Artists Of The Year

CMU Artists Of The Year 2011: Beyonce

By | Published on Thursday 15 December 2011


Styled as the first taste of what she herself termed a “musical gumbo… a melting pot of musical styles”, Beyonce’s ‘Run The World (Girls)’ was to be the launchpad for her fourth studio album, ‘4’, leading out all latter singles from its fist-pumping front. And yet, in spite of the scale of the track’s promotional build-up, big-name writing team and multi million dollar video, it barely scraped the top 30 of the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. For Beyonce, used to pitching up at number one with prior singles, ‘Run The World’ seemed like a serious misstep.

But far from faltering, the ‘4’ crusade strutted on, giving rise to second single ‘Best Thing I Never Had’. The traditionalists amongst Beyonce’s fans, particularly those who subscribe to her ever-popular line in bruised break-up balladry, bought into this track much more keenly than they had its predecessor, buoying up ‘4’ pre-sales ahead of the album’s official release towards the end of June. This, of course, coincided with a headlining set at Glastonbury, a marathon demonstration of her supreme stagecraft, and one of the more glamorous showbiz spectacles yet to flood the Pyramid Stage’s iconic outline.

Every inch the consummate performer, she naturally reserved the public announcement of her and husband Jay-Z’s pregnancy for the red carpet at the 2011 MTV VMAs, even choreographing the infamous ‘baby bump reveal’ as the final flourish in her ‘Love On Top’ routine. Sparking a Twitter shutdown as word of ‘Babeyonce’ rippled out at record-breaking pace, the stunt felt so immaculate, so expert, so professional. But then, that’s Beyonce.

Third single ‘Countdown’, a fine blend of funk, classic R&B and lusty Caribbean brass, at last came good on the “melting pot” motif, as did its Andre 3000-featuring sequel ‘Party’, another ‘4’ standout. Directed by Beyonce herself, the ‘Party’ video represented a fresh realisation of her sound and style such as would never have been reached if father Matthew Knowles – let go in the early stages of the album’s inception – had still been her acting manager.

Beyonce, of course, has weathered other controversies over the course of her ‘4’ campaign; not least over the alleged theft of dance moves, collapsing and prosthetic baby bumps claims, and that still-inexplicable Tricky cameo at Glastonbury. But always with an innate will to outshine her own leading light, Beyonce’s retaliation has been to unveil video after video, to feature in documentaries and stunning live showcases, to work at augmenting an artistic legacy that, regardless of the masterful if slow-burning stroke of ‘4’, is so assured.

So on that note, let’s round off this shameless Beyonce love-in with the video for ‘4’ cut ‘End Of Time’, which is a montage of scenes from her Glastonbury performance and ‘Live At Roseland’ DVD. I dare you to deny that it’s amazing.

Find more of CMU’s ten Artists Of The Year here.