“Still Lit?” is a segment where I review an album from the past and examine if its litness remains intact. Naturally my taste levels have changed, so something I enjoyed at 13 may not entice me at 29. Unless of course nostalgia because everything was better when you were a kid, right? In the same vein, a piece of work I wrought off could have been a diamond in the rough. I’ll revisit said album, critiquing track by track – from least to most favorite.
The first installment of “Still Lit?” is Beyonce’s 4. While a self-proclaimed Beyliever, I’ve always leaned more toward her booty-shaking, man-hating bops or midtempo songs. Not because she isn’t a great singer, but because I’m a beat person. If it can make me dance, I’m usually sold. With 4 I definitely danced, but it’s also about that first impression.
That introduction was her feminist “Run the World (Girls).” A total departure musically from what we were used to, and frankly, I didn’t like it. Like the roll-out of her fourth LP,”RTW” was hectic, loud and messy. Not the carefully-structured Bey we had grown to love. For what it’s worth I didn’t like B’Day at first (“Deja Vu”); and, ironically “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” was it until the video. But the 4 era as a whole was unwritten territory. Of course I liked it. It’s King Bey. Certain songs more than others. Let’s see how it holds up for me today.
14. “I Was Here” | The daunting ballad — generic in message — is my least favorite. Feeling more like a song for a greatest hits compilation, I always skip. No change.
13. “Start Over” | Beautifully written I viewed the song as filler in 2011. Not much has changed since. It doesn’t get skipped today. I do adore the bridge.
12. “1+1” | The loving opener of the standard version. I like it more than I did, but I’m not placing it on repeat.
11. “I Miss You” | The Frank Ocean-penned track always got an eyeroll and skip from me. However now I find the somber song of heartbreak touching. An example of Bey’s experimentation going right.
10. “Run the World (Girls)” | While the song remains a bold statement, regardless of it’s messy construction, it still goes off. And no one can resist the shoulder choreo in the first 30 seconds.
9. “Best Thing I Never Had” | I absolutely abhorred this song. And now I absolutely love it. She was SINGING on this song, and I can’t help but growl along with her as she thanks her favorite mistake.
8. “Love on Top” | While the video remains one of my least favs, the song is an epic crowd pleaser. Everyone is guaranteed to
scream sing along as Bey beasts the ending modulations.
7. “Countdown” | The B II M sampling best song of 2011 to many end-of-year lists was a ball of creativity, showcasing Bey’s versatility. From the dizzily first run to the artsy homage of a music video, it’s a pop staple.
6. “Party” | The perfect summer song. Not at all what I expected when I pressed play. Kanye’s swagu, Andre’s 16 and Bey harmonizing with herself as if she were three people made a new classic. Even after the J. Cole remix version was greenlit for the visual.
5. “Rather Die Young” | What I love most about this song is the two worlds Beyonce straddles from verse to chorus. That slow burn intro before it rockets up and explodes. Another signature wedding dancefloor ode.
4. “Schoolin’ Life” | Another bonus on the deluxe addition I immediately wish was on the original and received a video. Sounding like a lost Prince song, Bey kicks some knowledge for living your best life.
3. “Dance For You” | On the album’s re-release, the sultry future wedding reception bridal party favorite was almost forgotten because of that video. But since then it has become a new gem of mine. For me it’s what “Check On It” became after getting a ring.
2. “End of Time” | The jubilant testament of love is my go-to pick me up. It cannot be heard without getting on one’s feet and cutting loose. Joy personified. And I still want to hear it with an authentic Teddy Riley New Jack Swing Remix.
1. “I Care” | On first listen I was overwhelmed by this song’s power. From the initial piercing hum of the synth, to Beyoncé’s haunting harmonies fading out of earshot. It sticks with you.
Conclusion: I’ve grown to appreciate this work more than I did six years ago. Yes 4 is her least successful album commercially, but it was a monumental shift in her career.Still It was the foundation for her creative steps toward self-titled and the giant leap that would be LEMONADE.
Rating: More Lit.