Beyonce Runs Her World
Aug 1, 2011 1:43 PM, By Blair Jackson
INSIDE THE RECORDING OF '4'
It only seems as though Beyonce has been a superstar forever. Since her days fronting the hit machine known as Destiny’s Child in the late ’90s, she has conquered the world with her four solo albums—selling 75 million records and picking up 16 Grammys along the way—triumphed on a succession of increasingly extravagant tours, been praised for her acting in several major feature films, launched successful fashion and fragrance lines, and become one of the highest-paid commercial spokespeople in the U.S. Her latest album, 4, was an instant smash when it was released in late June while she was on tour in France; two days after it came out, she headlined the Glastonbury Festival in England in front of 170,000 people. She’s beautiful, talented, independent—and driven.
One reason Beyonce has ascended to these lofty heights is that she is a perfectionist with a fierce work ethic. To quote a previous generation’s R&B giant, she works hard for the money. And that includes the many long days and nights she puts into recording her albums. This isn’t some diva who pops into the studio after everything has been tracked, lays down some lead vocals and then splits. Instead, she’s involved with co-writing most of the songs she sings, often has very specific arrangement ideas, and is always deeply invested in the album’s production.
Like so many contemporary R&B albums, 4 is loaded with songs by multiple writers and producers, many of them high-wattage hit-makers, including The-Dream, Babyface, Kanye West, Switch, Tricky Stewart, Jeff Bhasker, Shea Taylor, Symbolyc One (S1) and others.
“The majority of the album, we would bring writers in and B [Beyonce] and I would be in one room, and then we’d have one or two writers in one or two other rooms working on things,” says Jordan “DJ Swivel” Young, who was the principal engineer throughout the project, which stretched out over a year. “I think there was a period of about three months where we had three rooms going at MSR [Manhattan Sound Recording]. But at every studio, we’d usually have two rooms going. We’d bring different writers in for a week or whatever. Dream would come in, Jeff Bhasker came in, and they would write and they might already have some tracks together, or Shea Taylor would come up with tracks, and when they were done with the records they would play them for B and she would add ideas of her own, mold the lyrics to fit her and then we’d start cutting them.
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