What’d I Say: Beyoncé Needs To Admit The Obvious, ‘4’ Isn’t That Great

Posted August 5, 2011 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

The powerhouse diva is in a battle with her ego and with the truth. And it looks like the truth has the upper hand.

Hall & Oates adamantly expressed deep hatred for Beauty on a Back Street, Elton John admitted to disliking much of the content he’s released in the Eighties. Eminem dissed Encore publicly, even putting a bash in his own music (see “Not Afraid”). Lupe Fiasco just recently trashed Lasers, so has The Strokes in bashing their most recent effort Angles. “I won’t do the next album we make like this. No way. It was awful,” guitarist Nick Valensi complained to Pitchfork. Lead singer Julian Casablancas also mumbled about it. “There’s a bunch of stuff [on the record] I wouldn’t have done,” he adds.

So why hasn’t Beyoncé Knowles come out of denial and admitted publicly that 4, her fourth studio album, isn’t really the album she would have hoped for? Sure, everyone has a right to their own opinion and lately Team B has been loud and proud over every one of her accomplishments. But fans clubs have a hard time hearing great music due to the highly-amebic glitz of pop life and celebrity clouding up their vision.

Lately the media has been in concert with Bee’s marketing ploy to avoid what is quite obvious. Despite the album topping the Billboard 200 for two weeks in a row, Beyoncé doesn’t have a hit single at all off of the album. Even with big performances at the Billboard Music Awards, Good Morning America and on Oprah’s highly-viewed farewell episode, the woman-empowerment anthem “Run the World (Girls)” has only scratch the charts at No. 29 pop and stalling at No. 30 R&B. It also runs on fumes when it comes to creativity. The music video practically stole the blueprint from Lady Gaga’s “Telephone,” the song samples Major Laser’s “Pon da Floor” notoriously. Her girl-on-girl love syndrome isn’t showing any signs of stopping either, as she continues indulging in her fascination with Barbie power. After “Independent Women” and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It”), she’s on a warpath of getting girls’ self-esteem from out of the dirt and on the dance floor. Sadly, “Run the World (Girls)” fails to generate any remote comparison of mainstream impact as “Single Ladies.” The melody gets lost in the shuffle of impossibly tricked-out harmonies, the verses are so hard to hear from the penetrating studio traffic and the irritating chorus leaves only girls and gays excited for the next drag show.

Beyoncé has shifted to the truckload of ballads on the album, in hopes to bounce back from a potential career meltdown. Her next move: “Best I Never Had – a song that ironically sounds inside and out like the leftovers of “Irreplaceable.” Although UK fans are on one accord over the song’s fanfare (becoming Knowles’ sixteenth Top 10 hit in the UK), the song has had a hard time climbing the charts in the U.S.(#16 pop, #14 r&b). She’s also using the buzz of YouTube power to help fuel added attention to her music videos. A smart move, since the music videos of “Run the World (Girls)” and “Best I Never Had” give the songs some welcoming praises.

But for an album that was leaked weeks ahead from release date and met with disapproval from some of her fans and on the message boards, she may have gone back to the drawing board to address some of the criticisms before releasing it.

In today’s music world, big singles usually grant artists’ heavy debuts and big album sales’ numbers. After Beyoncé’s 4 dropped and the first week’s tally was reported, the writing was on the wall about the album’s condition. It managed to take the No. 1 spot, selling 310,000 copies on week one and becoming B’s fourth studio album to debut at the top. Unfortunately, it was also the lowest debut of Knowles’ career. On the second week, the album managed to hold on tightly to the No. 1 spot, but only sold 115,000 copies and suffering a 63 percent sales decrease. For an album that’s being endorsed heavily by her closest fans and by critics too afraid to swing a punch at the mighty ‘Sasha Fierce’ machine, for an artist that knows a thing or two about generating No. 1 pop hits (“Irreplaceable,” “Check On It,” “Crazy In Love,” “Baby Boy,” Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It”) along with the No. 1’s from her Destiny’s Child tenure), it is pretty hard to watch artists like Adele’s 21 taking back their former reign at No. 1.

Numbers don’t lie.

And this just in: Kelly Rowland’s latest album Here I Am makes its debut at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and outperforms the tallied week sales of Beyonce’s 4 (77,000 against 4’s 41,000) because of the success of her No. 1 R&B hit single “Motivation.” Although bloggers have been fueling the fires between the two Destiny’s Child divas, Bey’s fans are trying their best to ignore Rowland’s popularity by quelling her momentum. But that seems to be a little ineffective since Rowland’s performance at this year’s BET Music Awards clearly stole the thunder from Beyoncé’s pre-taped Gastonbury performance. Now “Motivation” holds its place at No.1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts, which has spent seven weeks parked at the hot spot.

I would have normally ignored the bitchy feud being instigated by both parties’ hardcore fans, but the dagger of jealousy seems to have been used irresponsibly by Knowles’s camp. Recently, Jeff Bhasker, one of the many album producers featured on Bee’s new disc (“I Care”), decided to tweet his thoughts about Kelly Rowland. And it was far from a compliment:

“How can this kr song with the weakest beat and melody of all time be the #1 song on urban!? Oh yeah. Wayne.”

Obviously, Bhasker believes that the success surrounding Rowland’s single has nothing to do with its slinky beats and everything to with Lil Wayne’s involvement. His beef with Kelly Rowland and her hit single still doesn’t make sense. As a producer, his focus should be on creating music, not throwing punches and kicks at potential clients. But maybe Bhasker is trying to do Beyoncé’s a big favor. There’s no doubt that Bee’s fan base is much more strong, sophisticated and sensitive than Rowland’s, so they are probably going to spin this little sideline cheer as momentum for the Bee team. So far, it may have worked, since this week Knowles’ “Best I Never Had” notched higher than Rowland’s “Motivation”  on the Hot 100 (“Best I Never Had” No. 16, “Motivation” No. 17).

Bhasker followed up with this tweet: “I just listened to Motivation again to see if I was too harsh in my critique. I wasn’t. The lyrics are horrid as well.” He goes on to add a little heat to the fire by tweeting, “Come on twitter you know you live for the negative tweets.”

While entering “desperation” mode as she makes her attempts at running the press circuit, the “Single Ladies” superstar focused on performances on ABC’s The View and even a sit-down chat with the ladies of The View. The interview process was off-limits to ask any serious questions concerning her marriage with rap god Jay-Z and even the lawsuit filed against her by her own father, Mathew Knowles. That left Beyoncé a bit disabled in the “transparency” department and leaving Barbara Walters merciless in Knowles’ powerful grip. Most recently, Lady Gaga also used the platform of The View to power-up her recent album release, Born This Way. She actually visited the ABC set twice: the week of the album release and a month later. Unlike Knowles, Lady Gaga was free to talk about her inner demons, her struggles, her insecurities growing up, the haters and her stance on gay marriage and teen bullying. She even talked about her past drug use on her last visit.

It’s clear that Beyoncé learned a few pointers from working with Gaga. She copied her “Telephone” moves and incorporated some of the same themes in her “Run The World (Girls)” vid. She even performed acoustic versions of “1+1” and “Best I Never Had,” like Gaga did with “You and I,” on The View. Gaga wins in this case: Everyone knows that it’s always better to play an instrument to your own song in front of a live audience when doing acoustic.

Beyoncé is trying to go to the next level in her artistry. She’s possibly tired of the bootylicious, bass-thumbing club anthems that she’s outlined most of her career and she wants her musical collection to reflect more than that. We sympathize with her reasoning and encourage her desire to push beyond the trappings of familiarity. But 4 is still not her best work. If only she was more a little more transparent with the rest of the universe.


What’d I Say is a public opinion series focusing on recent events featuring commentary from our team of skillful writers and guest bloggers. The opinions expressed at this forum are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the parent company HiFi Magazine.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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