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Album Review: Beyonce - 4 * * *

Anyone concerned that Beyoncé Giselle Knowles may have run out of ideas after the half-brilliant, half-rubbish double album I Am ... Sasha Fierce need not have worried.

She was in such a rich vein of form that she submitted a reported 72 new songs to her record company for consideration for this, her fourth solo album.

Whittling it down to a manageable dozen tracks was hardly an easy task, but it's tantalising to wonder what's been left off.

Were there, for instance, other songs as daring as the fantastic lead single Run the World (Girls) or were the bulk of them as schmaltzy as I Was Here, a tune that's likely to have several listeners reaching for the sick bucket?

Much like the Texan's previous albums, 4 -- named after the date of Beyoncé's birth, marriage and mother's birthday -- contains a handful of outstanding songs, a bunch of quite good tracks, and a few efforts so abysmal you wonder how she or any of her advisers thought they should see the light of day.

First the good.

The aforementioned Run the World (Girls) -- replete with one of the most expensive videos ever made -- is a strident tour de force that liberally samples a track from Major Lazer, aka American DJs Diplo and Switch.

It's a pulse-quickening anthem that takes its time to burn itself into your consciousness, but once it's there there's no dislodging it.

Cherish the way Beyoncé spits out her words and imagine just how good the song will sound at Oxegen.

Then, there's Party, one of several songs that are heavily influenced by the synths-anddrum machine-music of the 80s.

It's produced, superbly, by Kanye West and features OutKast's André 3000 (one of the album's few guests). It feels fresh and vibrant and would grace any Beyoncé 'Best-Of'.

It's just a shame that 4 doesn't boast other songs of such power.

Instead, Beyoncé has opted for a glut of power ballads that, at their best, showcase a remarkable voice not a million miles from Whitney Houston (I Miss You; 1 + 1) while, at the other extremity, her overblown delivery and cheesy lyrics practically parody Bonnie Tyler (Best Thing; Rather Die Young).

4 has been billed as Beyoncé's most personal album to date and there is no shortage of declarations of love, pleas to "hold me close" and fears that it might all go belly-up, yet the prosaic sentiments don't take long to gush out, not least when she trots out lines as unintentionally hilarious as this, from I Care: "You see those tears falling down to my ears."

Burn it: Party: Run the World (Girls)

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