Beyoncé - I Am… Sasha Fierce

Posted November 16, 2008
Tags: Beyoncé,

Beyonce is more than the Queen of R&B. She belongs to that extraordinarily rare group of...

I Am… Sasha Fierce Album Review

Beyonce is more than the Queen of R&B. She belongs to that extraordinarily rare group of celebrities who have transcended mere fame and fortune and become empires unto themselves. Beyonce is to modern radio R&B what Bill Gates is to computers, what Jordan was to basketball, what Lil’ Jon is to crunk juice. That’s why it’s so remarkable that in this age of TMZ-fueled paparazzi orgies, the public doesn’t really know who the intensely private Beyonce is as a person. Enter Queen B’s latest album, I Am...Sasha Fierce.

The world already knows Beyonce’s alter-ego Sasha Fierce. She’s the intimidating sexy woman who set the world (and a car) on fire on Crazy In Love. What this album was supposed to offer us was not only some ferocity, but more importantly, some “I am.” But unlike similar albums, for example T.I. vs. T.I.P., that addressed the often-contentious nature of artists’ multiple personalities, dividing I Am...Sasha Fierce into two discs only leaves us more confused (the first disc is I Am, the second Sasha Fierce). As a collection of enjoyable and even surprisingly complex singles,I Am is a resounding success. But if this album was supposed to be a musical compass to help us locate the real Beyonce, I’m lost.

I Am...

I Am is simultaneously impressive and disappointing, a testament to both Beyonce’s growth as an artist and her hesitancy to truly open up. Just take Halo, an ambient track that slowly builds a halting piano melody into an orchestral ballad. Most notably Beyonce has dropped the superfluous vocal embellishments to deliver simpler, more powerful vocals (a theme throughout the album). At first I couldn’t figure out why Halo left me underwhelmed, until I realized it’s just a more muscular version of Umbrella. I Am is supposed to give us a glimpse into Beyonce’s true musical soul, and after Halo we’re lead to believe that either her soul is unoriginal, or very similar to Rihanna’s. Much better is If I Were A Boy, a slowly winding track that uses the same full band sound she used on Irreplaceable. Beyonce’s more than a singer, she’s a lead singer, and on Boy she delivers a dramatic (but not over-dramatic) performance that should be a radio hit. The rest of I Am falls somewhere between the Halo and Boy spectrum, ranging from the captivating Satellites to the monotonous Disappear. I have to give Beyonce respect for her musical diversity, and impressively there's not a single guest feature on the album, but it’s hard to know if I Am sounds like it does because this truly represents her, or is more an attempt to expand her appeal to the VH1 crowd.

Sasha Fierce

First off, I can’t be the only one who thinks Sasha Fierce sounds like a drag queen name. Anyone else? Questionable aliases aside, Sasha is easily the more enjoyable portion of the program, packed with tracks that push boundaries without abandoning Beyonce’s signature sound. Just take Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It), a track that I admittedly wasn’t feeling at first. Sure the soul clap based production was catchy, but it felt a little repetitive. Then I saw the I can’t get enough. It’s a testament to Beyonce’s multifaceted talent that only listening to her is like drinking non-alcoholic beer; you could, but you’re missing half the fun. Putting visual aides aside and concentrating on pure sonic excitement, I’d have to go with Diva, an A Milli-esque track that pounds with swagger and makes two crucial points: Beyonce may have a squeaky clean image, but she’s got some serious f**king style, and she’s got so much money she could buy T.I. whatever he wants. Also notable is Video Phone, a bouncing slow jam so steamy it makes Naughty Girl sound like Destiny’s Child’s Christmas album. These are tracks I could listen to over and over again. (Though that may say more about me than this album.) If they were sold separately, I’d definitely buy Sasha Fierce, but I probably wouldn’t pick up a copy of I Am.

In the end I have more questions than answers. Is there some Sasha in Beyonce? Some Beyonce in Sasha? If they are two completely different people, as the album suggests, what does it mean if I like Sasha so much better? Ultimately I Am...Sasha Fierce leaves the “real” Beyonce as mysterious as ever - maybe that’s exactly how she wants it.

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted November 16, 2008
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