Track 2: "I Care"

Sounds Like: Musical catharsis: all your pent-up heartbreak splitting its confines, never to return. The song that "Listen" was holding back.

Pros: Beyonce's developed a truly formidable instrument since Destiny's Child, and "I Care" is rangy enough to show it all off, its melody both stretching well above the scale and dipping into a smoky low register that singers overlook too often. You'd expect melisma, and melisma you get, both on its own and trilling in time with a guitar solo. But given the subject matter, that's more than excusable, and Beyonce imbues every note with enough emotion--"you're immune to all my pain" in verse one alone carries a song's worth of resignation--that it never feels tiresome.

There are enough subtle details in "I Care," too, to catch upon your inevitable repeat listens, like the teardrop sounds that plink down into nothing in the intro, the way every line echoes at half volume, the hairline-fissure percussion that slips in during the second verse and the way Beyonce's whistle-register recedes into the background underneath the chorus, instrument more than vocal trophy.

Cons: Drained of Beyonce's vocal gusto, a lot of these lyrics are really bad. The example most people will quote is the forced rhyme of "tears falling down to my ears," but the over-caring likes of "maybe if you cared enough, I wouldn't have to care so much" and the la-las in the chorus don't read well on paper. Of course, a good singer can whittle even the most banal declarative statements into daggers, and Beyonce does. You could make a case for the guitar solo being cheesy, too, but by that point in the song you're either swept up or not.

Lyric as Personal Mantra: "I know you don't care too much, but I still care."

Previous reviews: "1+1"