CD Review of I Am...Sasha Fierce by Beyoncé
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Destiny’s Child, Faith Evans, Ashanti
Label
Columbia/Music World
Beyoncé:
I Am...Sasha Fierce

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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J
ust two years removed from her second solo album, B’Day – two years in which she filmed a couple of movies, toured, managed her clothing label, and married Jay-Z – Beyoncé’s back with a double album? How does she do it?

Well, in the case of I Am…Sasha Fierce, she does it by spreading a single album’s worth of music over a pair of discs and splitting them up via the most transparently corny PR gimmick since Garth Brooks tried to trick us into listening to "Chris Gaines." There reaches a point in every megastar’s existence when she becomes too insulated from honest criticism to make sensible decisions, and Beyoncé has apparently reached hers. She’s had a good run – not many artists can spearhead a wildly successful vocal group, launch a lauded solo career, and branch out into film before their 25th birthday – but someone in her inner circle needed to find a way to stop her from this silly embarrassment.

I Am…Sasha Fierce comes in a variety of configurations, but the conceit at the heart of the album remains the same: The I Am… half is credited to Beyoncé, and made up of slow-to-mid-tempo ballads (topped off by the terrific single "If I Were a Boy"), while Sasha Fierce, which consists of more club-friendly tracks (led by the terrific single "Single Ladies [Put a Ring On It]") represents the coming-out party of Beyoncé’s alter ego, who is apparently rather angry and likes to dance while wearing half of a metal glove. If it sounds like an awful lot of back story for a collection of pop songs, well, it is – but it’s easy to see why Beyoncé dreamed it up, because without it, I Am…Sasha Fierce doesn’t have much of a reason to exist.

Beyonce Knowles

The second disc fares slightly better than the first – "Diva" tears a page from the Lil Wayne playbook for a playfully sassy response to "A Milli," "Ego" is clever and catchy, and "Video" uses a nice push-and-pull rhythm to rise above its heartbreakingly stupid lyrics – but on the whole, neither of the album’s halves deliver on their promises: I Am… is a soggy bowl of adult contemporary product, rather than the soul-revealing collection suggested by its title, and Fierce is anything but. Given the castoff feel of much of the album, a better title would have been B’Sides. (Thank you, thank you! Try the veal)

Ultimately, I Am…Sasha Fierce’s problems are – somewhat appropriately – twofold. First, and most importantly, Beyoncé went into the studio with a batch of lukewarm material – but what’s perhaps more troubling is the way, with each new album, she seems to be cloaking herself from her audience. Like Michael Jackson before her, Beyoncé seems to believe that every new project needs to come bundled with ridiculous levels of hype in order to be worthwhile – and also like Jackson, success seems to have made her so hungry for privacy that she’s forgotten how to open herself up in her music. The results aren’t entirely charmless, but most of these songs could have been recorded by anyone – and when you’re talking about a performer with a personality as oversized as Beyoncé’s, that’s a real disappointment.

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