Album Review: Beyonce, I Am…Sasha Fierce

I Am…Sasha Fierce (Deluxe Edition) (released November 18, 2008)

I think I finally figured out why artists release alter-ego albums. It gives them the perfect excuse to totally contradict themselves.

For example:

Hit me like a ray of sun
Burning through my darkest night
You’re the only one that I want
Think I’m addicted to your light – “Halo”

This is a stick up, stick up
I need them bags uh that money
A stick up, stick up
You see them ask where that money – “Diva”

Beyonce’s third album, I Am…Sasha Fierce, offers fans a chance to get to know both sides of her personality. Lucky us, it’s like dating two people simultaneously with no strings attached! And after spending intimate time with Bey’s soft, sensitive side on I Am… and wildin’ out with the crazy Sasha Fierce I’ve come to this conclusion: I Am… is the sweet girl with substance that many would overlook as boring, while Sasha is the flashy, head-turning woman who’ll grab your attention – until you realize she’s as dumb as a box of rocks.

Remember all those slow songs at the end of Beyonce’s first album? I Am… is entirely devoted to that stuff and it’s by far the strongest of the two discs. “If I Were A Boy” is a nice twist on the tried-and-true “you did me wrong” category. I also love that she’s learned to reign in her former tendencies to yell and scream all over the track. Five years ago she would have burst my eardrums on a song like that.

In fact, most songs on this disc are very well-written, and especially well sung. Even Beyonce haters will give her props for her performances on “Ave Maria” and “That’s Why You’re Beautiful.” She sounds absolutely amazing.

Only “Halo” is a disappointment, with the tired hand claps and annoying repetitive hook that every single song on the radio has. So expect that to be her next single.

Sasha Fierce ain’t a new flavor of Mountain Dew, it’s Beyonce’s ghetto alter-ego. And boy, does she redefine the term ghetto. One minute she’s talking about robbing dudes on “Diva,” the next she sounds like Rihanna’s country cousin on “Radio.” There’s a lot of attitude, but not much else.

But even on brainless songs like “Video Phone,” vocal inflections and catchy ad-libs add a much-needed dose of individuality to what could have easily been another dumb T-Pain track. Those nuances can get annoying (that oh-oh-oh on “Single Ladies” and the way she pronounces “hello” as “hay-loww” on “Hello”) but they help liven up some pretty dull material. Too bad there aren’t more songs like “Sweet Dreams” (formerly known as “Beautiful Nightmare”) which combine that energy with decent songwriting.

Word is that Beyonce recorded over 70 tracks before editing them down to 16 or so for the full release. Seeing that the slow burner “If You Let Him Take Me” – which is way better than anything on both discs – didn’t even make the cut, you have to wonder what other gems wound up on the cutting room floor.

I think Bey would have been better off if she cut ghetto Sasha from the equation.

Best tracks: “Sweet Dreams,” “If I Were A Boy,” “That’s Why You’re Beautiful”

3.5 stars out of 5


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