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She’s done it again. Move over Adele, Rihanna and Lady Gaga; Queen B has just conquered Glastonbury as the headline act at this year’s festival, and she’s still sitting tightly on her throne. After the success of her last album I am Sasha Fierce, Beyoncé knew she had to come with something good to top her own success. Her latest and fourth solo album is unimaginatively named 4. So what exactly has Beyoncé done in order to transcend her previous successes? Well, she’s come up with a whole new style.
4 is more of a ballad album than it is a party one. The album kicks off with the debut single ‘Run the World (Girls)’; one of the few up-tempo songs on the album, sampling the indie dance hit ‘Pon de Floor’ by Major Replay. The deluxe version of the album features three remixes, of which the Jochen Simms club mix is the best.
The album cannot be categorised into one genre. There are songs reminiscent of Diana Ross and the Supremes in their Motown days while other songs sound like mid 80s electro and early 90s R&B. 4 is of the same class as Lauryn Hill’s album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and seems to be inspired by the late Teena Marie as well. Vocally, Beyoncé has never sounded better, which is probably due to the many ballads where she can truly show off her vocal talent.
Beyoncé worked with the biggest names in the industry on this album, teaming up with Darkchild, Babyface, Diane Warren, The Dream, Kanye West, Terius Nash and Andre 3000, just to name a few.
The highlight of the album is probably ‘Best thing I Never Had’. Produced by Babyface, this break-up ballad celebrates the end of a relationship instead of sitting around crying over it, which is the same theme she followed with her previous hit ‘Irreplaceable’. Another highlight is ‘Schoolin’ Life’; an 80s tune with sarcastic lyrics that make it a very funny song.
‘I Miss You’ is very beautiful ballad where Beyoncé’s vocals are really strong; same goes for ‘I Care’. The song ‘Party’ featuring Andre 3000 is a nice mid-tempo song, which is a warm welcome between all the ballads. It has the typical Outkast sound and is the only song to feature a guest artist on the whole album. ‘Start Over’ is another highlight; strong vocals, nice beat and good lyrics. ‘Love on Top’ is one of those songs with a typical Motown sound that could have been sung by Michael Jackson in his early days.
4 will undoubtedly become a well-deserved success worldwide. It is a terrific album with the right combination of vocals, beats and lyrics. Beyoncé once again proves that she is worthy of being a superstar, because really; nobody does it like Beyoncé.
It is next to impossible to define the sound of the Dirty Projectors. As soon as one tries to put their finger on any sort of genre or sound, it will have already transformed itself - either sonically or lyrically – into something else entirely.
For David Longstreth, the songwriting genius behind
the Dirty Projectors, combining filthy lyrical imagery, Mariah Carey vocals, a
classical brass section, indie rock ethics, minimal techno, Wizard of Oz duets,
and hip-hop beats, is a seemingly effortless task.
Over the past decade, Longstreth has released over ten LPs and EPs, all which prove that his band is everything that Dave Matthews Band and the Magnetic Fields try to be – witty, daring, intelligent, honest, weird; in other words, different. Swing Lo Magellan, maintains that tradition, though in a somewhat more welcomed and accessible way.
However, Swing Lo is still bizarrely weird.
While for the first time the majority of songs are built around verse/chorus
song structures - and it feels as if Longstreth has tried to keep his
experimentation bound to structure - every song still sounds like a musical
experiment in itself.
The Dirty Projectors are a band of six who are more or less based in Brooklyn, New York. However, in ten years the band has easily gone through twenty members, and a rotating cast – Longstreth aside – simply seems to be part of the essence of this band.
It’s difficult to define what each band member specifically does because there’s no formula, and so individual roles often change with each song. There is a huge variety of sounds – clapping, duets, guitar riffs, eastern and western beats, digital effects – captured and produced using both hi-fi and lo-fi means. Dirty Projectors have collaborated with both Icelandic singer Björk, and new wave hero David Byrne of the Talking Heads, which hints at the diversity of their styles and tastes.
The off kilter, catchy pop track ‘About to Die,’
evokes a weird, sort of dyslexic Maroon 5-type groove, whilst Longstreth
lyrically ponders: “How can I hope to seize the tablet of values and redact it?
Foolish, I know, but I’m about to die”, that is, unless he’s “already dead”.
The opening track ‘Offspring are Blank,’ plays with the idea of species propagation, of fertile parents giving birth to blank children. However, it’s delivered over hip-hop beats, r&b vocals and pop-punk rock choruses.
There are also beautiful, guitar pop songs, such as title track ‘Swing Lo Magellan,’ which combines acoustic guitar, beautiful playful imagery, and a sense of wonder and adventure. But even with this simple song, the production sneakily bombards the listener with two tracks simultaneously. If listened to with headphones, one finds that that the right speaker is delivering an acoustic, beat-less ballad, and the left speaker is a bluesy, drum and bass groove; when combined, the magic is delivered.
However, just when one begins to grasp what this
album is all about, the punkish, dark, Pink Floyd-ish track ‘Maybe that was It’
comes as an exploration of what it would lyrically and sonically sound like to
come off LSD – confused and disoriented.
It is almost futile picking tracks off of this
record, as they’re all beautiful and unique in their own way. The current
single is ‘Gun Has No Trigger,’ but whatever the listener’s taste, there is
definitely something, somewhere on this record for everybody.
The name Swing Lo Magellan is a likely reference to renowned explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s daring voyage under South America, where he ‘swang lo’, becoming the first person to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In a way, that is exactly what it sounds like Longstreth is doing with this album: creating groundbreaking connections where most believed they would and could never be made. Swing Lo Longstreth, Swing Lo.