don't you tell me how i feel.

It’s 11:30 and the club is slumpin’, slumpin’ by Steele
July 28, 2011, 6:00 am
Filed under: danceable, Muzzy, New Shit That Sounds Old, sass, shit i sort of like, tired

Full disclosure: this is kind of a half-assed review, because I haven’t listened to Beyonce’s new album in its entirety. But I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten the gist of it. And the gist is…kind of strange, actually.  

A casual listener may not realize it, but B’s music is often a little weird. She tries unusual vocal syncopation, she switches up the pace, she can be extremely unpredictable. She’s been experimenting with the limits of pop music for years, and as a result has put out some pretty ballsy stuff. The exhilarating 1970s-soul blast of “Crazy In Love,” the scorching, furious “Ring the Alarm,” the stuttering “Diva,” the instantly iconic “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” – all were game-changers.

But based on what I’ve heard of 4, which is most of it, there’s not much that feels new, fresh or even representative of B’s personality. Many of the tracks sound dated, almost aggressively so. There’s the first single “Run the World (Girls),” which I guess is a serviceable female empowerment anthem, but rests entirely on a beat that has been around since 2009 and has been a club staple ever since. It’s beyond me why she would build a single around something so stale. In fact, a lot of the songs sound like they were recorded in the early 1990s, right down to the production. It’s so obvious that I feel like I must be missing something. Is this the new trend? Last weekend, listening to one of the dance tracks, Muzzy said, “I seriously feel like this could be playing in the background during a scene in House Party 3.” BURN!

Beyonce has said in interviews that she made this album for her, that for once she didn’t think about radio hits and just allowed herself artistic freedom. She drew inspiration from a huge number of genres and influences, and I don’t think her voice has ever sounded better. Maybe this retro thing is what she most wanted to do, and if so, fine. She’s entitled to play it safe, she’s earned it. But even playing it safe, the songs should be stronger. 

The most memorable jams are those in which Queen B’s trademark quirk comes through. “Countdown” is full of noises, rapidly changing tempos and all kinds of chaos. It’s a hot, crazy mess. I also dig the hard-charging “End of Time,” one of the bossiest love songs I’ve ever heard. Over and over, Bey demands, “Say you’ll never let me go! Say you’ll never let me go!” It’s pretty thrilling.

But don’t let me tell you how to feel. Check it out, if you’re so inclined.


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