"Best Thing I Never Had" was written by Knowles with Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Patrick "J. Que" Smith, and was produced by Symbolyc One. A private listening party for Knowles' fourth studio album was held on May 12, 2011. Knowles offered a select group of fans a preview of five songs from her fourth studio album as well as the official video for the lead single "Run the World (Girls)". On that occasion, "Best Thing I Never Had" was one among the five songs previewed. On May 1, 2011, a song titled "End of Time" leaked as a demo while the full demo of the song, featuring Knowles professing her everlasting love to her love interest, leaked online on May 20, 2011, watermarked with the tag "internal use only". Several websites, including MTV News started reporting that it might serve as a potential follow up to the lead single, "Run the World". However, these speculations were soon overshadowed by the release of an exclusive US promotional single, "1+1" on May 25, 2011. In early June 2011, Columbia Records reported that "1+1" would however not be sent for airplay, with "Best Thing I Never Had" favored as the second single from 4, following "Run the World".
Beyonce "Best Thing I Never Had" Song
On May 27, 2011, Pittsburgh radio station 96.1 Kiss FM reportedly received an email from Knowles' management, informing them about the follow-up to the lead single, "Run the World (Girls)" from 4, will be "Best Thing I Never Had" and that it would premiere on radio on Wednesday June 1, 2011. As reported, the single debuted on US radio stations on the announced date at morning at 8 (EST). It was digitally released in the United States on June 1, 2011. The single's cover artwork was photographed by German artist Ellen von Unwerth, and shows Knowles posing in a bathroom in front of a mirror. She is holding a tube of red lipstick, which was used to write "King B" on the mirror. Knowles is wearing a "tight-fitting dress"."Best Thing I Never Had" is a midtempo pop and R&B ballad with influences of gospel music. According to the sheet music published by EMI Music Publishing, "Best Thing I Never Had" is set in common time with a moderate tempo of 100 beats per minute, and is written in the key of G♭ major. The introduction follows the chord progression of G♭–C♭–E♭m–D♭, while the verses follow E♭m–G♭sus4–G♭–E♭m–D♭6–G♭sus4–G♭. Its theme and musical style has been compared to Knowles' previous releases like "Irreplaceable" (2006) and "If I Were a Boy" (2008).
The song's instrumentation consists mostly of a piano melody intro and outro, with some layered female vocals providing background support to Knowles' singing. As stated by Kyle Anderson of Entertainment Weekly, "Best Thing I Never Had" seems to have partly borrowed form Celine Dion's "That’s The Way It Is" (1999), and from Bruce Hornsby's "The Way It Is" (1986). Caryn Ganz of Yahoo! Music commented that the song bears resemblance to Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles" (2000) paired with Ryan Tedder's signature thump beat. James Dinh of MTV News added that "Best Thing I Never Had" sounds like a song people will hear during a Broadway musical. He attributed this to the fact that Knowles collaborated with the band from Fela! for a couple of days to gain inspiration from the play's subject, Nigerian multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, Fela Kuti.
Kyle Anderson of Entertainment Weekly noted the moderate chart performance of Knowles' previous single, "Run the World (Girls)", before adding: "'Best Thing I Never Had' feels like the kind of crossover hit that will help 4 join the rest of Beyoncé's discography in multiplatinum land." Still making reference to the former single, Anderson added that "Best Thing I Never Had" finds Knowles mining the same kind of "girl-power imagery as she did on 'Run the World (Girls)', but there is something more direct and honest about the lyrics on the new single (perhaps it's the instant greatness of the line, 'When I think of the time I almost loved you / You showed your ass and I saw the real you')." Noting its similarities to Knowles previous singles, "Irreplaceable" and "If I Were a Boy", Gerrick D. Kennedy of The Los Angeles Times quipped that Knowles certainly knows "how to dump a man in style." Both James Dinh of MTV News and Robbie Daw of Idolator felt that the song has a "radio-friendly appeal and catchy chorus." Leah Collins of Canadian Dose Magazine wrote: "'Irreplaceable', 'Independent Women', 'If I Were a Boy', we could go on [...] Beyoncé had long since proven she could write a song for all the ladies. Songs that could deliver a shot of self-esteem. Beyoncé's newest single, 'Best Thing I Never Had' takes us back to those not-so-far-off days."
"Best Thing I Never Had" debuted at number 84 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart issue dated June 18, 2011. "Best Thing I Never Had" entered at number 53 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, where it was the highest debut of that week. The following week, the single rose to number 75 on the Hot 100 chart. It has since reached number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. For the week ending June 18, 2011, "Best Thing I Never Had" debuted at the top spot of the South Korea Gaon International Chart with digital sales of 85,742 copies. The following week, it maintained it number one position selling twice as much, transitioning into 174,773 digital copies. Before the song's official release in the United Kingdom, it debuted at number three on the UK Singles Chart and number two on the UK R&B Chart on July 4, 2011, selling 51,365 copies that week. Music Week's Alan Jones attributed the high sales to a performance of the song by Knowles at the 2011 Glastonbury Festival on June 26, 2011. "Best Thing I Never Had" is Knowles sixteenth Top 10 hit in the United Kingdom.
The music video begins with Knowles preparing herself for her wedding ceremony. She is in her boudoir and she is decked in a lacy corset and a lingerie combo, complete with garters. As the song begins, Knowles looks towards the camera directing the words at the viewer, while affirming the subject of the song that she was the best he ever had. From there, the video moves to Knowles playing with a tiara, a veil and lots of tulle on a bed, to various stages of getting dressed. In-between there is a quick cut to old video footage of a young Knowles and her former high school boyfriend, at their senior-prom night in 1998. As Knowles and her boyfriend dances, he becomes interested in another girl, leaving Knowles alone on the dance floor. The video then returns back to the present scene, showing Knowles in her final preparations before she walks down the aisle on her wedding day. Interlaced shot show her singing at sunset atop a grassy hill, in a white gown, followed by the walk down the aisle and the exchange of vows. A final shot shows her former lover at the prom deep in thought, with his prom king crown sitting askew on his head. In contrast, Knowles and her newly-wed husband is seen celebrating at a happy and well-attended reception. The groom removes the bride's garter with his teeth and then they start dancing with their younger family members. The final shot features Knowles looking into the camera, with a look of total satisfaction and happiness. She then walks off confidently, to re-join her wedding party and new husband, and then the screen fades to black.