After a drip-feed of buzz tracks, surprise singles and song leaks, Beyoncé's 4appeared online in its entirety last night, a full two and a half weeks ahead of its official release. Having already listened to the opus at a recent (and very fancy) playback party, we've given our initial thoughts on Bouncy's latest set below.
The album shies away from the au courant hip-hop-meets-dance sound and opts for more traditional R&B instead. Truth be told, the absence of a David Guetta or RedOne hook-up is a relief.
All 12 tracks showcase her impressive vocals, particularly the growly '1+1', and funk-infused 'Love on Top'.
Power anthem 'Best Thing I Never Had', with its stadium-sized drums, catchy piano hook and aggressive vocals, is a classic Beyoncé track waiting to happen.
With the exception of 'Party', which features Andre 3000 and Kanye West, we're pleased to see this is largely a solo affair rather than a who's who of hip-hop.
There are moments of interesting production, including the brass section on 'Love on Top', stuttering trumpets on 'Countdown' and marching band drums of 'End of Time'.
On first glance the tracklist appears upside down, getting off to a false start with buzz track '1+1' and closing with trailer single 'Run The World (Girls)'.
Her instantly recognisable R&B vocal can often sound cold and generic, though this dissipates after repeated listens.
Despite recording a reported 70 songs for the LP, tracks 'I Miss You', 'Rather Die Young' and 'Start Over' feel like filler and are nothing we haven't heard many, many times before. Maybe she's saving the best for a super deluxe edition?
With the exceptions of 'Run The World (Girls)' and 'Best Thing I Never Had', it lacks any more obvious hits.
Despite flashes of intriguing production, things rarely deviate from the bump 'n' grindable.
Listen to Beyoncé's new single 'Best Thing I Never Had' below:
What do you make of 4? Which are your favourite tracks? Leave your comments in the box below: