4 (Beyoncé Knowles album)
Release and Promotion
(*) Denotes co-producer
(^) Denotes vocal producer
4 is the fourth studio album by American recording artist Beyoncé Knowles, first released on June 24, 2011, on Columbia Records. The album marks the first release by Knowles since separating, professionally, with father and manager, Mathew Knowles.
Preceding the album's release, lead single "Run the World (Girls)" was released for digital download worldwide on April 21, 2011. The single was rushed for release after an early demo leaked on April 18, 2011. "Best Thing I Never Had" was released on June 1, 2011, as the album's second single. Three weeks before its scheduled release, 4 leaked in full.
Upon its release, 4 received mostly positive reviews from critics, who viewed it as a progression from Knowles' previous albums and commended its mid-tempo musical style, understated production, and her vocal performance. However, some criticized its ballads and songwriting. In the United States, the album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 310,000 copies in its first week. It also became a number-one chart hit in several other countries.
|Studio album by Beyoncé|
|Released||June 24, 2011|
|Producer||Antonio Dixon, Babyface, Brent Kutzle, Beyoncé Knowles (exec.), Caleb, Jeff Bhasker, Julian Napolitano, Jens Bergmark, Kuk Harrell, Kanye West, Kaskade, Luke Steele, Los Da Mystro, Ryan Tedder, Shea Taylor, Switch, Symbolyc One, The-Dream, Tricky Stewart|
|Singles from 4|
During spring 2009, Knowles began work on her fourth album, and was writing and producing material, following the release of I Am... Sasha Fierce in 2008, which was inspired by her alter ego, Sasha Fierce. Knowles announced in February 2010 that she "killed" Fierce "because I've grown and now I'm able to merge the two [personalities]". She explained that she was using live music to create her own music genre. She later clarified the statement, "Well, I wouldn't say I'm inventing a new genre. I'm mixing every type of genre that I love and I'm inspired by every type of genre...I'm not putting myself in a box. It's not R&B, it's not typically pop, it's not rock - it's just everything I love mixed together". Knowles said that the album was inspired by several musicians, including Fela Kuti, The Stylistics, Lauryn Hill, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson.
Producers Jim Jonsin and Ne-Yo were known to have collaborated with Knowles on the album. Ne-Yo stated, "It’s coming along nicely. I can’t speak too much on it, but it’s another direction for her, and she’s carving out her own niche. In a minute nobody will be in Beyoncé’s lane. They really can’t get in her lane now, but they really can’t get in her lane after this album." Jonsin spoke of his intention to create 1980s-influenced electro music using hard drums. In January 2011 producer S1 confirmed via Twitter that he had contributed to the album. Sean Garrett mentioned his contribution, stating that he had "been working with [Knowles] extremely hard ... she's my favorite". He described the style of music that had been produced, "I think we are doing a lot of up-tempo records for this one. She’s in such a good place right now in life that she is interested in making party music". On January 24, Diplo announced that he had been recording music with Knowles, Switch and Derek Miller of Sleigh Bells. Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, The-Dream Bangladesh, Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, Frank Ocean, Kanye West, Q-Tip and Alja Jackson, are also working with Knowles on the album. Sia and Talay Riley have written songs which they pitched for the album.
In February 2011 it was made known that the project was near completion. Knowles recorded seventy-two tracks for 4, which overwhelmed Columbia Records staff who had to sort through the content and choose what was included on the album. A private listening party was held on May 11, 2011. Knowles offered a select group of fans a preview of five songs from her fourth studio album as well as the official video for the lead single "Run the World (Girls)". She seized the opportunity to speak about the conception of her album: "I wanted to do something refreshing and different. So I mixed genres and drew inspiration from touring, traveling, watching rock bands, and attending festivals… I was like a mad scientist, putting lots of different songs together." Knowles spoke more about the album in an interview with Billboard, stating "Having time to grow as a human being really inspired me and gave me a lot of things to pull from for this new album...I feel like I know who I am and don't feel like I have to put myself in a box. No one can define me. I can just have fun, and have the artistic freedom to do whatever I want."
The album's US release date was revealed the same day as the music video for "Run the World (Girls)" premiered. On May 31, 2011, OneRepublic confirmed via Twitter that they worked on the last song for the album. Diane Warren revealed in an interview with PopWrap on June 1, 2011, that she also contributed to the album. She stated, "I just wrote something a week and a half ago that Beyoncé recorded and I think it's the best thing I've ever written. She sang it amazingly. I think it's a career song and probably my favorite thing I've ever written... right now."
Most of 4 was recorded at MSR Studios, New York City; other New York City recording studios used were Jungle City Studios, Germano Studios, Roc the Mic and KMA Music. Recording also took place at Conway Recording Studios, Enormous Studios and Record Plant in Los Angeles, The Studio in Las Vegas, Patriot Studios in Denver, Boston Harbor Hotel in Boston, Conway Recording Studios in Hollywood, Triangle Sound Studios in Atlanta and Lear 60/G2 Studios. Outside of the United States, Real World Studios in Box, Metropolis Group in London, Avex Honolulu Studios, Honolulu, and a studio in a Sydney mansion built specifically for the album. Knowles' husband, Jay-Z, was working with Kanye West on Watch the Throne in the Sydney studio at the same time; it was created in the mansion's attic without a recording booth, but only a microphone and Pro Tools software platform. Knowles' vocals for 4 were recorded through an Avalon Design 737 preamp, and compressed in an 1176 Peak Limiter with a 4:1 data compression ratio.
Concept and Artwork
Nearing completion of the album, Knowles submitted 72 songs to her label in preparation for the album’s release. A source of The Sun stated that Columbia Records staff "weren't prepared for the sheer volume of material she presented to them. She's clearly been very productive. Now they have the hard job of going through all the music and deciding what will make it." Knowles stated in an interview with Billboard's Ray Rogers that the title 4 was influenced by her fans. "I had a whole other name and concept, but I keep seeing that the fans love the name '4,' and I think it would be a really nice thing to let them name the record". She also stated that the number four was "special" for her as her birthday and wedding anniversary are on the fourth day of the month. Knowles added, "My mother's birthday, and a lot of my friends' birthdays, are on the fourth."
The album's official cover was revealed on Knowles' official website on May 18, 2011, the same day the album's official release date was revealed and the album's lead single "Run the World (Girls)" music video premiered. On the album cover, Knowles is shown striking a pose as she gazes out into the distance with smokey eye makeup and has her arms raised over her head with thick gold cuffs, covered only with a fur vest accessorized in gold. Robbie Daw of Idolator stated that Knowles is in "full-on promo mode" and compared Knowles' pose to that of Raquel Welch. Jocelyn Vena of MTV News described Knowles as looking "sexy and empowered" on the cover art. The cover art for the deluxe edition was shown on June 16, 2011 and has Knowles wearing a tight-fitting blue-purple dress holding her hands in her hair.
She remained inspired by Fela Kuti and worked with the band from the Broadway musical, Fela!. When speaking about her inspiration by Kuti, Knowles stated that she appreciated his "feel for the soul and heart of his music; it's so sexy, and has a great groove you get lost in," stating that is takes a major inspiration on 4 with drums and horns and "how everything was on the one". The album was also inspired by '90s R&B, Earth, Wind & Fire, DeBarge, Lionel Richie, Teena Marie with additional influences by The Jackson 5, New Edition, Adele, Florence and the Machine, and Prince. Knowles added that with certain influences she added her character of hip-hop for a more broad sound. Knowles stated that she allowed herself more freedom to really belt out some songs, and bring soul singing back stating, "I used a lot of the brassiness and grittiness in my voice that people hear in my live performances, but not necessarily on my records."
Music writer Alexis Petridis notes a predominant 1980s-R&B influence and writes that "More often, 4 retreats into R&B's past." Jon Caramanica of The New York Times views its sound as a departure from the contemporary influence of Knowles' previous work, writing that "It has far more in common with soul albums of the late 1970s and early ’80s — the poppier side of Jennifer Holliday, say — than anything by her so-called peers; it’s a position statement in the age of Rihanna." Chicago Sun-Times writer Thomas Conner compares its "subtle and surprising" music to that of Adele's 2011 album 21, noting 4's "mostly mid-tempo treats, many of which try a little sonic experimentation thanks to a varied bunch of forward-thinking writers and producers." James Reed of The Boston Globe views its sound as "plush" and "mellower" than that of her previous albums and notes its principal theme as "the ups and downs of a serious relationship."
Pitchfork Media's Ryan Dombal views that the album's themes mostly concern monogamy and writes that the album's music "side-steps Top 40 radio's current Eurobeat fixation for a refreshingly eclectic mix of early-90s R&B, 80s lite soul, and brass'n'percussion-heavy marching music." Nitsuh Abebe of New York writes of Knowles' themes of vulnerability on the album, "the way she sings about love here—which is to say, love as a grave and weighty life choice that demands hushed music, spotlights, and occasional anguish—means singing about things that can sound more like weakness and dependency." Mikael Wood of Spin comments that "in slow-to-bloom songs that are as preoccupied by love's pleasure ('1+1,' 'Rather Die Young') as by its pain ('I Care,' 'Best Thing I Never Had')."
|Best Thing I Never Had Single Cover|
On May 11, 2011, Knowles held an album listening party in New York City where she previewed four songs for a selected group of fans. She first promoted "Run the World (Girls)" on Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular at the United Center in Chicago on May 17, 2011. The show was organized to commemorate the 25th and final season of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Knowles also performed "Run the World" live at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards on May 22, 2011, where projections of a futuristic set were shown on a screen behind her as well as acting out a fight scene, and an accompanying team of dancers. Knowles performed "1+1", the opening track of the album, live on May 25, 2011 on the American Idol finale. She introduced "1+1" as her "favorite" song, and sang it in a purple dress with red lights and smoke surrounding her. The same day, "1+1" was made available for download via the iTunes Store as a promotional single exclusively in the United States. On June 7, 2011, three weeks before its scheduled release, 4 leaked in full. Knowles' legal representatives issued warnings to infringing websites, and leaked tracks were soon removed from such sites. However, some people used Twitter to link to the music, making it harder for the label to track down the music. On June 9, 2011, Knowles took her Facebook account to respond to the leak:
My music was leaked and while this is not how I wanted to present my new songs, I appreciate the positive response from my fans. When I record music I always think about my fans singing every note and dancing to every beat. I make music to make people happy and I appreciate that everyone has been so anxious to hear my new songs.
|Beyonce Knowles performing the song "Run The World (Girls)" on Good Morning America|
|Beyonce Knowles performing the song "1+1" on Good Morning America|
Knowles appeared on Entertainment Tonight on June 16, 2011 to promote the exclusive-to-Target deluxe edition of 4, and gave fans a sneak preview of its television commercial. From June 16 to June 27, each day a new song will be available to listen to in full, paired with its accompanying photo spread from the album packaging and an insightful quote from Knowles on her official website. Knowles held a mini tour in France, beginning at the Palais Nikaia in Nice on June 20, 2011; at Zénith in Lille on June 22, 2011; and at the Galaxie in Amnéville on June 23, 2011. She also performed a 90-minute set at the 2011 Glastonbury Festival on June 26, 2011. That same day, a pre-taped performance of Knowles performing "Best Thing I Never Had" and "End of Time" at the Glastonbury Festival was broadcast at the 2011 BET Awards. An exclusive hour-long interview with Piers Morgan, broadcast on June 27, 2011 on Piers Morgan Tonight. On June 28, 2011, Knowles performed "Run the World" and "Best Thing I Never Had" at the finale of X Factor France. She also performed on Le Grand Journal the same day. A television special, Beyoncé: Year of 4, premiered on MTV and BET on June 30, 2011, documenting Knowles' practicing choreography, jetting around the world, shooting the video for "Run the World (Girls)" and in the studio working on 4. On July 1, 2011, Knowles performed "Run the World (Girls)", "1+1", "Best Thing I Never Had", "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" and "End of Time" at the GMA Summer Concert Series, held at Rumsey Playfield in New York City's Central Park. Knowles performed at the T in the Park Festival in Scotland on July 9, 2011 and the Oxegen Festival in Ireland the next day. Each copy of 4 contained a sample of Heat, Knowles' frangrance.
|1+1 Single Cover|
"Run the World (Girls)" was released as the album's lead single on April 21, 2011. After snippets of "Run the World (Girls)" were leaked on April 14, 2011, the entire song was leaked four days later; forcing the single release of "Run the World (Girls)" to be rushed. Its accompanying music video was shot over the span of three days by director Francis Lawrence, starting on April 11, 2011 and ending on April 13, 2011. The video premiered on May 18, 2011 on American Idol. "Best Thing I Never Had" was released as the album's second single. The song premiered on US radio on June 1, 2011, and was released for digital download the same day.
|Run The World (Girls) Single Cover|
4 received positive reviews from most music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 73, based on 32 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews". Slant Magazine's Eric Henderson described the album as "predominately intimate, ballad-heavy" and "dominated by mid- to no-tempo tracks, which, vocally speaking, gives her enough rope to hang either her doubters or herself". Los Angeles Times writer Randall Roberts called 4 "a surprising, confident turn, even if the surprises are of a subtler variety." James Reed of The Boston Globe called the album "low-key and effortless" and commended its production as "tasteful, sometimes even a bit tense." Nitsuh Abebe of New York complimented Knowles' "newly settled mood" and "charming" ballads, adding that "She does a wonderfully convincing job of making [vulnerability] seem like a form of bravery." Consequence of Sound writer Chris Coplan dubbed the album "pure pop excellence" and commented that "the truly dazzling aspect of the record is what it does with minimal production and simplistic lyrics." Michael Cragg of The Observer gave it four out of five stars and complimented "the laid-back feel of her most accomplished album yet." The A.V. Club's Genevieve Koski stated, "Beyoncé’s artistic maturation on 4 features some growing pains, but the album’s polish and her poise go a long way toward masking those flaws."
BBC Online's Matthew Horton praised its "powerhouse balladry" and wrote that "Beyoncé slips from flirty to fragile to fabulous, and is in terrific voice throughout." Despite panning "Run the World (Girls)" as the album's "worst song", Mikael Wood of Spin complimented its love themes and called it an "often-gorgeous collection of ballads and mid-tempo cuts rich with echoes of late-'70s/early-'80s pop-soul." Jon Caramanica of The New York Times stated, "[Knowles] has always been a torch singer in waiting, anticipating the day when she could just get down to business. On that count, “4” is impressive. [...] Beyoncé delivers heartbreak with purpose: to remind us just how overwhelming love can be." Rolling Stone writer Jody Rosen commended Knowles for "leav[ing] fashionable production styles behind" and called the album "eccentric [...] unmistakably personal and quirky." Rich Juzwiak of The Village Voice called its uptemo songs "passé in the best way possible" and stated, "Beyoncé's art is delivery, and 4 is a gorgeous frame for her voice at its absolute best." Pitchfork Media's Ryan Dombal complimented the album's "carefree retro sensibility" and stated, "the lion's share of the album—along with its excellent deluxe tracks—has one of the world's biggest stars exploring her talent in ways few could've predicted, which is always exciting." Embling of Tiny Mix Tapes called it "one of the most consistent and enjoyable mainstream pop records in years" and wrote in conclusion, "Despite some shortcomings, 4 is an unqualified success in the Hawksian sense: There are at least three great songs and no bad ones."
However, Andy Gill of The Independent called its songs "dollops of [...] tremulous, over-emoted melisma" and criticized their "half-hearted, puttering beats and woozy, wishy-washy synth washes." Hamish MacBain of NME noted "boring ballads" and stated, "there’s the unmistakable sense of someone treading water, with even the OK bits here sounding uninspired." Claire Suddath of Time criticized its lyrical substance, writing that it offers "well-executed songs performed by a talented woman who refuses to scratch anything more than the surface." Despite calling its up-tempo songs "genre-busting", Adam Markovitz of Entertainment Weekly found its first-half "lumbering [...] a sleepy recital of ballads" and stated, "Vocally, she's never sounded better — throaty and precise — but the songs here just aren't her equal." Chicago Tribune writer Greg Kot noted an "inexplicable inconsistency" and stated, "the album feels skimpy, half-finished." Alexis Petridis of The Guardian stated, "The highpoints offer hints of what it might have been: it's hard not to feel that what it might have been sounds better than what it is." Kevin Ritchie of NOW wrote that "On 4, she’s still missing a real sense of vulnerability but steps out from behind the club jams with beautifully nuanced mid-tempo production." David Amidon of PopMatters found much of its material "beneath a woman as talented as she is," but viewed the album as an improvement over I Am... Sasha Fierce and complimented its "silly ‘80s musical references" and "strong vocal turns." Allmusic editor Andy Kellman stated, "the strength of most of the material, propelled by Beyoncé’s characteristically acrobatic vocal skills, eases the trouble of sifting through the disjointed assortment," and concluded that "No one but one of the most talented and accomplished singers [...] could have made this album."
Los Angeles Times
The Village Voice
|Run The World (Girls) Video|
On its first day of sales, 4 shipped more than 10,000 copies in Poland, more than 120,000 copies in Brazil, and sold around 32,000 in the United Kingdom on its first day itself. According to The Official Charts Company data, 4's opening day sales were more than the combined sales of its three nearest challengers, being Adele's 21 (2011), Lady GaGa's Born This Way (2011), and Adele's first studio album 19 (2008) for that day. After a complete week of sales, 4 debuted atop the UK Albums Chart on July 4, 2011, with first-week sales of 89,211, In its second week of release, 4 remained atop the chart, selling 44,929 copies. For the week commencing July 4, 2011, 4 opened at number two on the Australian ARIA Albums chart, giving Knowles her highest ever chart debut on the that chart, and started at number one on its urban chart.
In the United States, 4 debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, with first-week sales of 310,000 copies. This gave Knowles her fourth consecutive solo debut at the top of the chart and makes her the second female artist and third artist overall, to have her first four studio albums debut atop the Billboard 200. However, 4's first-week sales serve as Knowles' lowest sales start with a studio album to date. In its second week, the album remained at number one on the Billboard 200, despite an 63% sales decrease, selling 115,000 copies. It hence became the first album by Knowles to top the Billboard 200 albums chart for more than one week. 4 debuted at number three on the Canadian Albums Chart selling 8,700 copies in its first week, and at number two in France selling selling 12 393 copies in its first week. According to the Japanese music charting site Oricon, the album debuted at number ten selling 18,984 copies.
|1.||"1+1"||Terius Nash, Christopher Stewart, Beyoncé Knowles||Knowles, The-Dream, Tricky Stewart||4:33|
|2.||"I Care"||Jeff Bhasker, Chad Hugo, Knowles||Bhasker, Knowles*||3:59|
|3.||"I Miss You"||Frank Ocean, Shea Taylor, Knowles||Knowles, S. Taylor||2:59|
|4.||"Best Thing I Never Had"||Kenny Edmonds, Antonio Dixon, Knowles, Patrick Smith, S. Taylor, Larry Griffin, Jr., Caleb McCampbell||Knowles, Babyface, Dixon, |
S. Taylor, S1 & Caleb
|5.||"Party" (featuring André 3000)||Kanye West, Bhasker, Knowles, André 3000, Dexter Mills, Douglas Davis, Ricky Walters||Knowles, West, Bhasker*||4:05|
|6.||"Rather Die Young"||Bhasker, Luke Steele, Knowles||Bhasker, Knowles*, Steele*||3:42|
|7.||"Start Over"||S. Taylor, Knowles, Ester Dean||Knowles, S. Taylor||3:19|
|8.||"Love on Top"||Knowles, Nash, S. Taylor||Knowles, S. Taylor||4:27|
|9.||"Countdown"||Nash, S. Taylor, Knowles, Dean, Cainon Lamb, Julie Frost, Michael Bivins, Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris||Knowles, S. Taylor, Lamb||3:32|
|10.||"End of Time"||Knowles, Nash, S. Taylor, David Taylor||Knowles, The-Dream, Switch, Diplo||3:43|
|11.||"I Was Here"||Diane Warren||Ryan Tedder, Brent Kutzle, Knowles^, Kuk Harrell^||3:59|
|12.||"Run the World (Girls)"||Nash, Knowles, Wesley Pentz, D. Taylor, Adidja Palmer, Nick van de Wall||Switch, The-Dream, Knowles*, |
|Deluxe edition bonus disc|
|1.||"Lay Up Under Me"||Knowles, Sean Garrett, Mikkel Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen, S. Taylor||Knowles, S. Taylor||4:13|
|2.||"Schoolin' Life"||Knowles, Nash, S. Taylor, Carlos McKinney||The-Dream, Knowles*, Los Da Mystro*||4:53|
|3.||"Dance for You"||Knowles, Nash, Stewart||Knowles, The-Dream||6:17|
|4.||"Run the World (Girls)" (Kaskade Club Remix)||Nash, Knowles, Pentz, D. Taylor, Palmer, Afrojack||Switch, The-Dream, Knowles*, S. Taylor*, Kaskade||5:02|
|5.||"Run the World (Girls)" (Red Top Club Remix)||Nash, Knowles, Pentz, D. Taylor, Palmer, Afrojack||Switch, The-Dream, Knowles*, S. Taylor*, Jens Bergmark||6:02|
|6.||"Run the World (Girls)" (Jochen Simms Club Remix)||Nash, Knowles, Pentz, D. Taylor, Palmer, Afrojack||Switch, The-Dream, Knowles*, S. Taylor*, Julian Napolitano||6:19|
(^) Denotes vocal producer
- The deluxe edition contains an exclusive version of the music video for "Run the World (Girls)".
- Sample credits
- "Party" samples "La Di Da Di" as performed by Doug E. Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew featuring MC Ricky D., and written by Douglas Davis and Ricky Walters.
- "Countdown" samples "Uhh Ahh" as performed by Boyz II Men, and written by Michael Bivins, Nathan Morris and Wanya Morris.
- "Run the World (Girls)" samples "Pon de Floor" as performed by Major Lazer, and written by Afrojack, Adidja Palmer, Wesley Pentz and David Taylor.