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Beyonce’s Most Successful Failure

July 4, 2011

Having sold 75 million albums worldwide even before her hugely successful I Am and the monster hits that came with it (Single Ladies, If I Were a Boy), Beyonce must have been feeling the pressure to come out swinging for her fourth album, which she has hinted will be her last before a baby-hiatus (see: Run The World lyrics, Piers Morgan interview). 4 looked like it was going to be a disaster: her first single Run The World (Girls) failed to succeed, the album leaked early, was poorly received on the internet and rumours of a return to the studio for a re-work of the album ensued. She quickly released another single, then another, all failing to see the success that a star in her right is used to.

About a week ago, I started streaming Beyonce’s new album online, and was set to write a post about what this strange and apparently failing album meant for her career. 4 is…different. Think 90’s power ballads with a hint of something retro, with the final track Run The World sounding unlike all the songs preceding it.

For an artist who has admitted a keen awareness of sales figures and is essentially in her own stratosphere of fame, I had to wonder how an album like this could be marketed – no major hits and a style that is essentially non existant in popular music at the moment; not dance-infused, power pop or rebellious; just piano-heavy songs about love, belted out by one of the best voices in contemporary music.

My essential question was: how are they going to play this one?

Meet Beyonce, the brilliant: a few days after I had been thinking about this subject, Beyonce performed at Glastonbury and gets unbelievable reviews across the board – consensus: Beyonce is a superstar. The superstar.  The album is released and received well – consensus: mature sound. All of a sudden, the “angle” becomes not one of chart topper but a sort of allowance of what might have otherwise been perceived as error in the in the face of sheer awe.

On Good Morning America on July 1st, Beyonce says

I figured after all these years, I earned the right to have artistic freedom and just make good music

In fairness, she’s probably right. Beyonce has been making music since she was 16 and has given her fans literally dozens and dozens of hits for the last 15 years (half of her young life thus far). That said, this album in my mind is, aside from being excellent, an astounding feat of PR spin and an industry saavy that itself deserves the same praise her musical talent receives.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. TiredofFakeBeyonce permalink
    November 25, 2011 2:29 am

    she says that about every album


  1. Drinking The Kool-aid: Acceptance, Reneging, Acceptance. « Mostly About Music

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