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CD Review: Beyoncé

4 (Columbia)

As Beyoncé gets older, bigger, and more confident as a singer, she's braver about revealing her ambitions. With Destiny's Child she played the sassy ingenue willing, to a point, to be manipulated by the pop machine. As she became the voice of united womanhood on her solo albums, she stepped up her game. On her fourth, she sets her eyes on the stage with huge, chorus-driven songs ready for audiences of all ages, races, and backgrounds. And she kicks it all off with "1+1," a monster ballad that could be the showstopping highlight of a hit Broadway musical about a woman who's finally found peace of mind with the love of her life. 4 plays like that throughout — the ups ("Party"), downs ("Best Thing I Never Had"), and eventual triumph of a queen ("Run the World [Girls]"). Beyoncé takes few risks here, but royalty rarely does. — Gallucci

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