After months of anticipation, Beyoncé’s 4 finally found its way to the internet last night, and we’ve had a blast sharing our thoughts on it with you guys via our track-by-track reviews. But now that we’ve made it through all 12 tracks, we figure we’ll save your fingers a couple clicks by compiling all of our analyses in one handy, convenient location—with the additional draw of ranking them in order of Popdust Approval, from 12 (lowest) to 1 (highest), because no big-scale review is ever complete without a countdown of some sort. Thanks for reading, and feel free to share your opinion on our rankings (or to provide a ranking of your own) in the comment’s section.
No. 12: “Start Over”
Sounds Like: One of Ryan Tedder’s diva ballads, a mid-tempo, over-dramatic chugger about relationship strife, like Jordin Sparks’ “Battlefield” or Kelly Clarkson’s “Already Gone.” Lots of piano, loud, echoing drums, and Beyoncé wailing on the chorus.
Pros: The intro is kinda cool and skeletal, just some atmospheric synth and insistent drum tapping. And throughout the song, the swaths of reverb that occasionally pierce through the thick production are a nice, appropriately yearning touch.
Cons: The song’s a bore, nothing we haven’t heard from Beyoncé or on pop radio before, with subject matter heard elsewhere and far more interestingly on the album already. The lyrics are clichéd bordering on ridiculous, lines like “Maybe we reached a mountain peak / And there’s no more left to climb / And maybe we lost a magic piece / And we’re both too blind to find” coming off like a cautionary tale about poor use of figurative language in creative writing. Beyoncé tries her best to imbue them with legitimate emotion, especially on the chorus, but it’s just not happening this time around.
Lyric as Personal Mantra: “Maybe you like it / Well I don’t / Maybe you settle / Well I won’t.”
No. 11: “I Was Here”
Sounds Like: Another Ryan Tedder ballad, this time at least slightly-less-than-mid-tempo, but with the same reliance on piano, big drums and bigger vocals as “Start Over.” Really, it sounds like a song that could be used as a first-single song for an American Idol winner, which isn’t nearly as much of a compliment as it probably sounds.
Pros: One thing you’ve got to say for this album—no shortage of cool intros. This one has quivering, air-conditioner-like reverb and and plaintively plucked guitar setting an appropriately somber mood, though unfortunately it only lasts for about 15 seconds before Beyoncé and the song’s beat kick in. Also, the combination of xylophone and piano that recurs as a hook throughout is nice.
Cons: Why so morbid, Beyoncé? We’re not sure what exactly has the Queen B feeling her mortality so—turning 30 isn’t easy for anyone, we suppose—but it’s responsible for a couple of the draggiest songs on 4, and “I Was Here” is pretty goddamn heavy-handed. There’s more octave-up harmonizing like on “I Miss You,” but this time around, we’re not particularly interested in what either Beyoncé has to wail about. “Leave something to remember / I was here / I lived, I loved.” What, you mean like 11 million albums sold and five #1 singles in your solo career alone? Yeah, we think you should be good on that one, B.
Lyric as Personal Mantra: “The hearts that I touch / Will be the proof that I have / That I made a difference.”
No. 10: “Rather Die Young”
Sounds Like: Another midtempo jam from Beyonce, in which she rhapsodizes not simply about dying for her lover but doing so pretty early in life. Also, Yvonne Elliman.
Pros: Beyonce’s voice is strong as always, but that’s to be expected; what’s less expected is how the melody winds itself around corners and into nooks, both familiar (the verses echo “If I Can’t Have You” fairly exactly and likely purposefully) and new. The fluttery synth-and-guitar outro is particularly gorgeous.
Cons: The message is rather self-negating for Beyonce, isn’t it? Dying young is glamorized by bumper stickers and romanticized by The Band Perry, but in reality it’s just sad and not the best way to approach a relationship. It’s also the only really memorable thing about the song. We realize that we’ve lived with “Rather Die Young” for less than 24 hours, but we nevertheless suspect “Rather Die Young” will turn out to be one of those songs that’s gorgeous in isolation but indistinguishable in a crowd.
Lyric as Personal Mantra: “I’d rather not live at all than live my life without you.” It’s a mantra, at least.
No. 9: “1+1″
Sounds Like: B employs Whitney Houston’s sky high-for-emphasis “oohs” circa “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” The track is more of a rock ballad than R&B, thanks to a commanding piano and guitar-driven melody.
Pros: While we’re used to the frustrations of a recently scorned woman followed by proclamations of her own independence, on “1+1″ Beyoncé in blinded by feelings of love, completely intertwined with her male subject. Her repeated pleading for him to “make love to [her],” is the most vulnerable we’ve ever heard Sasha Fierce, moreso than even the saddest of her breakup songs and she uses gritty vocals to emphasize she is not complete without the one she loves. The slow building guitar can be heard more clearly on the album version than during her Idol finale performance, applying a steady progression than stabilizes her jumping vocals.
Cons: Failure to really take off. Plus, the lame mathematical equation as a metaphor for love, the use of “algebra“—which we can’t hear without thinking of 2Ge+her—and the title.
Lyric As Personal Mantra: “Make love to me. So that when the worlds at war, that our love heal us all.”
For songs number eight through five, click NEXT.