Money Mike also wrote about Beyonce’s new album, I Am…Sasha Fierce a couple of days ago. You can read his take here. Here’s mine.
the time has come
for my dreams to be heard
They will not be pushed aside and turned
Into your own
all cause you won’t
Those are the lyrics to Beyonce’s Listen, a fictional song based on her fictional character Deena Jones from the movie Dreamgirls. Even though some people didn’t like the song, what you couldn’t deny was that it was the most emotional performance of her career. One of my best friends in the entire world who isn’t even really a Top 40 pop music fan felt the emotion and was able to identify with the lyrics. It might’ve been a song for a movie, but you felt like Beyonce was also singing for herself a little bit. For a few minutes, Beyonce channeled everything inside her and put herself and Deena Jones together and made them one. It was pure artist growth.
Coming from Destiny’s Child, an all girl group that was chopped up and changed many times with the end decisions made by her dad/manager Mathew, you got the sense that she was this fabricated artist. You didn’t really feel like you had a true sense of who Beyonce was. I’ve always felt that these next few albums of Beyonce’s career would give us an idea of a great artist to come. Man, was I wrong.
I Am…Sasha Fierce is her newest release and I bought the album with much trepidation. Beyonce decided to release a double album even though there were only 12 songs on the regular release and 16 songs on the deluxe edition release (18 songs if you bought the iTunes version like me). A double album is unnecessary and simply a waste of plastic. And another reason to go all digital. Her reasoning was that she wanted to split the songs to show off her split personalities. You have the traditional radio records on one disc and the more sassy songs, with her Sasha Fierce stage personality influence, on the other disc. Was I Am…Foxy Cleopatra taken?
According to her father, this wasn’t forced on Beyonce. It was something she desperately wanted to do. Maybe the artist was growing, but just in the wrong way.
She released a double single with If I Were A Boy from the more traditional pop side and Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) as the Sasha Fierce single. I became deflated. If I Were A Boy is an interesting take on relationships and shows some of the inequality in them. But at the same time, it’s more of a 17 year old girl’s take than a 27 year old woman’s take. Thankfully she didn’t write it. Because if she did, I’d really wonder about some of the male influences in her life. But the video is even worse. It shows Beyonce as a cop, doing her husband dirty by flirting with a man, not returning hubby’s calls, staying out late, and when she gets called on it, her excuse is, “It’s not like I’m sleeping with him.” It generalizes male/female relationships to the most simplest degree and as someone who has never cheated on their wife/girlfriend before, I was offended. I think that’s what it was for, but it also left a bad taste in my mouth about the song. Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) is a frenetic mess that sounds like the frenetic messes on her last album B’Day, and if you don’t listen to the lyrics, it’s a fine display of who Sasha Fierce is. If you listen to the lyrics, you might thing Sasha Fierce is an idiot. The song is about females in relationships being able to cut it up on the dance floor with anyone they choose to if they’re boyfriend hasn’t claimed them via an engagement ring. If you’re in a trusting relationship, the idea that your significant other is dancing at a club is probably not that big of a deal. But for Beyonce, it’s like a line drawn in the sand. Put a ring on my finger, I’m with you. Don’t, and I’m bumping and grinding with someone else. You know, she’s pretty and all, but …who am I kidding, I’d put a ring on her in a second. And dammit if the video isn’t just the hottest thing of all time.
The pop side is very slow. I actually think splitting the songs up is a mistake because everything on the first disc starts to sound the same. Halo by itself is a very nice song, but with Disappear and Broken-Hearted Girl immediately following, the songs just mesh into each other and don’t stand out. It’s a pity too because she sings so beautifully on Disappear and if it can find its own identity, it has a chance to be a single later down the line. Her singing is actually the highlight of the first disc. Ave Maria, while a bit of an odd remake choice, is brilliantly sung for a Beyonce song. Smash Into You is simply the best song on either disc, but it sounds awfully familiar. It’s also a song that’s completely about love rather than heartbreak or vulnerability which also helps it stand out. Beyonce’s songs tend to stray into the vulnerable territory so often and it’s actually more powerful in my eyes when she actually takes control of her relationships in her songs.
Now, onto Sasha Fierce. The worst is yet to come.
Radio is an take on an old LL Cool J song. There’s a really weird verse where she compares taking her radio into her bedroom with secretly taking a boyfriend into her bedroom.
The only one that papa allowed to hang out in my room with the door closed
We’d be alone
And mama never freaked out when she heard it go boom
‘Cause she knew we were in the zone
She can’t not take credit for those lyrics.
If you took Snoop Dog’s Drop It Like It’s Hot and Fergie’s London Bridge and put them together, you get Diva, which might be on a short list for the worst songs of the years. Beyonce is such a poser on this song it’s silly. She doesn’t need to pretend she’s something that she’s not when she has such a strong vocal instrument. Video Phone battles Diva for the worst song on the album.
Ego and Hello are interesting because they’re about Jay-Z. Both of them are about her attraction to him which have a lot to do with being attracted to his swagger. See guys, it’s easy. You just have to be the most famous rapper in the world, run a few companies, set trends, and you can get girls like Beyonce too. The iTunes bonus track for the Sasha Fierce disc, Why Don’t You Love Me, is actually the best song on the disc. It would’ve fit on Dreamgirls during the disco era of the movie. You can see Beyonce wearing an afro and rockin’ with a disco ball.
To say that I’m disappointed in this album is an understatement, but then again, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I just figured that after her work on Dreamgirls, she would’ve been able to come a bit stronger. But there are just some artists who will stay at a certain level and never move from there. And who can blame her? She sells a ton of records and has a legion of fans. Even if she is…Sasha Fierce?