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I Am... Sasha Fierce - Beyonce
Member Name: plipplop
I Am... Sasha Fierce - Beyonce
Date: 06/05/09, updated on 06/05/09 (199 review reads)
Advantages: Some outstanding tracks
Disadvantages: And some right old wiffle
Beyonce has always been one of those artists who kind of passed me by, either as part of the R & B super group Destiny's Child, or as a solo artist. Besieged by press articles about her diva-like demands when on tour, I'd generally dismissed her as a pain in the backside and I've had a 'take it or leave it' relationship with her music ever since.
I Am...Sasha Fierce is the singer's third solo studio album. It's something of a concept album, given only that it is arranged across two discs. The first disc (generally referred to as 'I Am") contains an array of downtempo love songs and ballads and is supposed to reflect Beyonce's natural side. The second disc (known as 'Sasha Fierce') is intended to represent the singer's alter-ego Sasha Fierce and comprises more upbeat music, reflective of a fiercer, more streetwise persona. You know when Beyonce is in Sasha Fierce mode (apparently) because she'll be wearing a titanium robo-glove. So now you know. The concept is interesting enough although not entirely groundbreaking as many artists have played around with similar ideas. To the layman, this is essentially a double album, sorted into slow and upbeat songs and (realistically) nothing more. Were the artist to be truly committed to the idea, she would be releasing the second album and any singles off it as Sasha Fierce, but there you go.
The initial press releases went to some lengths to explain Knowles's dominance in all production decisions related to this album. Indeed it was Knowles who insisted that there would be two separate discs, but given that this is supposed to be all about the two sides to the singer, it's often surprisingly bland. Knowles co-wrote pretty much every track on the two discs, although her name is notably absent from If I Were a Boy, probably the strongest one here and whilst it's all reasonably good, there are only a few 'stand out' tracks here.
I Am... Sasha Fierce is definitely something of a mixed bag and one of the less consistent albums that I've purchased for some time. There are moments of brilliance, notably with the first three tracks of 'I Am', which are unconditionally excellent and on 'Sasha Fierce' where Beyonce's sassy attitude comes to the foreground. There are, however, moments of indifference also, particularly on 'I Am' where Broken Hearted Girl sounds as though the singer has been spending too much time with Leona Lewis (which, for the record, is not good) and on 'Sasha Fierce' with Video Phone's irritating (although strangely addictive) bleepy, stuttered and slightly Britney-esque nonsense.
Of the two discs, 'I Am' is probably the most instantly appealing and the easiest to listen to. The two singles released from the disc thus far, If I Were a Boy and Halo, are extremely strong openers, and the third track Disappear is even better. Knowles certainly demonstrates her vocal versatility across both the discs in this set and the opening three tracks are as good an example of this as you will get. If I Were A Boy is soulful and mainstream, Halo is powerful and dominant and Disappear is sultry and wistful. The only problem with this is that the very strong opening selection means that the disc rapidly runs out of steam. Broken Hearted Girl is more X Factor than Beyonce and doesn't fit here well at all. Beyonce's take on the classic aria, Ave Maria is strange but likeable enough in comparison to the remaining tracks that are all instantly forgettable. Curiously, it was rumoured that the singer wrote and recorded over seventy tracks for this album; one can't help wondering what the rest were like if the likes of That's Why You're Beautiful were selected for the final listing.
The second disc, Sasha Fierce, is more innovative, and something of a more acquired taste. The strange, tribal beat of opening track Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) is one of the oddest, but also one of the most likeable things on the album. Some of the club mixes available at the current time turn the song into something rather more mainstream and accessible, but as it stands the track is a strong record in its own right. Radio sees Knowles go all 'street' on us (vocally at least) and is probably the best thing on the album. An energetic, upbeat jaunt already, this is crying out for one of those big name remixes to really set fire to the dance floor. Diva is something entirely different again, boasting a certain self awareness of the singer accompanied to various sound samples and the hardest urban sound of the whole disc. This sees Beyonce reunited with long-time collaborator Sean Garrett (Check On It, Ring The Alarm) and is likely to appeal most to the Beyonce 'traditionalists.' Then, rather like disc one, it all starts to get rather less interesting. Sweet Dreams seems to be going through the motions, Hello is just irritating (she wails a bit too much) and Ego is a massive step back (sounding almost entirely like something that Destiny's Child would have done.) Post Diva, there's nothing particularly offensive, but there's nothing particularly exciting either.
For what is pitched and marketed as something so experimental, I Am...Sasha Fierce is therefore a little disappointing. Tempo aside, there's no detectable difference between Beyonce and Sasha Fierce, with neither party demonstrating a stronger attitude compared to the other. Marketing disappointments aside, there are some very good songs on both these albums and, as an introduction to Beyonce, this isn't a bad album by any stretch of the imagination. But don't expect something revolutionary.
Summary: Beyonce's back - with a split personality!