Beyonce’s hotly anticipated new album 4 drops tomorrow, and word is that Bey has done it again. Well, kind of.
While some critics have mixed feelings about the number of ballads featured on 4, most of the reviews have skewed positive, with some outright raves sprinkled in for good measure. The Atlantic sums up 4 the best, saying, “The course of 4 documents a progression, a maturation, of Beyoncé’s worldview” – apparently so much so that New York magazine posits an alternate title: I Am Sasha Happily Married and Thinking Seriously About the Joys and Tribulations of Making Long-Term Commitments in Life.
Indeed, almost every reviewer has noted that the album deals heavily with themes like commitment and the gravity of what it really means to settle down, suggesting Beyonce, now 29 and happily married to hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, is less interested in pushing broad generalizations about self-worth and its relation to independence and is now ready to examine the strength derived from being part of a team while not losing yourself in the process.
For the record, we love the album. The lyrics to some songs occasionally border on simple and she’s not breaking ground here, but you don’t get the impression that she’s really trying to either. This is top-notch R&B comfort food from the master of the game. The lack of theatrics on 4 is refreshing and the pared-down lyrics are more relatable than if she’d chosen to sing about how awesome she is (the way many singers and rappers do). You’d think it would be difficult to find common ground with Beyonce, but she’s uniquely able to connect with universally human things like love, loss, hope and her desire to leave a lasting impression. And when she does turn the tempo up, with the “Get Me Bodied”-like jam “Countdown” and “Party,” respectively, she brings a smooth groove absent from the current top 40, which has recently favored erratic Euro beats and dubstep breakdowns.
Check out a sampling of reviews below.
There’s nothing dull or tame about this newly settled mood; there are actually a great number of things to love about it. … It’s hard not to connect these songs with a habit people have: imagining picturesque adult love soundtracked by the music they heard when they were young and their parents, perhaps, seemed happy. … She makes you experience emotions in about the same way a surgeon makes you not have an appendix anymore, and backed with similarly cutting-edge technology.
NME (4 out of 10):
She’d done enough with Destiny’s Child, or with the first 30 seconds of ‘Crazy In Love’, to guarantee her entry into the annals of greatness. But there ain’t too much here that’s going to add to her legacy. Rather, there’s the unmistakable sense of someone treading water, with even the OK bits here sounding uninspired.
Slant (3 1/2 out of 5 stars):
The predominately intimate, ballad-heavy 4 sees her fertile and ready; I wouldn’t be surprised if, someday down the line, she described this set as the one closest to her heart. … From the opening lines of the crushing “1+1,” Beyoncé’s voice is ripe and, well, full-bodied, and the glow continues through until the climax of the album’s first single, the shocking underperformer “Run the World (Girls).”
Entertainment Weekly (B):
Unsurprisingly, Beyoncé is at her best when she sounds like no one but herself. She takes her trusty freakum dress out of mothballs for the marching-band funk of ”Countdown,” which includes such joy-inducing non-lyrics as ”Me and my boof, and my boof boof riding.” On ”Run the World (Girls),” the first single off the disc, she turns cheesy postfeminism into a martial foot-stomper that crackles like a burst of pirate-radio agitpop.