In her first solo album since 2006’s B’Day, R&B queen Beyoncé unleashes her alter-ego Sasha Fierce in the appropriately titled ‘I Am…Sasha Fierce.’ The double-disc marks a groundbreaking redefinition of the singer’s approach in recording music.
Many perceive this double-disc approach displaying the two extremes of Beyoncé’s talent to be more of a gimmick than an experimentation. They are right, as this album would have been much better off sticking with more of the ‘I Am’ disc than the ‘Sasha Fierce’ one.
Beyoncé begins the ‘I Am’ disc with a bang in the form of the ballad “If I Were a Boy,” a story of role reversals that tries to relay the pain a woman feels when she knows her man is being unfaithful. This is a very savvy way to start things off, as “Boy” is one of the strongest tracks thanks to its mix of melodic vocals and contemporary pop sound.
Other tracks on ‘I Am’ that show Beyoncé’s maturity as an artist include the melodramatic-but-catchy “Disappear” and the tender-yet-simple “Broken-Hearted Girl,” with the latter track being another potential single release.
Her contemporary take on the stunning “Ave Maria,” although a little pretentious, is another step in the right musical direction. Even the weakest track on this disc, “Satellites,” can be described as being “pretty,” though it is nothing earth-shattering.
As for the disc’s offerings for the deluxe edition, “Smash Into You” sees its lyrics take a backseat to production, but the end result is not diminished by this fact, as it is once again another example of a mid-tempo that builds to a beautifully stylized ending. “That’s Why You’re Beautiful,” on the other hand, is nothing one would ordinarily expect Beyoncé to record, but that is what makes it a pleasant surprise.
But the strongest track of both discs is without question “Halo,” the Ryan Tedder-penned mesmerizing power ballad that builds to a glorious burst of harmony with credit to Beyoncé’s angelic vocals. The track is a shoe-in for a Grammy nomination in 2010.
As for the ‘Sasha Fierce’ portion of the album, Beyoncé fulfills the role of poorly impersonating Rihanna perfectly. If one were not careful, he or she might have thought they put ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’ on by mistake. With the exception of the club banging earworm “Radio” and the unexpectedly listenable final track “Scared of Lonely,” the rest of the disc is irritating at best.
While one could consider current urban single “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” to be radio-friendly, it is a step backward to the ‘Dangerously in Love’ days for Beyoncé compared to the amazing effort she put into the tracks on the ‘I Am’ disc. Similarly, “Sweet Dreams” has a hot synth going on but the lyrics are laughable (“tattoo your name across my heart so it will remain”). Although it is beneath Beyoncé, line lifting from Jordin Sparks is apparently not a big deal for Sasha Fierce.
Although none of the tracks on ‘Sasha Fierce’ are amazing, a few are worse than the rest. Case in point: “Diva” is straight-up urban trash that should never have been considered for the album. Even for an energetic alter-ego like Sasha Fierce, the song is a major disappointment. “Video Phone” is another awful offering that adds nothing to the album but instead takes away from it.
The deluxe edition's offerings in addition to “Lonely” are “Ego,” which plays on double entendres to the point that it gets old within the first minute of the song, and “Hello,” which is not bad, just bland.
The sad fact about ‘I Am…Sasha Fierce’ is that the album could have been five-star material if “Radio” and “Scared of Lonely” could be added to the first disc, with the remaining songs being promptly discarded. Just as Beyoncé has demonstrated growth as a solo artist on ‘I Am,’ she has effectively reverted to her old ways on ‘Sasha Fierce.’
Hopefully this is just one more step in the right direction for Ms. Knowles, and the next album will be a quintessential masterpiece.