Favorites: Smash Into U, Disappear, Halo, Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)
Despised: Diva, Video Phone
Overall: Loved “I AM” (disc 1) for its artistry and craft, hated “Sasha Fierce” (disc 2) for its lack thereof
Beyonce’s third solo album, “I Am Sasha Fierce” is a 2-disc concept-driven project, with the focal point of presenting more reflective, personal material (disc 1) and introducing us to her “alter-ego” Sasha Fierce (disc2). No, Beyonce` hasn’t gone insane. She’s merely named her stage-persona, insisting that what we see on stage is not how she is at home. Overall, I looked forward to the release of this album because there was a lot of potential for greatness. The concept was intriguing and the 1st two singles, “If I Were a Boy” and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it) were well-written, infectious, and represented everything I love about Beyonce`. Moreover, the album NEEDED to be amazing so Beyonce` could rebound from her strong, but not superb sophomore effort “B’day.” If the 1st two singles were any indicator, this album would be some of Beyonce’s best work. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. “I Am…Sasha Fierce” lived way UNDER its potential and did not deliver. The “I AM” disc was a solid start, but the “Sasha Fierce” disc was disastrous follow up, making the whole album questionable and borderline trash.
Beyonce` garnered points on “I Am” for artistically and vocally going places she had not gone before. To Beyonce’s credit, she plays with a different genre every album (this includes the Destiny’s Child material). This disc was no different as there were STRONG influences and elements of alternative rock, opera and adult contemporary, which was particularly fascinating (and there’s LIVE INSTRUMENTS PPL! YEA!!). By going so far out of the bounds of her foundational genres (R&B and Pop), Beyonce` proved that she is versatile and more eclectic than some might realize. Showing her vocal versatility, Beyonce` held back, using gentler tones to convey vulnerability; also a different stretch for the usually powerful singer. Lyrically, “I AM” is profoundly open, expressive, symbolic, naked and emotional. It is honestly some of Beyonce’s best writing. She lets us “in” in a way that she hasn’t before; unveiling her softer, deeply romantic and poetic side. We are used to seeing Beyonce` be private, domineering and almighty, so it is interesting to see that she has such a side. If you’re expecting to hear Beyonce` spill beans, you’ll be disappointed. Beyonce` does not divulge any obvious or specific details of her personal life, yet the lyrics seem so revealing; which I think is brilliant and a testament to skillful writing. Despite all of these wonderful aspects, the major con of “I AM” is that it’s monotone and, to a degree, “sleepy.” Many of the tracks are mellow and slow-to-mid tempo. Disc one could have benefited from more tempo variance.
2. “Halo” -Subject: Feeling the warmth of someone’s love
One of two songs with the least vocal restraint. Every element of the song (music, vocal, lyrics) is powerful and romantic. I anticipate that Halo will be a single.
3. “Disappear”-Subject: letting a perfect love slip through your fingers and not realizing it until it’s too late. Disappear is haunting and perfectly illustrates remorse, weakening pain and desperation. She makes you feel sorry for her.
4. “Broken-Hearted Girl”-Subject: Vehemently begging the love of your life to stop mistreating you and breaking your heart. Lyrically this song is interesting because it plays out the conversation with herself and with her love interest, displaying the conflict and confusion of opposing emotions. Everything else about the song didn’t move me. I felt that it was weak production on Stargate’s part and that the song was a little mediocre for Beyonce`. With the way the overall production was on the song, it could have easily gone to a new, less established artist. “B-H G” has the most pop/R&B of all the disc 1 tracks.
5. “Ave Maria”-Beyonce` interpolates the original work with her own lyrics, singing about the comfort a supporting love provides. Ave Maria is stirring and can arouse weeping. Perhaps the most vulnerable song on the disc, Ave Maria is poignant, sensitive, and romantic. The feelings it evokes are almost indescribable. Beyonce` sings BEAUTIFULLY with a bleeding heart; also using precision and skill to alternate between the delicate and the powerful. It’s pure artwork.
6. “Smash Into U”-Smash grabs your attention and carries you away. You will stop what you’re doing and get lost in the beautifully orchestrated music and Beyonce’s compelling vocals. The lyrics aren’t half bad either It varies flawlessly in tempo, and is gradual with emotion.
7. “Satellites”- Out of all the songs, Satellites has the most symbolism. Beyonce is Space Ghost on this one, referring to herself and her man as…well, satellites. Very open to interpretation, the lyrics will have you pondering on its meaning. I love songs that make me marinate. The song is simple and beautiful, with simple music and highly restrained vocals. Less is more here.
8. “That’s Why You’re Beautiful”- another symbolic and metaphorical song about letting love blossom when you’re already off to a good start. I really liked this. Loved how Beyonce` sung it, love the simplistic music.
I don’t even know where to begin. After “Single Ladies”, there’s a lot of unnecessary and forgettable happening. The material on “Sasha Fierce” is sooo beneath Beyonce`; she could have done it in her sleep. It’s lazy, lacks substance and doesn’t require any mental processing. It’s the type of ish that new artists cover: it’s gimmicky and has no real purpose other than to be commercial and sell records. There was no artistry on this disc. The lyrics are worthless and the music was either conformist or non-compelling. I could do without the whole thing. And as for our introduction to Sasha…if that’s how Sasha would be on the daily, she can stay on the stage. I anticipated a lot of attitude, but “good attitude”: a feisty, confident, and overly independent being- you know, like what we saw in the “Single Ladies” video? Instead, Sasha was ghetto, brassy, obnoxious, boisterous, skanky, and lacked class. If Beyonce` was trying to be COMPLETLEY different, she accomplished her goal. Beyonce` went against many of the things that make her a great artist. The material is like a shoe that doesn’t fit.
2. “Radio”- a song about loving Mr. Dj. I love songs about how much music can brighten your day. Radio is bouncy and danceable, and it’s fun to watch Beyonce` play with futuristic electro-pop. However, “forgettable” is apparently the theme for this disc, and “Radio” is fairly forgettable. It’s not particularly striking. Play it 3million times, and it will stick in your head, but mostly it’s a no. I wouldn’t be a surprised if this were a single though.
3. “Diva”- I ABSOLUTLEY HATE THIS SONG! It is so gimmicky and blatantly freakin’ conformist!! They did this on purpose. Does the song sound familiar? It’s the female version of Lil Wayne’s “A Milli.” They enlisted “Milli” producer Bangladesh to essentially recycle his track so Bee would have a single that would sell like hot cake. How is it that people will buy the same song twice? I will never understand that. Anyhow, the song follows the cookie cutter pattern of southern mainstream hip-hop: a fixation on money, a repetitive track with a beat you can jump around to, and whack lyrics. People will be too busy jumpin’ around to give a crap about the lyrics. I hate southern mainstream hip-hop….the lyrics to “Diva” lack cohesion, meaning and literally make no sense. There’s plenty of “what the heck is she talking about?” moments. Out of the 3:20secs, the best line is probably the following: “how you gonna be talkin’ s***, you act like I just got up in it, been the #1 diva in this game for a minute.” I’ve never seen Beyonce` be sooo conformist. Typically she’d take hip-hop, or any other genre, and give her own twist to it. There is no sign of HER on “Diva.” If I didn’t know any better, I’d think I wasn’t listening to a Bee song. Not to mention her definition of a “diva” is lame. A “female hustler”? Wouldn’t a female hustler just be a hustler? ….you would think that someone who is the essence of a diva (i.e. Bee) would know how to define the word. (Sigh). I’m really trying to have a meaningful thought about this song, but my brain is numbing so fast! …
4. “Sweet Dreams”-Bee Bee is really working the U.K. electro synth-pop on this one. The lyrics are alright; I kinda like the whimsical nature of the song. The down side: it’s, again, forgettable. You have to listen to it a couple of 1,000 times for it to grow on you and stay on your mind.
5. Video Phone- this song makes me CRINGE. My flesh crawls at the thought of it. Again, it’s filled with nonsense and has no substance. Again, it’s conformist-it’s got all the signs of a cheap, meaningless, disgusting, mainstream b.s. ringtone rap song. It’s a breath away from being a “hole-in-the wall” club banger. It’s also skanky, with lyrics like “you wanna see me naked, if you’re liking this position won’t you take it on your video phone.” Who the hell makes a song about a freakin’ video phone?!! Really? Yeah Beyonce`, a song about a phone is gonna be a classic. What’s next, writing a song about shoes? WTH? Oh, and the song is ghetto as heck. I’m so sick of Beyonce’s suburban behind tryna be so hood! Who are you tryna prove yourself to? No one is requiring you to be hood, why are you doing it?! It’s ok… you’re a Texas suburban princess…accept it! The hood thing doesn’t work on you! Let me hurry up, and finish this review- I’m getting a headache.
6. “Hello”- yet another “yesterday I tried to paint you” (bee bee fans where u at? lol) ode to Jay-z. She talks about how she loves…..ok, I’m going to make this quick- he had her at “hello”, because he’s mystical, magical, special and fly and ish- hows that? Boring song. Romantic, but boring. Next?
7. “Ego”- u know, I could have really loved “Ego.” The track is phenomenal- big ups to Elvis Wlliams and Harold Lilly- it’s a great blend of old school soul and hip hop, and the instrumentation is the truth- it’s got everything: drums, horns, piano and church organs. I love the irony of sexy lyrics on top of church organs- that’s just hilarious to me. I also love the way Beyonce` sings on the song-she all over the place with it-seductive and controlled low tones, strong and flowing gradual tones, and unexpected vulnerable high notes. I even love the concept-Beyonce’s bragging for the 1st time and still doesn’t come off obnoxiously arrogant. So what is my problem with “Ego”, you ask? Well, the concept was great, but it was a little undercooked and underdeveloped. The lyrics give you enough to know what the concept is, but they weren’t as strong as they could be. My other beef with “Ego” is that she says “I’m that bitch.” I have yet to meet anyone that likes her saying that. Calling yourself a bitch is just plain tasteless and ignorant. I have cultural/societal commentary on her lyrics in my “Seriously Beyonce, WTH?” section.
8. “Scared of Lonely”-with production and writing by Rodney Jerkins, Rico Love and Bee’s lil sis Solange (who is a very talented writer, btw), you would think that “Scared of Lonely” would be a genius smash. But it wasn’t. With so-so lyrics and underwhelming music, “Scared of Lonely” continued the theme of forgettable music on “Sasha Fierce.”
The smartest thing about the marketing for the album is that the material on both discs appeals to ALL types of Beyonce` fans. There’s something for the fans who like “up-tempo Bee” and something for the fans that enjoy the more artistic and personal side of Bee. The material should also bring in some NEW fans, as Bee experimented with genres VERY NEW to her repertoire.
For the next album, I think Bee should take the “I Am” material and go back to the drawing board with her 1st solo effort “Dangerously in Love.” In my opinion, Bee’s last 2 cd’s have yet to parallel the best characteristics of “Dangerously In Love.” After taking a brief survey from some Beyonce` listeners in a college cafeteria, I realized that several people feel the same. They mentioned that “Dangerously in Love” better showcased Beyonce’s vocal ability and that it’s an album that you would never get tired of, no matter how old it gets. They also said that the material made Beyonce` seem more accessible, with it sounding more her style than the other albums that featured more current, mainstream dance content. An interesting quote was “In history, they’re going to take “Dangerously in Love” more seriously than “B’day” and “I Am Sasha Fierce.” Beyonce`, it’s time to start over. After the “Sasha Fierce” disc disturbed my inner peace, I turned on “Dangerously in Love” to get my Beyonce` fix.
(Check out the “Seriously, Beyonce` WTH?!” section for my take on the album as a fan)