Album review: Beyoncé - I am... Sasha Fierce
Fortunately for me I was in Japan when this album released, so I decided to buy it there. Japan only got one version of the album: the deluxe edition - which sports 2 Japan exclusive bonus tracks, lyrics for all of the songs on the Sasha Fierce disc and the superior standard edition cover as opposed to that stood on a beach, titty clutching, back combed bullshit cover that everywhere else got for their deluxe edition. So what you'll be getting here is a review of the definitive release of the CD. Read on people!
The first disc in the 2 disc set is I am..., which kicks off with "If I were a boy". A nice song and probably one of Beyoncé's better singles because it is such a departure for her. Surprisingly she didn't get a writing credit for it! Although I bet Daddy Knowles tried to make it so she did. "Halo" is a big ol' power ballad which features the song writing and production talents of OneRepublic front man Ryan Teddar. This song was supposedly due to go Leona Lewis for her second album, but ended up in the hands Beyoncé. Regardless of whether you think Leona Lewis would've sounded better had she gotten the song, there's no denying how great Beyoncé sounds on it. She owns the damn thing. I don't think Beyoncé has ever sounded so warm and vulnerable on a song before. "Halo" is an amazing song which I'm sure will garner her another hit when she drops it as her second single. "Disappear", "Smash into you", "Ave Maria" and "Satellites" are all beautiful guitar driven mid tempo's which again show a vulnerability and softness to Beyoncé's vocals that very few songs in the past have highlighted. "Smash into you" in particular is a brilliant song: a contender for being one of Beyoncé's more memorable ballads and the one she'll probably perform years from now to get crowds swaying. There's even enough of a bounce in the song for her to thrash her weave.
The Sasha Fierce disc is more of the Beyoncé you either love or hate. "Single ladies (Put a ring on it)" kicks things off, which is bog standard Beyoncé and nothing new. I hated this song at first, but absolutely love it now. It has an infectious charm about it that I cannot get enough of. The song borrows heavily from the musical template of "Get me bodied", but is still a hot song - made even hotter by the memorable (and already on its way to becoming iconic) music video. "Radio" has hit single written all over it. The bubble gum synths and 80's sound works wonders. And as with most of Beyoncé's up-tempo tracks, she takes a pretty standard beat and laces it in a way that no other chick in the game could. The vocal harmonies on this song are insane, especially towards the end. As with "Single ladies (Put a ring on it)" and most of B's club tracks, we get some "Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh"'s thrown in for good measure. Another song tailor made for pussy popping and weave thrashing.
Although the Sasha Fierce disc kicks off loud, it does run out of steam quickly due to some horrendous songs. "Diva" is some hood based garbage. Folk in the music game need to realize that Sean Garrett is a whack songwriter and producer. His shit is as dry as a 4 day old raisin in the sun. He brought nothing substantial to the table for "Diva" and even Beyoncé's vocals and swagger is unable to save what is an utter piece of shit song. The same goes for "Video phone", which also comes courtesy of Sean 'If you hear a smash on the radio bet I didn't pen it' Garrett. "Sweet dreams" (previously leaked as "Beautiful nitemare") sounds better now than it did when it first leaked due to tighter production, but is still a throwaway song and not one you'll play all that often. I can't believe this made the track list, whilst the far superior "Should have (Now I know)" didn't. Then in a funny turn we get "Hello" and "Scared of lonely" - 2 songs which clearly should've been placed on the first disc. "Scared of lonely" is without a doubt my fave song on the album. Rodney Jerkins never fails to deliver when he works with Beyoncé: both as a solo artist as as part of Destiny's child. The song has a similar vibe to Brandy's "Right here (Departed)" with the hard knocking drums and the frenetic harpsichords. Beyoncé also sounds amazing. The song gives her licence to go overboard vocally, but she stays tethered to her middle range - only going for the highs during the bridge and then coming straight back down for the run towards the end of the song. It's great that Beyoncé has realized that she doesn't have to belt and riff every note to sound great. Christina Aguilera should take notes.
Despite this being Beyoncé's best album, it also feels like her most flawed. Spreading the album across 2 discs causes the album to feel far too divided. The first disc is impressive, but the second disc feels like a throwaway attempt to please fans of B'Day and shows zero growth. Sasha obviously ran out of material, because she scraped the bottom of the barrel for "Diva" and "Video phone" and then stole a couple of Beyoncé's songs for "Hello" and "Scared of lonely".
Beyoncé has mastered the art of being a stand-out vocalist and a performer, but is yet to master how to make a cohesive album. Her debut Dangerously in love was all over the place, her follow up B'Day had too much of a emphasis on throw away club bangers and I am... Sasha Fierce feels unnecessarily divided. The worst thing Beyoncé did with this album was making it 2 discs and then having two SKU's for it. All the Sasha Fierce disc does it negate the I am... disc, because for every step Beyoncé took forward for the first disc she took a weave trashed jump back for the second. It would've been better if the albums' strongest cuts were condensed into making a strong 13 to 14 track album. There honestly was no need for 2 discs. Delete "Sweet dreams", "Diva" and "Video phone" from the track list and the remaining songs easily could have fit on one disc and made for a tighter album.
Although Beyoncé may get praise for embracing a new sound for the majority of cuts on the first disc, it should be noted that Kelly Rowland did it yonks ago with her debut Simply deep and further switched shit up for her follow-up Ms. Kelly: showing that whilst Kelly may not be the most interesting and biggest selling member of Destiny's child, she's the one who is the most fearless musically. Beyoncé needs to decide how she's going to reign her musical styles, because whilst she was able to divide her musical styles between 2 discs on this occasion, she won't be able to do this again and get away with it. I am... Sasha Fierce is a decent album. But it's not the huge risk take Beyoncé is making it out to be. A risk would've been a one disc album with all of the songs from the first disc and smattering of tracks from the second. A couple of more songs from Ryan Tedder and Rodney Jerkins wouldn't have hurt neither.
■ If I were a boy
■ Smash into you J's fave
■ Single ladies (Put a ring on it)
■ Scared of lonely