As the title of the album suggests, this is the fourth solo album* from the lead singer of now defunct girl-group Destiny's Child. The album title is not just meant to signify that this is the fourth solo release, but it also meant to represent the day of her birth [4th September 1981] and the fact that she married her husband [Jay-Z] on the 4th of the month [4th April 2008]. The album title is meant to be a "personal gift to her fans", as apparently her fans "have been taking to various social media pages urging her to name the album after her 'special number'". The album was recorded over a year between the spring of 2010 and the spring of 2011, while Beyonce took a break from the spotlight.
"'The album is definitely an evolution. It's bolder than the music in my previous albums because I'm bolder. The more mature I become and the more life experiences I have, the more I have to talk about. I really focused on songs being classics, songs that would last, songs that I could sing when I'm 40 and when I'm 60." - Beyonce
I might as well warn you now; your enjoyment of 4 will depend on how you rate Beyonce's ballads; The mix of musical influences is subtle and most of the tracks are dedicated to Beyonce's relationship with her husband. Beyonce's named influences for 4 include Fela Kuti [she even worked with the band from the Broadway musical, Fela! on 4], Earth, Wind & Fire, DeBarge, Lionel Richie, Teena Marie with additional influences by The Jackson 5, New Edition, Adele, Florence and the Machine, and Prince.
Beyonce has co-written every song on 4 [including the deluxe version], except for I Was Here, which was wrote by Diane Warren.
Additional song-writers include The-Dream, Tricky Stewart, Corey Jackson Carter, Frank Ocean, Babyface, J. Que, Kanye West, The-Dream, Adidja Palmer, Diplo, David Taylor and Afrojack.
Beyonce herself co-produced 4 and Individual track producers include Babyface, Consequence, Diane Warren, Kanye West, Ryan Tedder, Switch, Shea Taylor, Symbolyc One and The-Dream.