Album Review: 4

Perhaps the most successful album by Foreigner, perhaps apart from their first greatest hits album, which followed immediately afterward, this album has a revealing title that is pointed to at least two levels. On the first level, this album is the fourth album by Foreigner [1], and marked a definite transition from the band’s early work to its middle period of sustained popular success, but perhaps playing with a bit less hunger. On the second level, the 4 in the album’s title also referred to the fact that this album marked a reduction in the band from its original sextet to having only four permanent members, along with other session musicians who did not have the same sort of permanent presence in the band or influence in its musical direction. Apparently, after three albums, the personnel of the original lineup of the band became too difficult to manage, an issue that would plague Foreigner during their entire career, despite their massive and enduring success. What follows is a track-by-track review:

Night Life: This upbeat album opener reflects a more optimistic view of the joy and vibrancy of the night life than some of the other songs by Foreigner about the night. The album features some peppy lyrics and some smooth guitar playing, making this song a glam rock song that would not have been out of place for Billy Squire or others of that period, and a lively way to begin an album, even if it was clearly not meant as a single.

Juke Box Hero: One of three massive hit singles from this album, this album continues the general jaunty tone of the opening song by pointing to a desire for fame and fortune, to be remembered and appreciated. The song, in an offhand way, points to the band’s ambition to be remembered with their hit songs in juke boxes through their musical skills. This ambition was definitely fulfilled.

Break It Up: This song belongs to a very long tradition of Foreigner songs about a dysfunctional relationship that the band wants to keep together that is in danger of breaking up. Of course, in the context of this band’s history, it is unclear whether this is meant romantically or meant to refer to the interpersonal drama that was a part of the band, or whether they were all seen as different layers of the same problem. Despite the fact that this song references a common theme for the band, the song is clearly sung in a heartfelt and sincere manner.

Waiting For A Girl Like You: The biggest hit from this album, and a song that spent over two months at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, this song marks a notable trend of immensely successful love ballads for the band. Unfortunately, despite the fact that this is a very beautiful song, and one that many people can relate to, it is likely that this song helped cement the disrespect of the critical establishment to the band, given their general distaste for love ballads.

Luanne: This song, a minor hit, is part of a fairly long line of songs dedicated to somewhat reluctant young women (“Hot Blooded” “Zaila”) with whom the narrator is infatuated with, is a song that urges a woman not to run and hide or keep her love inside. Of course, if the young woman had been familiar with the band’s discography, she might have had all the more reason to run and hide given the pattern of disaster followed by the relationships chronicled in the band’s music.

Urgent: This song, a top 5 hit, with a driving beat and a smooth sax solo, is the spiritual successor (if that is not too harsh a way of putting it) to “Dirty White Boy,” where the narrator glories in a no-strings attached intermittent relationship with a remote and temperamental woman who is nevertheless a passionate lover. The song is a well-constructed one, but it is troubling that the narrator does not reflect on the degradation that results from a lack of commitment.

I’m Gonna Win: A rousing song about competition, this song is a contemporary of similar songs by Queen, and references the band’s refusal to concede defeat. Whether this song is referring to competition in terms of critics or rivals or someone else, this song reflects a competitive spirit and makes for a pleasant album track.

Woman In Black: This song, a rolicking rock track about a powerful and enrapturing woman, with an ominous lead guitar part, is part of a family song of songs from Foreigner about women who are everything a woman should be, powerful and intoxicating. This song is clearly designed as an album track but it makes an effective one, even if it is not a particularly original message at this point of the band’s career.

Girl On The Moon: This is yet another song about a remote woman who is simply not there when she is most wanted, with an appropriately spare and somewhat hauntingly melodic musical track. At this particular point, when one has written and performed so many songs on the same subject, at least the third or fourth such song on this album, besides the dozen or so related songs on previous albums, there needs to be some reflection and soul-searching about the sort of people one is becoming attached to and one’s own abilities at handling issues of communication and intimacy.

Don’t Let Go: The last song of the original album, this song, like “Break It Up,” is a song seeking to appeal to someone not to let a connection or relationship end. Again, as with the previous song, and the many others the band has made on this subject, it is clear that this song is sung with conviction, but hearing the same sort of song over and over again suggests that there is a pattern of difficulty here in resolving conflicts and disagreements that is worthy of investigation, a point that should be particularly obvious when one is dealing not only with romantic drama but band drama as well.

Juke Box Hero (Nearly Unplugged Version): This is the sort of song version that would appear on VH1 Storytellers, minus the story, which would be really entertaining, I imagine. This song sounds like a much more recent re-recording of the original hit, lacking a bit of the fire of the original, but a pleasant enough listen, to be sure.

Waiting For A Girl Like You (Nearly Unplugged Version): Replacing the synth with an acoustic guitar part gives this song a very spare feeling, and like the previous version, this song feels as if it was performed at least twenty years after the original, and it is a pleasant bonus track but definitely a pale imitation of the original.

Unlike the last two albums by Foreigner, there is no clear theme or concept that ties all of the songs together, there is at least a tendency that seems to connect these songs. On the one hand, there is the determination to prevail over adversity and band turmoil and remain victorious in the battle for chart dominance, which was definitely a success. On the other hand, there is the repetition of longings for lasting romance given a context of frequent failure, and given the many songs on this album that wish for a lover to come when she won’t come, to love when she won’t love, and to stay when she won’t stay, that appears to be a matter of failure. This album had three massive hit singles and at least one or two minor hits, and it sold a lot of copies, but at the end of the day, the band was still wrestling with the same issues over and over again, issues that in some cases it had been wrestling with openly for the fourth album. Nevertheless, any band whose focus and consistency serves as a model for Taylor Swift deserves at least some credit for their influence.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Love & Marriage, Music History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Album Review: 4

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