After taking a year away from the stage, Beyonce has returned to the music scene with her 4th studio album, aptly entitled ‘4’. However, this LP wasn’t made for the simple enjoyment of her fans; it was crafted to silence her critics.
The diva steps away from the dance floor and into the songbooks of her favourite artists, adding depth to her often shallow sound. Indeed, for the first time since her debut album, ‘Dangerously In Love’, Beyonce has made a classic record instead of a collection of radio friendly hits.
Utilising the passion of her brassy voice and impressive range, Beyonce reintroduces herself as one of the leading vocalists of her time. From the gritty, Prince-inspired ‘1+1’ to the haunting ‘I Miss You’, she switches from roaring belts to breathy falsettos, replacing the synths of her previous hits with live instrumentation and the various colours of her voice.
This is best demonstrated on the ballad ‘I Care’ where the raw power of Beyonce’s vocals is near frightening. It is on this song that listeners get to hear the full extent of her vocal range as she climbs from the growling lows to perfectly controlled high notes that mimic the sounds of a young Deniece Williams.
Other standout tracks on ‘4’ include the Diane Warren-penned ‘I Was Here’, likely future single ‘Start Over’ and the only song on the album that includes a guest performer, ‘Party (Ft. Andre 3000)’. Nonetheless, none of these tracks can compete with exhilarating ‘Love On Top’.
Combining the youthful sound of the Jackson 5 and the vocal gymnastics of Mariah Carey, Beyonce takes her voice to a place where few can follow without missing a beat on the instant classic. This is where she finally drops her guard and allows us to experience the unbridled joy of her mysterious relationship with husband Jay-Z.
Still, every album has weak points. Shockingly, however, Beyonce stumbles in the area where she usually shines – the uptempos.
The horrendous first single, ‘Run The World’, which was a poor representation of the album’s direction, and the noisy ‘Countdown’ are clear attempts by the singer to appease her younger fans who have grown accustomed to her nonsensical tunes geared toward future endorsement deals. These tracks only function as disruptions from the general flow of the LP.
On the other hand, the drum-heavy ‘End of Time’ proves to be a winner, regardless of the redundant lyrics that make it sound like a misplaced interlude. When Beyonce stated that she was inspired by the sounds of Fela Kuti for this album she was clearly referring to this song.
In the end, Beyonce achieved her goal of creating material that she could sing many years into her career. By returning to her R&B roots and distancing herself from her peers who continue to battle for the affections of the Dance/Pop audience, she has finally done the one thing that her critics have been asking of her – she matured.
Standout tracks: ‘Love On Top’ and ‘I Care’
Weakest track: ‘Run The World (Girls)’
Possible singles: ‘Party (Ft. Andre 3000)’, ‘Countdown’ and ‘Start Over’
The Lava Lizard Rating: 4/5 Stars