4 Columbia****

When Beyoncé Knowles killed off her alter-ego Sasha Fierce last year it probably didn’t carry the same import as David Bowie doing for Ziggy Stardust in 1973, but in both instances the motivating factors were the same: a signal that fresh musical ground needed to be turned. 4, then, is a bold musical statement, even if you can’t escape the feeling that her label took control of the second half of the album to try and rein in the giddy adventurousness of the first half for the sake of radio play.

Vocally Beyoncé is on her very best form on the single-in-waiting, Start Over, but for all its sense of not conforming to expectations, there is a pall of self-consciousness hanging over some of the tracks here. Lock her in a room with Rick Rubin for the next one, I say. See

Download tracks: I Care, Start Over, Countdown