Beyoncé Knowles has reached such a high level of superstar status that she's virtually untouchable.
Being that popular and powerful has its pros and cons. For one, it allows for greater artistic and creative freedom. Beyoncé has proven tenfold that she can produce amazing work that's successful critically and commercially, so she can afford to take more risks.
On the other hand, there is a lot of expectation for otherworldly greatness, especially from an artist of Beyoncé's caliber. The near-catastrophic performance of "Run This World (Girls)" is a prime example of when these expectations run rampant. People were expecting either a touching ballad or a fierce club bumper.
Instead, she switched things up and delivered Major Lazer's "Pon De Floor" with new girl power lyrics. The reaction was lukewarm, at the very best.
But Beyoncé was just beginning with "Run The World". Her newest album 4 is the full realization of her risk-taking ventures, possibly spurred or influenced by her dumping her father as her manager. 4 has Beyoncé pushing the limits of her vocal abilities and musical tastes, trying out new sounds and harkening back to old styles to create, surprisingly, an incredibly cohesive pure R&B album. It stands as one of the year's best, hands down.
The album opens up with "1+1", which features one of Beyoncé's most affecting and fearless vocal performances ever. The whole album has Beyoncé stretching those golden chords of hers to squeeze out every ounce of emotion the songs have to offer and lay them out for consumption. Even the album's most radio-friendly track, "Best Thing I Never Had," has Beyoncé nearly screaming her frustration at a disappointing lover. On "I Care," she pulls out the power in her lower register, which is very effective with the song's relatively short, punchy phrasing. Conversely, "Love On Top" has her slowly climbing keys until the song's amazing climax. Everyone knows that Beyoncé is one of the best singers of her generation, but she has never been more exciting than she is on 4.