* 1+1 *
Beyonce expresses her endless love to Jay-Z, delivers sweeping statements about the power of their relationship and, umm, that's it. I don't think that it's a bad track, it's just a safe, well used formula. Beyonce's vocals are amazing on this though, so it is a nice album opener.
I like how the strings and Beyonce's emotive vocals combine together for a passionate delivery, but the most generous about this track I am after a month of repeated listening is to call it 'a grower'. Various reviewers have likened 1 + 1 to Halo, but this doesn't compare to Halo as far as I'm concerned.
* I Care *
This is one of my favourite tracks.
Beyonce is saying how she's in a dead-end relationship with someone and how she's trying to work on it, but her partner has clearly stopped caring for her, which is hurting her. She's saying that she still cares for him and can't walk away, despite the writing on the wall. What makes Beyonce's slower songs so powerful is that she can pack the required emotions into her voice.
I'm not too sure how to describe the music to songs; so simply put this is a slower track, with soft percussion's. It reminds me of when my parents listened to their Dina Carroll albums when I was young. Most of the album tracks use a similar, vintage soul feel to the music.
* I Miss You *
Another of my favourites.
This is simple but effective; Beyonce is admitting to missing someone, even though it means that she has to swallow her pride to let them know. Beyonce's emotive vocals carry on the heavy, somber tones nicely from the previous track.
I don't want to needlessly repeat myself, but, once again this is a slower track, with soft percussion's. Normally I think songs that sound similar shouldn't be placed next to each other, but I Care and I Miss You seem to be a continuing story and they flow nicely together.
* Best Thing I Never Had *
This is quite a simple track - although the lyrical content is strong. Beyonce tells us that she feels happy to have left someone who did not realise what a good thing he'd had until it was way too late and she had gone.
The mid-tempo pop/R&B ballad music is very radio friendly and I can hear echos of Irreplaceable and If I Were a Boy in the musical style. I think that the piano used in the intro and outro lift the song up a level.
* Party (featuring Andre 3000) *
[Samples the Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick song La Di Da Di]
Both the intro and outro to Party are performed by Kanye West, but his parts don't really add anything to the song; does anyone here know what he means by swagu? Beyonce's verses alone are OK, but nothing special. She's basically telling someone that tonight is THE night, wink wink. It's Andre's rap that gives this song it's life - it doesn't really feel like it's going anywhere, until we get to his verse.
We stick with the mid-tempo R&B music for this and, one again, the result is very radio friendly - much more so then the slower tracks [even though the slower songs have stronger lyrics]. This is bound to be on the record label's possible single list.
* Rather Die Young *
We're back to Beyonce gushing over how much Jay-z means to her. There's much to say here; she'd give up everything for him and she'd also rather die young then go on without him if he were no longer around.
The low tempo R&B screams 70's soul to me. This vintage feel does fit fantastically well with Beyonce's raw vocals, making an otherwise average song some spark and raising it up an level. It's middle of the road for me overall: it's above average, but it still doesn't stand out.
* Start Over *
This is my favourite song on the album.
Her relationship is stalling, but she's saying that whilst she's not ready to walk away, she doesn't want to settle for the way things have gone somewhat flat. She instead wants to rebuild things from the base up.
We're back to slow soul, with soft percussion's now. Almost all of my favourite tracks have the same musical influence to them - must be the childhood memories they bring to mind influencing me.
* Love On Top *
Jay-Z makes Beyonce's sunrise, the birds song... Seriously; whilst real love isn't perfect, it's more then worth it seems to be the message on this track. Nothing else to say, but that doesn't mean that isn't a good song, as it is.
This would fit perfectly with Dream Girls; I can envision a soul group having a lot of fun with it. The beat picks up and the saxophone in it adds a dollop of attitude to the mix.
* Countdown *
[Samples the Boyz II Men song Uhh Ahh]
The lyrics take little part of other album tracks. The overall message is similar to Love On Top; love is worth riding the waves so to speak. A line in the chorus includes "killing me softly", a shout-out to The Fugees or a coincidence? Beyonce is vocally more upbeat here then she is on the other album tracks.
The mid-tone R&B has strong reggae beats to it, which livens it up and makes it both cheerful and memorable. It seems quite summery, so could make for a nice single.
* End Of Time *
Another standout track.
Beyonce's vocals portray more confidence through to the vocals; she knows that she can give someone everything they could ever need, and it can be all theirs if they admit to wanting and needing it.
The music fuses hip hop and classic dancehall styles together and has a strong military march like drum beat running throughout it. It is similar to 'Single Ladies' in that it's nearly impossible to sit still when it's playing; it begs you to get up and dance. The synths in the opening seem to build up into a voice chanting "don't f**k with me", but maybe that's just my dirty ears.
* I Was Here *
This one of two tracks that doesn't lyrically fit in with the other album tracks themes of relationships and love. Beyonce is telling use that shes achieved all that she's set out out to do and she has left her mark on the world. It sounds very final to me.
Whilst this tracks is a lyrical mismatch on 4, the music ensures that it does still flow with the
album neatly - it fuses low tempo, ballady R&b with soul, which makes the song even more somber then it was already.
* Run The World (Girls) *
[Samples the Major Lazer song Pon de Floor]
A assertive female empowerment song, that travels along the same vein as Independent Women, Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), and Diva. I do like it, but the lyrical content and aggressive vocal delivery does not fit on the album, so it doesn't flow with the other tracks and sticks out of place. No wonder it's the final track on the regular edition of the album.
The music is very similar to End Of Time; again fusing hip hop and classic dancehall styles together and again using a military drum beat, which perfectly matches the aggressive vocal delivery. It is also another get-up-and-boogie track. I don't think that it was a good choice for a single, as it doesn't give a taster of the album's material.
Ever since I read that Beyonce admitted that she'd handed in 72 songs to her label in preparation for the album's release and that the label bosses call 4 a "mixed musical gumbo" I'd been expecting a sequel of sorts to the B'Day album: I'd assumed that the individual tracks would be a diverse mix of genres, seemingly random in the topics selected like her second solo album had been. Plus both of the album titles are celebrations of her birthday - I took it as a sign.
When I first heard the tracks [they leaked online a month before the album's official release] I was very disappointed; there isn't a nice variety in the musical styles at all, there are a few upbeat R&B mid tempo tracks on here, but most of the tracks are retro soulful ballads. Many fans of Beyonce love her ballads, but I was never a huge fan of them - after a while they all start to sound the same as she's been with Jay-Z for almost a decade now and whilst it is great that they've lasted and are still deeply in love, there are only so many ways which she can tell tell us that. Isn't there?
Well 4 will either convert you into a fan of her ballads with it's superior lyrical content, or it will send you to sleep. It was quite risky for someone who is known for her jelly shaking pop/dance numbers and is a love it or hate it album. To fully appreciate 4 you need to listen to the lyrics - this album's biggest strength is in the song writing, as there are no pop/dance numbers on here. I think that the lack of lighter, fun get-up-and-boogie tracks may result in lower then average sales, will be a crying shame as Beyonce's emotive vocals and ever-growing song writing skills are displayed to their best advantage on 4.
Overall: I think that the lyrical content of 4 passes the material passes the level of that on her I Am... Sasha Fierce album. But B'day still nudges ahead for me as my favourite album from her, simply because there is more variation in musical styles.
This is also a solid album for those who are fans of the soundtracks for Dream Girls, Cadillac Records and The Fighting Temptations, and/or the Destiny's Child original line-up.