Much ado was made about the diversity and “experimental” nature of the collaborations Beyonce made by Beyonce on this, her first album since parting ways professionally with her father and manager Matthew Knowles. Apparently she recorded 72 tracks for this album and presented them all to Columbia Records.
Opening with Idol-esque stadium ballad where Ms Knowles mis-pronounces the word “algebra” and demonstrates a rudimentary understanding of mathematics and frankly, sings too much. Then there’s a moody ballad guitar solo. 1+1 is truly an awful song.
Listening to the first half-plus of this record there’s little evidence of any interesting collaborations – rather we’re treated to pre-crack Whitney and a weirdly disempowered song about being worthless without her man – “What I wanna do – be a woman and you can be a man – I rather give up everything than live me life without you” – what happened to Running The World? I am confused. The chap from Empire Of The Sun wrote this shit.
Also. Don’t sing “it sucks to be you right now” as a refrain in song. Those are not lyrics, they are the chatter of 14 year old girls overheard on the bus. Why not just rap STBU in the bridge?
But track eight, Love On Top, is great. Harking back to when soul diva’s didn’t think that you had to sing every note audible to the human ear plus a bonus octave for canines in a song . Beyonce’s vocal ability is undeniable and when contained and retrained here in this Motown-esque number it truly shines. Truly the highlight of this record and a song that I keep coming back to. A style repeated to good effect on the bonus disc track (why the fuck is it not on the main disc?) Lay Up Under Me.
[Note the rest of the bonus disc is that kind of 'surprise' you don't really want - 1986 haunts us all during Schoolin' Life and she does a weird creepy-sexy-voice on the intro of Dance For You which is kinda hilarious. But i don't think she's going for comedy. Then you're "treated" to three superfluous remixes. Do you remember there was a "fashion" of cartoon characters on ties - like Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd - well this bonus disc is like getting one of those for Christmas from someone you though actually knew you better than that.]
The aforementioned “experiments” don’t seem to appear, though, until well towards the end of the record. The early inclusion of Andre 3000 saying “swag” on Party just doesn’t cut the mustard – Rebecca Blacks parties would seriously be more fun-fun-fun than this wet blanket of a song. Countdown, at track 9, is the first glimpse of trying something “new” – a reggae-dancefloor rhythm propels the Boyz II Men sampling dance-floor destined stormer – and the lyric of “Me and my boo and my boof-boof” is genius. A quasi-miliray rat-tat-tat drives End Of Time – but the mish-mashiness of it just leaves it as nothing but filler.
Then, penultimately – yet another fucking soft focus ballad. I Was Here is fucking depressing. And then to close, her cover of Major Laser’s Pon De Floor. Awesome. Well done. $35Million per annum she makes. FTW. - review by Andrew Tidball