Beyonce is one of the most illusive acts with such massive fame in our culture today. What do we know about the singer? We know her husband, Jay-Z. We know she’s been around for 15 years and ruled over Destiny’s Child in that time. We know she’s an advocate of girl power, (see “Single Ladies,” “Run This World (Girls)” and the majority of B’Day). Other than that not much is known for sure. Beyonce has avoided the media’s glare more than any of her contemporaries, Britney, Christina, and Rihanna have all had invasions of privacy. Their personalities are also more known in the public sphere, Beyonce has remained silent, other than her music, killer voice, and flawless dancing.
This is Beyonce’s 4th album, the singer has 2 identities that were clearly shown on I Am… Sasha Fierce; the love-hungry balladeer, and the dance diva. Just look at her past works: “Crazy in Love” is a Dance Diva, so is the majority of B’Day and half of I Am… Then there’s the balladeer, the lover of love, the girl singing sweet R&B on the second half of her debut Dangerously in Love, and in full force for much of her new album, 4.
Beyonce is a married women, has financial freedom, and is on the verge of 30. So what does one sing about when in such a blissful state? It’s hard to be a sexual as Britney, who is in a relationship but not labelled as married, can’t be insane like Lady Gaga belting about “Government Hookers,” but who wants to hear about domestic bliss? It’s a tricky subject to tackle while holding onto the public’s attention. 4 is moderately successful at tackling this predicament. Beyonce sounds comfortable, not yearning or attempting to prove herself, that’s already been well accomplished. She can now relax, reflect on life, on her love, and on what she wants to listen to.
4 is an album that shows her growth and maturity, a women deeply in love, a women confident in her voice and ability to not follow trends, and a women who knows where she came from, with clear references to Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and Prince, while still seeing new inspirations with Diplo, Empire of the Sun, and Frank Ocean. So that is the idea of the album, the theme and way it should be regarded.
4 has the right concept, but sometimes falls flat and may have Beyonce lose some listeners in the process. The album does have it’s misses, “I Was Here” is a boring Celine Dion meets Ryan Tedder snooze with Beyonce aging herself with such a lyrical subject. “Rather Die Young” is a little too polished in 90’s R&B to seem like a reference, but instead a B-Side to an actual song. The rest of the song’s have their advantages and little flaws at times. “Party” can be dull even with Kanye and Andre for instance, but is still a smooth, chill, summer track.
Highlights include “1+1,” a genius Prince ode that will go down as one of Beyonce’s best. “I Miss You” truly has a sense of loneliness that is full of authenticity. The run of “Love On Top,” “Countdown,” and “End of Time” is brilliant, with clear nods to Michael, Whitney, a BoyzIIMen sample, and a Diplo production. So for every snoozer, there is something completely unexpected and clever. Beyonce has made the step into legend category now, she’s stopped trying to prove herself and now must rely on her vocal gifts and ability to reflect her personality and self on her records with sincerity. 4 is a step in the right direction for Beyonce to continue to release classic albums for years to come.