Happy Bey-Day!

In “I Was Here”, the penultimate track of 4, her fourth studio release, Beyoncé sings “I will leave my mark so everyone will know I was here.” With the rest of the album and her 14-year career, she need not worry about being remembered. As a chart-topper, record breaker and trailblazer, she has secured her spot in music history.

4 doesn’t sound like any of Beyoncé’s past albums. Dangerously In Love (2003) was her sexiest, with the thumping “Crazy In Love” and the smoldering “Speechless.” B’Day (2006) was her sassiest with the woman scorned theme “Ring the Alarm” and break-up anthem “Irreplaceable.” I Am Sasha Fierce was her boldest and shut up any naysayers who doubted B’s range.

Beyoncé co-wrote all the songs on the album except for “I Was Here,” which was written by songwriter extraordinaire Diane Warren. B’s talent is undeniable and 4 shows off her range as a lyricist, vocalist and artist. There are ballads, there are up-tempo tracks, there are party anthems, and they all come together for a head-bobbing, swooning, foot-stomping good time.

The album opens with the serene, powerful and goosebumps-delivering “1+1,”  which she performed on American Idol. The impossible-not-to-sing-along-to “Best Thing I Never Had” surprisingly has not broken the Top 50 of the Billboard 100 chart after debuting three weeks ago. The breezy “Party,” co-penned by Kanye West and featuring André 3000 of OutKast, the only guest appearance on the album, could very well be the song of the summer. “Love On Top” has an irresistible Jackson 5/Supremes-esque vibe, putting B in a league of her own among other current chart toppers too busy shocking and over-sexualizing to deliver anything of substance.

“I Was Here” and the album’s first single “Run the World (Girls)” round out 4. The deluxe edition of the album comes with three additional tracks. “Lay Up Under Me” has a seventies’ vibe and sounds like it could have been played in rollerskating rinks. In “Schoolin’ Life,” Beyoncé says she “ain’t a doctor, but I can make you feel better,” and that’s exactly what 4 does. You’ll also get three remixes to “Run the World (Girls),” which I frankly could have done without. I’m sure iTunes will shuffle them into play eventually, but I have no use for them.

After just two listens, I can’t pick a favorite track just yet, but I don’t imagine I will not get tired of listening to 4 anytime soon. The album is good. Damn good.

Beyoncé keeps her private life private, and that makes enjoying her music a lot more relaxing and less scandalous with no need to wonder who she “is so through with,” or who made her cry, because it’s probably no one. Since when are artists supposed to turn their diaries into songs and share them with the nosy people of this planet? She sings the hell out of every track. That’s all that matters.

Beyoncé will be performing at Central Park in New York City on July 1, as part of Good Morning America’s Summer Concert Series. This video of B rehearsing “1+1” backstage was (supposedly) posted by Jay-Z last month.

‘4’ Track listing

1. 1+1
2. I Care
3. I Miss You
4. Best Thing I Never Had
5. Party (feat. André 3000)
6. Rather Die Young
7. Start Over
8. Love On Top
9. Countdown
10. End of Time
11. I Was Here
12. Run the World (Girls)
DISC 2 (Deluxe Edition only)
13. Lay Up Under Me
14. Schoolin’ Life
15. Dance For You
16-18. Run the World (Girls) remixes

UPDATE ** BEYONCÉ PERFORMED ON GOOD MORNING AMERICA FRIDAY JULY 1 and sang Run The World (Girls), 1+1, Best Thing I Never Had and Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) on a black and white stage in the middle of Central Park.
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