Because of their slower tempo, the first few tracks require patience and are at first indistinguishable from one another. They also have questionable elements, like the heavy hip-hop in Party, which features rapper Andre 3000.
Things start to look brighter after the seventh track Start Over, which has a faster beat and boasts better songwriting.
Throughout, though, it's Beyonce's vocals that redeem the album's shaky and discordant beginnings.
Countdown is upbeat and catchy, and sure to become a dance floor staple. It's representative of the album as a whole, a mixed bag of genres: strong military beats sit alongside a reggae vibe reminiscent of Bob Marley.
Wrapping up is Run the World (Girls), Beyonce's latest song of female empowerment, following Single Ladies (2009)., and the most mainstream of the bunch.
4 feels like an unpolished jewel. It will sparkle if only you take the time to give it a chance.