some to get sick of the repetitive lovesick theme B seems to gravitate towards, the music in this song nothing short of epic, as is Beyonce’s vocal performance. The beat steadily grows from the verses to the bridge and, finally, to the chorus, with pounding drums coming in to the loop during the refrain as B sings, “Let’s start over / Let’s give love their wings / Let’s start over / Stop fighting bout the same old thing.”

8. ‘Love on Top’
Beyonce goes retro with her track ‘Love on Top.’ This one is like a revamped Motown song, complete with a funky bass line, horns and finger snaps in addition to some contemporary pop and electronic elements. The electronically altered keys in the background also bring us back to ’80s, when divas like Whitney Houston were ruling the airwaves. Once again, B harmonizes with herself, as she takes on the role of both frontwoman and backup singer in the gorgeous ‘Love on Top’ harmonies. This track is the perfect marriage of vintage and modern, and is definitely one of the tracks that stands out the most on ’4.’ (Listen Here)

9. ‘Countdown’
The music within ‘Countdown’ is a bit all over the place. The intro that sounds like tribal music had a baby with a marching band, and before long Beyonce’s song has a seemingly unnecessary robotic voice counting down from 10. The best part of the song is probably the horns, which are reminiscent of Yeezy’s all-star tune ‘All of the Lights.’ Overall, we like the singing in ‘Countdown,’ but the music seems like a haphazard mish-mosh of sounds that do not flow together as much we’d hoped.

10. ‘End of Time’
On the apocalyptic ‘End of Time,’ Beyonce leads in with hard-hitting drums and a faint chant that sounds like the songstress is mobilizing an army somewhere deep in the jungle. Once again, there is a large horn presence on ‘End of Time,’ giving the track an anthemic vibe. This track is another ode to a loved one, and Beyonce passionately sings, “Come take my hand / I won’t let you go / I’ll be your friend / I will love you so deeply / I will be the one to kiss you at night / I will love you till the end of time.” ‘End of Time’ is definitely not a song to be skipped on ’4.’

11. ‘I Was Here’
Towards the end of the ’4,’ Beyonce is slowing it down again with ‘I Was Here.’ The song features a melancholy melody, incorporating pained violins, echoing guitars and rhythmic snare drums, was penned by Grammy-winning songwriter Diane Warren — who wrote Aerosmith‘s ‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’ and Celine Dion‘s ‘Because You Loved Me.’ ‘I Was Here’ was also co-produced by Ryan Tedder, and both he and Warren’s penchant for creating moving music is apparent on this song about one person leaving their mark in the universe. Beyonce’s voice breathes life into ‘I Was Here,’ and we can easily see this stirring tune as the theme music for a film.

12. ‘Run the World (Girls)’
In case you forgot, Beyonce is letting all of the fellas out there who really rules the world in this super femme-power song. With a hypnotizing beat that samples Major Lazer’s ‘Pon de Floor,’ Beyonce chants “Who run the world? / Girls / Who run the world? / Girls” with the song’s tempo and her voice growing in intensity as she gets to the emphatic “Who run this mother?! / Who run this mother?!” line. Although many people were probably confused by Beyonce’s venture into the world of electronic music, we think she is working it. ‘Run the World (Girls)’ has a strong message that makes every girl want to shout along with. (Listen Here)

13. ‘Schoolin’ Life’ (Bonus Track)
Beyonce gets her Prince on in this bonus track. The pop diva channels the ’1999′ singer, with the wailing guitar, horns, and drum machines fusing together in ‘Schoolin’ Life’ to create a sound that provokes feelings of nostalgia for the pop of the late ’80s. The infectious chorus of “oh, oh, oh’s” and Beyonce’s clever lyrics about growing up fast will leave you wanting more, as she sings, “At 14, they asked what I wanna be / I said baby 21, so I get me a drink.

Listen to Beyonce’s Entire ’4′ Album

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