I AM…SASHA FIERCE
Two years after her last studio collection (the Grammy-winning birthday album B’Day), Beyonce Knowles has split her personalities. In a move nearly identical to Mariah Carey’s The Emancipation of Mimi, Beyonce has released an album intended to showcase the wilder side of herself. And, as only a Diva could do, she has created a two disc set, one as Beyonce and one as the ferocious, dance loving hellcat, Sasha Fierce. Though the collection does have some gems it also suffers from the malady of sound engineering we so often hear in modern music. Even Pop lovers admit that many artists today struggle with creativity, often succumbing to a barrage of over-engineering in the studio, making their music seem abrasive and repetitive. However, although Beyonce and Sasha are guilty of this in some respects, they manage to rise above it all to produce a more than passable album that showcases the artist’s creativity, if not the full strength of her voice.
The first disc is ballad drenched, seeming to alternate between lush beauties and played out duds. The second disc is for the club hoppers, switching from driving, dirty dancing beats to anthems of independent womanhood. Oddly enough, it’s disc one (the original Beyonce) that is truly commanding and intriguing. The first and most stunning track is the tender “If I were a Boy”. With soft accompaniment vocals and delicate guitar backgrounds Beyonce sweeps through this touching ballad with strength and emotion, putting this song at a tie for best on the album. That tie is actually with the second song on the disc, “Halo.” A drum/clap rhythm and a slow string and synth backup combines with Beyonce at her most confident to help this bold, throbbing ballad hit home. Unfortunately the best of the entire album is past at this point. The next two songs are clichéd pop ballads that may appeal to the truly sappy among us, but musically they pale in comparison to the strength and ingenuity of the opening tunes. With the classically tinged “Ave Maria” Beyonce takes one of the few truly revered musical pieces in existence and butchers it. A teasing guitar intro gives hope but the misguided lyrics and vocals infringe upon the sanctity of the original song. The final track on disc one, ”Satellite,” is a good attempt at recapturing the feel of the first two, and makes one feel a little better after the “Ave Maria” horror.
The second CD lacks the soul of the first, though a couple of songs do stand out. The first, Single Ladies, declares boldly: “If you like it/then you should have put a ring on it.” The clubbers and dancers will love this one with its stomping beats and proud lyrics. “Diva,” the third song on the disc, is an answer to Lil Wayne’s boastful “A Milli.”
She shows her creative force here with an ominous feel and sharp vocals. But for the most part Sasha is only mildly exciting and sounds strangely similar to the Beyonce we already know. Hopefully Sasha won’t last and Beyonce will stick to Beyonce. If she expects listeners to start referring to her as Sasha Fierce she’ll be “Beyonce Old” before that ever happens. All in all Beyonce gets 3 stars out of 4 and Sasha Fierce gets 2.
Reviewed by Alex Mitchell