Beyonce - I Am...Sasha Fierce (2008)

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There hfas been no musical force more unavoidable or unstoppable in the last couple of years than the singer, actress and performer known as Beyonce Giselle Knowles. Ever since she emerged as the main vocalist from the quartet/trio of Destiny's Child, the 27-year-old Houstonian has been a one-woman entertainment conglomerate, dominating both airwaves and the big screen with hit after hit ("Crazy In Love," "Baby Boy," "Ring The Alarm," "Upgrade U") and role after role (The Fighting Temptations, Dreamgirls, Cadillac Records).  Most peers lucky enough to obtain that level of visibility and success fall back from the spotlight after each CD and major project, allowing years worth of breathing space in-between for public demand and creativity to rebuild, but not Beyonce.  Just over 2 years after the release of her sophomore CD, B'Day, Ms.

There hfas been no musical force more unavoidable or unstoppable in the last couple of years than the singer, actress and performer known as Beyonce Giselle Knowles. Ever since she emerged as the main vocalist from the quartet/trio of Destiny's Child, the 27-year-old Houstonian has been a one-woman entertainment conglomerate, dominating both airwaves and the big screen with hit after hit ("Crazy In Love," "Baby Boy," "Ring The Alarm," "Upgrade U") and role after role (The Fighting Temptations, Dreamgirls, Cadillac Records).  Most peers lucky enough to obtain that level of visibility and success fall back from the spotlight after each CD and major project, allowing years worth of breathing space in-between for public demand and creativity to rebuild, but not Beyonce.  Just over 2 years after the release of her sophomore CD, B'Day, Ms. Knowles decided to unleash her third studio CD and first-ever double disc collection, the admirably ambitious, yet recklessly rendered I Am...Sasha Fierce.

If anyone out there is unclear on the Sasha Fierce angle, it is the name that the Ms. Knowles has bestowed on her super-sexualized and uninhibited stage persona, and it's that collection of songs that, while showcasing a slick and sassy side, also come across as the most calculated and at times, the most clumsy. "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" is engaging enough, an uptempo anthem to her unattached sisters telling them to don those 'freakum dresses' once again and flash their jewel-free hands if their men don't pop the question fast enough.  "Sweet Dreams," which finds her swooning over a too-good-to-be-true guy, is another created-for-the-club ditty.

The others fall between two extremes, instantly disposable ("Scared of Lonely," "Hello,") and cringingly annoying. "Radio" would've been more fun if she didn't so laboriously change her style, because it comes across as a wanna-be Rhianna retread, and "Diva," which could be super-imposed with little effort over Lil Wayne's "A Milli," redefines the term as "the female version of a hustler" and portrays herself as game-spitting, drink-guzzling, street-savvy chick who has no time for salty haters or broke men ("if you ain't gettin' money then you ain't got nothin' for me"). "Video Phone" takes the same unbelievable route, almost juvenile in its portrayal of a worldly, wealthy woman who's suddenly become enamored by a thuggish player's sagging pants and syrupy drawl of "shawty, whatcho' nayame is"..... "Wha...you want me naked?" She purrs. "If you likin' this position you can tape it." Puh-lease.

I Am, her adult-contemporary side, is beautifully delivered, if a bit by-the-numbers ("Smash Into You" and the hokey "That's Why You're Beautiful"). In addition to the poignant "If I Were a Boy," there's the shimmering "Halo," the ethereal "Satellites" and one of her most vulnerable performances ever, "Broken-Hearted Girl," where she simultaeneously rails against and pines for her true love ("I know that I love, but let me just say, I don't want to love you, in any kind of way."). "Disappear" proves that, when Ms. Knowles explores her range and forgoes her melismatic histronics, the singer can create truly timeless and tender music.

Will fans enjoy ....Sasha Fierce? Of course---some will consider her latest an adventurous foray into pop and soul, and many may welcome her going against the grain. But others may, like this critic, feel that I Am... comes across as forced and feckless, especially when compared to B'Day, which took less time to execute, but still has three times the swagger and synergy. It's hard to imagine why Beyonce, a newlywed with 2 movie roles under her belt, didn't consider it appropriate to take some time off, especially considering that her younger sister and 2 former Destiny's Child members also dropped their releases this year, but what can be envisioned is how much better this CD could've been if she had given herself at least another year to marinate her creative juices. Perhaps her demure side should've explained to the irrepressible Sasha Fierce that the spotlight is an unblinking and unforgiveable place if one remains there just for the sake of it.  

By Melody Charles

 
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