So Beyoncé performed a stellar headline slot at Glastonbury. Who saw that coming? I mean an international icon of bootylicious proportions showing up two almost indistinguishable stadium rock acts. It was some mean feat. In all seriousness, Mrs Knowles needed a great slot on the Pyramid Stage to put the woes of ‘4’ behind her - and the album hadn’t even hit supermarket entertainment aisles before she set foot on Worthy Farm.
First came the tepid reaction to the Major Lazer sampling ‘Run The World (Girls)’, the kind of chic, clarion call to female empowerment which the former Destiny’s Child star could always rely upon before for a chart smash. Next the album itself leaked three weeks before its official release date. Then followed the never-ending rumour mill of revelations about how her record label Columbia were planning to re-record the album, didn’t think it would sell and wished they’d chosen a different lead single.
Well after Sunday night everyone can breath a little easier. Around 135,000 people still appreciate Beyoncé and they will undoubtedly enjoy what ‘4’ has to offer. Sure it’s a flawed beast but so was ‘Born This Way’ and that did okay too. On stage, this 16-time Grammy award-winning artist relied on a crowd-pleasing array of squat thrusts and fireworks to whip up an adoring audience. On record, as ever, her go to weapon of choice is the fine set of pipes she holds in her possession.
No Beyoncé album worth its salt is going to skimp on the balladeering and ‘4’ is swimming in epitaphs of souped-up emotion. Opening with the bittersweet soul of ‘1+1’ and pushing on with a similarly lovelorn trio of ‘I Care’, ‘I Miss You’ and ‘Best Thing I Never Had’, it’s an unnecessarily weighty introduction. ‘Party’, featuring the stellar cast of Kanye West and Andre 3000, does its best to lift the mood but not before ‘Rather Die Young’ reaches for the high notes again.
None of these ballads are particularly bad, ‘Best Thing I Never Had’ caresses the heavens with a special, bittersweet tenderness and forlorn piano, but sometimes as a listener you just wanna… shake that. Thank the horn-laden heavens for ‘Countdown’ and ‘End Of Time’ then, because when Beyoncé hollers “Grind up on it girl, show him how you ride it” you know some serious hip-swerving is about to go down.
Rounding off on the slow burning/up tempo combination of ‘I Was Here’ and ‘Run The World (Girls)’, ‘4’ makes a compelling case for the virtues of patience. Glastonbury had to wait over twenty-two years and two further nights of anthemic rock to place another female artist at the pinnacle of the festival and that turned out alright. Likewise, ‘4’ drags out its charms but it was never really in doubt that Beyoncé could still sass her way to victory.