Beyonce wants to be taken seriously. It’s evident in how she typically infuses terms like “timeless” and “classic” when describing her creations. Such a technique is derived from the school of thought that suggests if you repeat something enough it becomes true. It’s a flawed way of thinking given it never negates an obvious truth: Just because you say it doesn’t make it true.
That’s why no matter how many times she calls it the “most personal album she’s ever done,” I Am…Sasha Fierce is nothing more than a continuation of the same format used to create her solid debut album and even stronger sophomore offering. Try as she might to parade her catchy and often clever songs as something innovative, her sound is usually a representation of what’s hot at the time – only executed better.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but the methodology won’t get Beyonce the respect she wants. Neither will it make the schmaltzy acoustic-driven ballads found on the first half of her double concept album seem any less impersonal than they are.
The collection fits perfectly into the current trend of R&B artists opting for a watered down pop-leaning sound to help them crossover. Not that Beyonce needs the help in such an endeavor. She’s at the point in her career where practically anything she releases will get immediate airplay. Though such clout usually affords an artist the opportunity to really break the mold and push the envelop with their music, Beyonce instead pushes for songs that will get airplay on adult contemporary stations across the country – making sure whatever three people who have yet to hear of her will finally join the fold.
There’s nothing wrong with that either, but it suggests that the lyrics came from a business plan, not a personal diary. The set does offer highlights like the lead single “If I Were A Boy” and “Smash Into You.” The latter sounds designed for love scenes in teen dramas and ending credits for romantic comedies. There’s also the second single “Halo,” which will have audiences of every persuasion singing-a-long once it’s sent to every radio format across the country.
If you judged the songs on their own, they’re fine for what they are. But if you view them as Beyonce would have you – an inside look into the heart and mind of the “real” Beyonce – you’re left unconvinced. While skillfully crafted and arranged perfectly to highlight Beyoncé’s increasingly impressing voice, the real Beyonce seems vapid and underwhelming. She can’t be that boring, can she?
She’s not as long as she’s calling herself Sasha Fierce. That’s where you’ll find her trademark boldness and playfulness. It’s evident in tracks like the “A Milli” inspired, “Diva,” the play on pornography track, “Video Phone,” and the humility-dissing, “Ego,” where she boasts, “Ego so big, you must admit, I got every reason to feel like I’m that b-tch.”
Sasha Fierce may be sold as “something for the fans,” but if I had to choose which side I felt was the more introspective offering, I’d go with the Sasha for pointing out the biggest truth about Beyonce: She is so guarded to the point she has to downplay her naturally aggressive and sexual side under the guise of an alter ego.
That’s the real Beyonce and that’s what prevents her from the level of artistry she aspires to. As she’s proven with B’Day, Beyonce can take a bathroom break and come out with a good album, so imagine how I Am…Sasha Fierce could’ve sounded if she spent a year actually having life experiences over working with producers and songwriters creating them for her.
It’s not that I Am…Sasha Fierce is a bad album; it’s that you know Beyonce is capable of being of just as personable as she wants you to believe she is if she dug a little deeper. Her performances will be good, and this album will sell like the others, but will you really feel the lyrics she’s reciting to you?
Ironically, the few songs where you don’t have to wonder aren’t on her album; they’re on the soundtrack of her next film. One song in particular, “Trust In Me,” proves Beyonce can use her voice to draw empathy. Then again, it’s Beyonce channeling Etta James – yet another instance of her entering the recording booth with a character in mind.