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CD: Beyoncé – 4 | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Beyoncé – 4

CD: Beyoncé – 4

The ex-Destiny's Child diva returns to reclaim her place as soul sister number one

Beyoncé: Battling for supremacy in the overheated soul chanteuse stakes

Beyoncé took a break to recharge her funk batteries after the lacklustre I Am... Sasha Fierce, and there is much riding on this new album. The Amazonian soulstress had 72 songs to choose from, so it is no surprise that 4 is eclectic. What is surprising is that it starts with two pedestrian power ballads. "1 + 1" and "I Care" find Mrs Jay-Z in R'n'B classicist mode, all dull I-will-survive lyrics and dynamic lungs. Next up "I Miss You" is a little better, with its blips and bleeps flying the flag for electronica.

Then things get more interesting, thanks to a colourful range of influences and supporting players. André 3000 adds his lunacy to the upbeat "Party", while the unashamed glass-shattering falsetto disco of "Love on Top" is a reminder that one of Beyoncé's biggest touchstones is pre-loopy Michael Jackson. Bringing things up to date there is a peppering of Kanye, a hint of Rihanna and a truckload of dancehall on the brassy, militaristic pop of "Countdown". It is a pity that the single "Run the World (Girls)" is little more than a drum-thumping dose of playground feminism.

M.I.A.’s spacey producers Diplo and Switch were part of the backroom team here and their hand can be sensed in the interesting byways which stray from the soul template. And the vocals certainly feel authentic in a world where you can get Olive Oyl to resemble Ella Fitzgerald if you bash the right knobs. But whether there is something here to emulate the addictive oomph of "Crazy in Love" or something to acquire the anthemic handbags-at-dawn status of "Single Ladies" is debatable. The market for gutsy, post-Gaga women these days is overheated and while 4 is impressively muscular in places, it may not be strong enough to make Beyoncé top dog again.

Watch Beyoncé perform "Run the World (Girls)"

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The vocals feel authentic in a world where you can get Olive Oyl to resemble Ella Fitzgerald if you bash the right knobs

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