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Beyoncé’s “4”

“Dangerously In Love” was the last Beyoncé album I actually purchased. As a young woman in college it seemed like the soundtrack to my life. Years ago before my ears were as seasoned I deemed her debut album a classic. Every album since has been a major letdown.

Destiny’s Child was arguably one of the best girl groups since the climax of the career of my favorite girl group TLC. Beyoncé Knowles, Kelendria “Kelly” Rowland, LaTavia Robertson and LeToya Luckett were talented southern teenagers with songs that most girls coming of age could rock to. Even with the swapping of members, eventually dropping down to three for their “Survivor” and final album “Destiny Fulfilled,” I loved Destiny’s Child. And Beyoncé’s solo album didn’t disappoint. I knew every hook, bridge, harmony and ad-lib on all 17 of the tracks. She had a fan in me.

But then I grew into a woman. Beyoncé’s music didn’t grow with me. Anthems promoting bird behavior such as “Ring the Alarm,” “Upgrade You,” “Single Ladies,” “Diva,” just weren’t my cup of tea. Without even realizing it I started not feeling her music and disliking her as a celebrity. As her success expanded I drifted away from what I’d call the product known as Beyoncé.

Matthew Knowles was a marketing pro. And he packaged his best product as a robot to the point she  no longer appeared to be the silly down to earth southern girl. Instead she was a robot with little to no personality. Every interview was the same. Every image of her was the same- blonde hair, big weave, fan blowing said weave, minimum clothing. She was the epitome of dull except when she performed. It was only on stage that she transformed into this larger than life entertainer.

After DIL her music sounded too poppy, too catchy and hot for the moment like everyone else’s. What was missing was the timeless element of her music. She wasn’t producing anything I’d listen to in five or 10 years. Radio stations saturated airwaves with her songs every half hour, her videos were played on repeat and the DJ’s at the clubs knew her music would get everyone to the dance floor. Beyoncé’s team forced her music on listeners making them love it even if the songs were just mediocre. I was tired to death of the Beyoncé takeover; especially since she wasn’t producing quality music. But it sold; and her stans fans loved it.

Amidst being displeased with her musically, there were the lawsuits of songs she’d flat out stolen or lied and said she’d written (remember Neyo putting her on blast for taking credit for Irreplaceable?). There were the L’Oreal ads where her skin appeared to be lightened. The controversial black face spread. Her inability to let Kelly shine. On top of that her concepts weren’t innovative. Everything she was doing video wise had already been done and she’d found the “inspiration” in the same place we go to find various videos- YouTube. Everything about the celebrity Bey under Papa Knowles ruling thumb was annoying to no end.

When “Who Run the World (Girls)” dropped I went into critic mode. The song was catastrophic. At least this time her stans fans weren’t buying into the bullshit either. People unanimously hated the song. But in true Beyoncé fashion she released an amazing video directed by Francis Lawrence. Hyenas? Check. Stellar choreography? You better believe it. Amazing cinematography? Yep! I could not hate on the video just like I could not hate on the “Single Ladies” video even though I wasn’t fond of the song. Bey had done it again. It was officially Bey season.

Fans and critics alike anticipated her next single. One by one tracks were posted on blogs, and eventually the album leaked three weeks early. I was still ambivalent until her husband, Jay Z, released a dress rehearsal video before her “American Idol” performance of her singing “1 +1”  with only a piano as background music. Beyoncé was starting to win me over. Not as a fan, but as someone who could respect her artistry. She flawlessly belted out the lyrics effortlessly, so incredible that it sounded better than her actual performance later that night.

I never denied the woman’s talent. Beyoncé’s vocals are beautiful. And I’ve always commended her for her work ethic. Performance wise she’s a beast. One of my biggest irritations with her is that she is on this pedestal that isn’t realistic. Chick hasn’t made any timeless music, but is being compared to Michael Jackson. Yes, the MJ. I blame her stans for this.

To understand my criticism of Beyoncé you have to know me. I’m an underdog rooter. I’m a Nas fan over Jay. Anyone over Kobe. See, the underdog that everyone else doesn’t root for. I recognize there are countless women that are vocally superior and better musicians than Beyoncé. They will never get the amount of recognition she does because they refuse to sell sex.

I was not excited about “4.” I particularly wasn’t looking forward to a year of Beyoncé overload on the airwaves, primetime TV and social networking sites either.

On June 28, her fourth studio album dropped, and I was pleasantly surprised. Tracks like “Party” featuring Andre 3000 has an upbeat 90’s tempo. It’s one of those tracks you can’t help but to bop your head to or move your body. “Start Over” was instantly my favorite song on the album because it spoke directly to my situation. The percussion mixed with her vocals was a perfect combination. “Best Thing I Never Had” is a woman’s anthem as far as I’m concerned. What woman can’t relate to this?:

There was a time
I thought, that you did everything right
No lies, no wrong
Boy I, must’ve been outta my mind
So when I think of the time that I almost loved you
You showed your ass and I saw the real you
Thank God you blew it
Thank God I dodged the bullet
I’m so over you
So baby good lookin’ out

“I Care,” “I Was Here,” and “End of Time” are equally as riveting. Beyoncé was finally singing about that grown woman shit that had been absent. Her songs were void of the pop sound she overdid for the “I Am…Sasha Fierce” album. Bey’s year vacation did her well. She had finally produced some songs that were relatable to women well past their collegiate years.  I can actually see her coming into her womanhood as her own person in opposed to Matthew Knowles’ product.

I recently watched her interview with Piers Morgan and her short documentary “Year of 4,” which inspired this post. For the first time in years I’m beginning to (sort of) like Beyoncé again as a person, celebrity and artist.

Beyoncé is on top whether I’m on board or not. And although I would never refer to her Queen Bey like her stans fans affectionately do, I will say her latest album is a step in the direction of what had been missing. She’s singing from the heart and truly on her grown woman. Now, can we get some timeless music?

  • Allessandra

    Bene! From my heart to your lips. A resounding "2nd" on my end lol.

  • I wasn't feeling 4 quite as much you, but I can relate to not liking Beyonce as I had when I was growing up (and it freaked. me. out, as evidenced by some of my recent posts…) But I love this reflection. I TOTALLY get where you're coming from.

  • DMG

    Yes, besides the underdog section, YESSSS to this whole post! Like you said, Beyonce finally put out some grown woman music…and I'm lovin it!

  • @TSRenaissance

    You are the only reason I'm about to listen to this album. I'll check back later.

    • writtenbyBene

      LOL. I thought you LOVED Bey?

  • I'm a so-so fan of Bey. I loved her taking the "King" and attaching it to your name. I love women that want to be at the top, musically – not a fan of Bey's voice but she is a hell of a performer. I would never hate on that. Her songs grew on me this album (which is the norm). Good piece. 🙂

    • writtenbyBene

      I don't like the King attachment because it implies that the Queen is inferior. Women cannot be Kings due to their sex. Queen is not less than, which is ultimately what she's saying by choosing King over Queen. But it's not something I'm going to get riled up by. And you're not a fan of Bey's voice? Interesting. I've heard quite a few people say this and they usually get attacked for it by Bey stans. LOL