ALBUM THROWBACK: BEYONCE | 4 (DELUXE EDITION - 2CD) (2011)
In 2011, Beyoncé was coming off her biggest album yet, "I Am… Sasha Fierce." That album housed hits like “Single Ladies” and “Halo” and gifted Beyoncé her most Grammys for a single album and her biggest tour at that point. Then came her next album, which she opted to return to her R&B roots with her fourth studio album, "4," released on June 24, 2011. The album arrived at a transitional period in the superstar's solo career, a career that's since come to be clearly delineated by two defining eras. There's the incredibly commercial, Top 40-friendly period that centers "Dangerously in Love," "B'Day," and "I Am...Sasha Fierce"—her first three albums. And then there was "4."
The album’s lead single, “Run the World (Girls),” is the closest thing you’ll find to an EDM track on 4. Built around a sample of Major Lazer’s “Pon de Floor,” the modern-day feminist anthem peaked at #26 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song features Beyoncé’s signature sing-rapping on the verses and her knack for beautiful harmonies on the bridge. “Run The World” World” marked clear growth from "B’Day‘s" “Freakum Dress” and set the stage for “Flawless” and “Formation.” Aside from “Run the World,” "4" explored the different subgenres of R&B with deceptive effortlessness. Rock and R&B have a close musical chemistry thanks to gospel music, and Beyoncé flexes the relationship between the two genres on “I Care” and “1+1.” Both built around guitars, Beyoncé shows off her matured voice and expansive vocal range on the two songs. On “1+1,” she exercises excellent vocal control on what could have been an easily sappy ballad.
Contemporary R&B is represented by the album’s biggest single, “Best Thing I Never Had,” a pop-influenced ballad, and “Start Over,” another rousing ballad. In addition, there’s the sultry “Dance for You” on "4‘s" deluxe edition, a tribute to R&B’s freaky side. Some of my favourite tracks on the album draw their influence from doo-wop music: “Rather Die Young” and “Love On Top.” The whimsical “Rather Die Young” is especially interesting as Beyoncé portrays the reckless love described in the lyrics through her growling vocal performance. The famed “Love On Top” houses an incredible four key changes and recalls doo-wop’s influence on male R&B groups like Boyz II Men and New Edition. On “Countdown,” Beyoncé recalls the ’90s R&B with the sample but flips the song on its head and brings it closer to hip hop-influenced R&B. The post-chorus, where Beyoncé raps in an expressive almost disconnected manner. The post-chorus, where Beyoncé raps in an expressive almost-staccato manner, is an amusing bit. ’90s R&B is also referenced in “Party,” a collaboration with André 3000.
Although "4" is Beyoncé’s most acclaimed albums, it is also her least-selling and least-successful solo album ever. Despite debuting at #1 and selling over three million copies worldwide. In recent years, fans and critics had begun to recognize how important "4" was for Beyoncé’s career and the entire genre of R&B. When Beyoncé said she was hoping to create songs that were classics, songs that could "last," what she was really saying was she was hoping to craft a body of work that was timeless. And by the very nature of "4" standing outside of even her own career's timeline.