The title of her upcoming album, though, is decidedly basic: It’s 4, as in … yes, her fourth solo album. But she says it has other significance, too: “We all have special numbers in our lives, and 4 is that for me. It’s the day I was born. My mother’s birthday, and a lot of my friends’ birthdays, are on the fourth; April 4 is my wedding date.”
Also revealed in the interview?
* Then-boyfriend Jay-Z almost wasn’t originally supposed to appear on her 2003 smash “Crazy In Love”: “I asked Jay to get on the song the night before I had to turn my album in—thank God he did. It still never gets old, no matter how many times I sing it.
* She took a chance on 4‘s Major Lazer-sampling first single “Run the World (Girls)”: “It’s definitely riskier than something a bit more…simple. I just heard the track and loved that it was so different: it felt a bit African, a bit electronic and futuristic. It reminded me of what I love, which is mixing different cultures and eras—things that typically don’t go together—to create a new sound. I can never be safe; I always try and go against the grain. As soon as I accomplish one thing, I just set a higher goal. That’s how I’ve gotten to where I am.”
* 4‘s musical inspiration came from all over: “I recorded more than 60 songs,” she says. “Everything I ever wanted to try, I just did it. I started off being inspired by [Afrobeat music pioneer] Fela Kuti. I actually worked with the band from “Fela!” [the hit Broadway musical based on his life] for a couple of days, just to get the feel for the soul and heart of his music; it’s so sexy, and has a great groove you get lost in … I also found a lot of inspiration in ’90s R&B, Earth, Wind & Fire, DeBarge, Lionel Richie, Teena Marie… I listened to a lot of Jackson 5 and New Edition, but also Adele, Florence + the Machine, and Prince.”
* Her dad is no longer her manager, but there’s no bad blood there: “It’s not that anything bad happened between us. My family has my support always, and they support me, but when you’ve been working with the same people for 15 years, it’s natural to eventually have your own ideas … We were at a point where we’d learned so much from each other, and now it’s exciting for me to do this on my own and hire my own team. I’ve started managing myself.”
* She’s thrilled to be working on the Star Is Born remake: “It’s a dream come true; I’m still in shock that it’s really going to happen. Clint Eastwood is clearly the absolute best, and I’m so honored and humbled. I was in no rush to do another movie unless it was the right film, and I didn’t even want to touch A Star is Born unless it was with him. I actually learned that this project was in existence, and kind of claimed it. I want to get to work right now!”
* Taking time off made her ready for the next step: “I’m approaching 30, and finally took a break in my life, which I’ve never had. I took more than a year off: I traveled around, spent time with my husband, woke up in my own bed, ate whatever I wanted, went to museums and Broadway plays, watched documentaries, and just had life experiences. I never get to go to concerts because I’m usually performing, so I saw so many shows—great bands, like Muse and Rage Against the Machine, that also inspired the album. There were a lot of artists I’d never been exposed to: I’m like a sponge and soak everything up, and I learned so much from watching these great performers.”
The final word: “Having time to grow as a human being was really inspiring, and gave me a lot to pull from. I’m excited about growing: I can just have fun, and the artistic freedom to do whatever I want. At this point, I really know who I am, and don’t feel like I have to put myself in a box. I’m not afraid of taking risks – no one can define me.”