In an effort to expand my horizons here on the site, I thought I might try to include some reviews of albums that most indie-skewing blogs wouldn’t touch. I’ve never listened to a full Beyonce album until this latest release, but I have heard all of her singles-each about a hundred million times due to the every-hour-on-the-hour radio play she’s received over the years.
Here’s one thing I like about Beyonce: She has an overall message of empowerment for girls/women that I think most female singers (at least the popular ones) did away with long ago. So kudos to her for staying true to her beliefs and not changing the kinds of songs she sings to remain popular.
Besides, she doesn’t need to follow trends, she MAKES them. If this new record becomes a trendsetter in the music world, the next fad is going to be “super popular artists putting out really shitty albums.”
Now, I’m no expert in this arena. Most of the music I listen to is rock-based. I do love music by Justin Timberlake and Drake. As far as female R&B goes, I like Alicia Keys a bit. I dig Lauryn Hill more. Most of the remaining artists all sound very similar to me. I do listen to a lot of hip-hop, especially now, because I want to be informed when I say something is awful (an example would be the new Eminem and Royce da 5’9 record, Bad Meets Evil: Hell the Sequel, which is really a turd). Take my opinion with a grain of salt on 4, because when it comes to Beyonce, it doesn’t matter what critics say, this record is gonna sell a couple million copies regardless.
When I put on the first track, “1+1,” I was surprised to find that I kinda liked it. It was sparse in production and Beyonce’s voice was sounding quite strong. About two minutes in, I realized why I was enjoying it so much…It’s a complete ripoff of a song Whitney Houston did twenty five years ago.
Throughout the record I was surprised by just how many 80’s references there were. From synth-heavy intros to songs to Beyonce’s vocal styling, 4 owes a lot to the decade of Gibson and Tiffany.
From the second song on, the album gets worse and worse. The song “Countdown” features a sample of “Uhh Ahh” by Boyz II Men singing/counting down from 10 for some reason (Between this and the recent appearance on Tosh.0, I smell a comeback!). Doesn’t make much sense as Beyonce and the rest of the track pause for each number, and the B2M sample doesn’t mesh with the style of the song. I get what they’re going for with the track, but the producer was either lazy or just didn’t care. I’m guessing this one won’t be a single (but it probably will because every song that she sings becomes a single eventually).
That song comes toward the end of the record, and everything in between was pretty bad. But nothing compares to the trash heap “I Was Here” written by Diane Warren. Remember, Diane Warren is a songwriter of the highest regard in the pop world. In one year alone she wrote the following hits: “For You I Will,” “Un-Break My Heart,” “Because You Loved Me,” and “How Do I Live.” For you youngsters out there who weren’t listening to mainstream radio in 1998, those songs were as ubiquitous as Justin Bieber.
Warren knows the ins and outs of pop music so well that writing a hit should take her no more effort than going to the fridge for a glass of milk. But, for whatever reason, “I Was Here” is a complete failure. Some of it I blame on the way Beyonce sings the song, which sounds a bit off and probably not the way the song was written. Mostly, though, I blame it on Warren thinking, “Oh sure. I can write a great song for Beyonce!” Not the case, Diane.
The song being terrible wouldn’t bother me so much if Warren would quit saying it’s the best song she’s ever written. This from the person who wrote “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” for the film Mannequin starring Andrew McCarthy?
And then we’ve got Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds appearing as the writer of the song “Best I Never Had.” I swear to whatever it is that you folks believe in, I thought it was the Glee cast. I’ve never heard such an obvious ploy to get some airplay out of a half-assed song. Now, around Chicago I’m sure 107.5 WGCI (We play the hits!) is gonna play the shit out of this song. I implore you all to NOT call in to your local station and request this song. Don’t let “Babyface” become relevant again! He already has a section of an Indiana highway named after him. What’s next? A regional airport?
Anyway, the lead single, “Run The World (Girls)” finishes out the record, and I have to say, it’s one of the worst singles of all-time. Another highly-regarded name, Diplo, produced this song with Shea Taylor. Someone needs to tell them it’s Beyonce and not M.I.A. I seriously thought she was covering “XR2” off of Kala for a second. Again, it’s a good message for young ladies, but musically it sucks.
There is one bright spot on the record, and that comes in the form of Andre 3000 on the song “Party.” It’s brief, but it’s there. What it makes me feel more than anything is this unbridled enthusiasm for the new OutKast album they keep promising us. His flow on the song is a bit more halted than usual, probably because he’s trying to match it up to the song. That’s too bad, because it could have elevated the song to a higher level. Instead it proves the point that you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.
Also, Frank Ocean of the Odd Future group wrote the song “Rather Die Young.” It isn’t very good, but I had to smile when I heard that he was working with Beyonce. I’d love to hear her do a remix of Tyler, The Creator’s “Radicals.”
All in all, I was pretty much right where I thought I’d be by albums end. “It’s not good” is the way I feel about most R&B/pop artists, and Beyonce did nothing to change my mind. You’re going to buy this record, though, because it’s Beyonce and it’s the law in most states. So enjoy your time with this terrible record. Shortly another will come along, and we can all forget this travesty.