Reviews: Beyonce - 4

Published at exclaim.ca

By Anupa Mistry

Though she’s been churning out hits for over a decade, there’s an inherent, cynical tendency to treat Beyoncé as a childlike cog in the pop machine, as if her main responsibility (to us) is charting. But like idol Michael Jackson, Beyoncé was groomed from a young age for stardom and has, for some time, been a married woman in an intensely private relationship. So what 4 represents, in both its titled simplicity and relative calm, is an honest, happy moment of arrival in Bey’s life. Aside from Major Lazer-sampling single “Run The World (Girls),” 4 is largely unconcerned with chasing commercial trends involving bass music’s electro and dubstep runoff. Dealing with themes of love and monogamy, and taking major cues from the balladry and new wave ticks of ’80s R&B, 4 is mostly game changing in the way it caters to grown-ass women instead of fickle teenagers. Beyoncé begins with sparse love note “1+1,” which blends soulful Sam Cooke references with Prince-ly piano rock and guitar riffs. “I Miss You” belies songwriter Frank Ocean’s hazy vibe and conversational phrasing. Kanye West and Andre 3000 show up on the harmony-heavy ’90s dip of “Party” (with horns reminiscent of OutKast’s “SpottieOttieDopaliscious”). And the cheery, warm funk of “Love On Top” recalls Stevie Wonder. If not for pinch-hitter ballad “I Was Here,” 4 would’ve closed strong with marching band-themed, brass-heavy power jams: from the plinking, Boyz II Men swiping “Countdown” to the Miami Sound Machine-meets-dancehall-ish “End of Time,” right through to “Run The World.”
(Columbia)