With over a year in the making and fans going stir crazy awaiting the much anticipated arrival of a new album, international Pop and R&B icon Beyoncé Knowles is finally ready to celebrate the official release of her fourth solo album, 4. While the album may have made its unofficial presence on the internet a month in advance, we can officially declare it as one of Queen Bey’s finest.
Aptly titled for the special number in her life (she, her mother, and famous husband Jay-Z were all born on the 4th, not to mention her wedding date is April 4th), 4 showcases Beyoncé’s growth and evolution as an artist both musically and lyrically as she takes on an all-new sound and depth to her work. While many of her pop star peers readily serve up instant chart hits in the youthful themes called upon in catchy, dance tracks catering to pop radio of today, Beyoncé dares to do what many of her peers have yet: allow her music to grow up with her.
4 finds an unabashedly vulnerable, yet confident, Beyoncé moving to new heights with musical experimentation in themes of womanhood, maturity, and deep, passionate, adult love. Instrumentally tying in a bridge of classic 80s sounds and modern, international beats, Beyoncé has created an album full of timeless love songs. Admittedly, 4 is something new for her, but especially for her fans who’ve come to love the “Bootylicious” singing diva for her empowering, radio-ready girl anthems. While it may be a new and daring step for both Bey and her fans, here’s four tracks to check out to assure you the journey is definitely worth the ride:
1. Party: With a line like “You a bad girl and your friends bad too, ooh. You got the swag sauce, you dripping swagu”, it’s hard not to fall in line with the swaggerific stylings of “Party” featuring Kanye West and Andre 3000. The mere presence of West’s book-ending verses packs so much punch before Queen B and 3 Stacks deliver groove-heavy blows with the 90s throwback jam in full effect. With Beyoncé’s powerful harmonies, the party-jam influence from the sample of Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick’s 80s hit, “La Di Da Di”, and a rare pop-up from one of hip-hop’s finest, “Party” is a must-listen, old school groove fest destined to be on repeat.
2. Rather Die Young: “Boy you’ll be the death of me. You’re my James Dean, you make me feel like I’m seventeen,” Beyoncé eerily shares in the opening of the sultry ballad. Flipping between the indications of a soft, eloquent love-letter and a powerful, notwithstanding declaration of love, “Rather Die Young” showcases the superstar’s evolution and growth–lyrically and musically–as she lays it all on the line for love. “I’m giving you my life, it’s in your hands,” Bey declares before ultimately concluding she’d “rather give up everything than to live my life without you.” The song and its statement, classic and strong as they are, are heightened by the sensational power vocals nobody but Bey can deliver.
3. Start Over: Beyoncé finds herself digging deep into an emotional reservoir, singing about giving love new life versus wallowing in its demise. “I can see that we’re not happy here. So why would we keep pretending like there’s nothing there,” she pleads as a woman defiantly determined to save her relationship. The effort with which she commits to this heartfelt, vocally demanding performance, Beyoncé, as always, proves she’s more than up to the challenge. Taking a proactive approach in asserting she’s not out of fight FOR her relationship instead of within it, she sings over the African drum-laced beat, “We can’t let our good love die. Maybe we can start all over, give love another life.”
4. Countdown: While 4 brings the woman Beyoncé has become to the forefront with deep, provocative and mature ballads, fans can delight in the fact that the Bey they know and love isn’t all gone, just grown up. The calypso-influenced track, which samples Boyz II Men’s “Uhh Ahh”, is a reminder of why Queen Bey is the go-to chick for club bangin’, chart-topping female anthems. With declarations of love as the central theme of 4, Bey holds no bars on “Countdown” as she dedicates the track to the Roc Nation head of her household, Jay-Z, all while biggin’ up the ladies of the world to “Say it real loud if you fly: If you leave me you outta your mind.” Love has its ups and downs over time, but after all this time, Bey still “love the way he talk, still love the way I sang, still the love the way he rockin’ black diamonds in them chains,” and after ten years of gossip and speculation guess what: “Ain’t a damn thing changed.” Where “Single Ladies” was THE anthem for ladies of the “Independent Women” variety, “Countdown” is THAT anthem for ladies that love their men and have no qualms making it loud and clear as Bey proclaims, “Me and my boo in my boo coupe ridin’, all up in that black with his chick right beside him. Ladies if you love your man, show him you’re the flyest, grind it for him girl, show him how you ride it.” Ten years and counting, she’s here to remind the world not only is he “still the one”, but so is she.