Friday, April 19, 2024

Beyonce In Big Trouble If New Album Flops As Predicted


This is a rare marketing and A&R disaster in the making: Beyonce‘s new album, called “4,” will be released officially on Monday in the UK and in the US on Tuesday. It’s a potential dud, big time. Already attacked on Page Six in the New York Post yesterday, “4” was “leaked” back on June 9th to blogs and on Twitter. Now it’s officially streaming on AOL. You can listen to it and judge for yourselves, but this CD is problematic to say the least.

What’s interesting is that neither Page Six nor some testy blogs have figured out how this happened.

Blaming Sony’s Rob Stringer is not the answer. I think the responsibility for this debacle will rest with Teresa LaBarbera Whites, senior A&R exec for Columbia Records. Whites has been working with Beyonce since discovering her at the age of 9 in Texas two decades ago. Whites moved back to Columbia from Jive Records earlier this year just to work with Beyonce on this CD. (It was Whites who resuscitated Britney Spears on her last two albums.)

Beyonce has always been in a strange position with her solo albums. Her first hit, “Crazy in Love,” was a reworking of a Chi Lites record, with a huge sample of the horns and rhythm section. Since then she’s had really just a couple of actual hits–“Single Ladies” and “Irreplaceable.” Beyonce herself is not a writer, and she generally has poor song selections. On her last album, the song “If I Were a Boy” was appropriated from young singer songwriter B.C. Jean, who consequently got a recording deal with Clive Davis.

“4” is very misguided. I’m actually surprised that the collection is so uninspired and has no cohesive vision. The first three tracks are desultory ballads. There’s actually a song called “Rather Die Young.” Really? Beyonce would rather die young? Drop dead gorgeous, married to a hip hop mogul (Jay Z), gifted with a fabulous voice–and she’s singing about dying young? Who allowed such a thing to happen?

Better track sequencing could have really helped “4.” Tracks 8, 9, 10, and 11– the excellent “Love on Top,” the inventive “Countdown,” a very catchy “End of Time,” and “I Was Here” — are the standouts. I would have led with these tracks instead of burying them. (But didn’t Beyonce already have a song called “Until the End of Time”?) The new album has a feeling of being tired, and rushed, and not really thought through in any meaningful way. Those four songs should have been the singles and hits–and featured prominently.

Never at this age did Aretha, Gladys or Tina sound this disengaged from their own work. But — as pointed out in current stories– Beyonce isn’t just a singer. She’s an empire. Her voice is no longer an instrument. It’s a marketing tool. And not a very good one right now.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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