The experimentation doesn't stop there. Beyoncé's greatest risk is recording an album primarily full of R&B songs. After hearing the album in full, the release of "Run The World" is even more puzzling, since it's nowhere near representative of the album. Beyoncé plays with different sounds, but it all links back to a decidedly urban, drum-based sound. There's the fun and flirty "Countdown," a cousin of "Get Me Bodied" with horn-driven verses and a dancehall-lite chorus. "Love on Top," one of the album's highlights, offers up a brilliant refresh of the classic Motown sound. She even looks to herself for "Party," which sounds like it could have been on 2003's Dangerously In Love. "End of Time" has marching band influences, but it is also pretty danceable. Beyoncé's choice to do a true- blue R&B record is definitely a nice surprise, and comforting amidst the club direction other R&B stars are taking.
Even the ballads aren't what we are used to, carrying a slightly darker tone. Album opener "1+1" can only be described as a tour de force. "I Was Here" is definitely new lyrical territory for Beyoncé, a Diane Warren-penned ballad that contemplates a person's legacy. I do think that Warren over-exaggerated about it being a "career song" like Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On", but it is a poignant standout. "I Miss You" is both haunting and gorgeous, with an ominous vocal and very sparse production surrounding the beats of the 808 drum.
There have been quite a few mistakes made with the release of this album, the latest being a week three weeks in advance. What 4 shows is that Beyoncé isn't afraid to make mistakes, and actually embraces them. The result of her adventurous nature is a great album of interesting and new (for her) material. Yet, with all of this experimentation and risk taking, 4 is clearly a Beyoncé album, which might be the best risk of them all.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Brandon's Favorites: "Love On Top," "Countdown," "Best Thing I Never Had"