Beyonce : 4

January 12, 2012

Once leading singles were put out by acts to whet the public appetite for their forthcoming opus. Nowadays chart divas use them to lower expectations so that what eventually appears will seem better than it actually is. Just like Gaga, Christina and Britney pre-empted their albums with stinkers, Beyoncé Knowles returns from the wilderness with (Who Rules the World) Girls, a dulling of Major Lazers Pon De Floor with a tired Girl Power message added on.

The experimentation hinted at by the talent assembled (Diplo, Switch, Sleigh Bells) never emerges and there are far too many tracks here that she throttles with her impressive but unnecessary vocal hysteria.

The key to 4’s charm is it’s throwbacks to late 80s early 90s hip hop. Prince is an influence, album opener and near highlight 1+1 is a delightful rip off of the purple pervert’s The Beautiful One’s, and bonus track Schoolin Life highlights her skill at aping artists who have carved out an individual niche.

But that is what is missing here. Beyonce’s vocals have soul and her beats have lineage. But they are collectively a dilution, serving as a gateway to superior artists but providing nothing she can claim as her own.


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