I Am… Sasha Fierce
Label: Columbia Records
Beyonce Knowles went solo in 2001 after being the face and voice behind Destiny’s Child and since then, she has consistently remained at the top of the charts. And if we couldn’t get enough of her, she can be found on the giant screen in films such as Austin Powers in Goldmember, Dream Girls and the upcoming Cadillac Records. She is a woman of exquisite beauty, but does this new double-disc album accentuate her curves or leave the listener in search of a better shape?
To take on a new, separate persona is a deliberate act aimed at altering voice/language/preference of gender and/or documented views. Imagine being able to wake up one day with a new name. How might that change you? Would you turn toward a completely different wardrobe? Quit your job and try something completely out of your comfort zone? Maybe experiment sexually or search through the sadness from within and recreate the tone of your memories? It’s an exciting thought: to be known publicly as one person and risk confounding others by coming out as someone else. Artists and writers often create alter egos, mainly to dive into alternate genres and experiment with a new voice or sound as audiences get used to categorizing artists by sadly, pigeon-holing them.
Knowles takes on this idea through her new album, I Am… Sasha Fierce. The album is broken up into two parts. There is also standard and deluxe versions available; perhaps the idea is to push fans to buy all Beyonce can produce. Her label, Columbia Records, has created a website to correspond with her album that is for Sasha Fierce. It has yet to be released, though it will spotlight the true identity of who Ms. Fierce is. Knowles will also release a Spanish version in February along with a DVD of music videos for each song.
The tracks on I Am are musically fluid and slow. The lyrics are expressive, taking the forms of inner monologues and love letters. In Knowles first single, “If I Were a Boy” she sings “[I’d] drink beer with the guys/ And chase after girls.” I think: if I were given the impermanent ability to really be a boy, is that what I’d do? Can’t she do all that as a girl?
A deeper sense of calculated bass shows up on the Sasha Fierce disk. As these songs begin, the music becomes louder with hands clapping against a thick booming; creating catchier dance tunes (what seems to be Knowles’s signature sounds). You can almost hear Knowles grinding her infamous thighs against expensive sparkles and a barely-there wardrobe. Each beat is catchy with overproduced background singers and indefinable instruments, making it hard not to dance along. Though, one might easily confuse a few tracks as Rihanna knock-offs.
Artists often suffer a slump of creative fervor after finding love or making it legal or publicized. See: Coldplay (marriage) and Alanis Morissette (happiness). As fans, we want to be elated for our favorite artists, but the truth is: those that suffer bewilder us with creative fusions of brilliance. See: Elliott Smith. After a not-so-hidden relationship with Jay Z turned into a not-so-hidden marriage, there was that possibility that Knowles supreme popularity could skid. On her website, Knowles writes: “I am in a different place right now and I wanted people to see the many sides of me. The music is upbeat for the dance, fun side and it is reflective, passionate and serious for the personal side. I have taken risks here. I am not afraid and my music will explain it all. There is no label or tag on my sound. It’s me and I am so excited to share it with the world on November 18.”
Here is my problem: where are the risks? I lost count on the number of times she said hustler. I did not feel inspired by her passion or infused by her trust in her audience by digging deep into her soul. Her deepest song “If I Were a Boy” wasn’t even written by her. There is a disappointment I felt from an artist that we’ve grown with from girl-group to solo; so many albums and hairstyles. Fans expect consistency coupled with slight modification and revamping. Media forces us to know far too much already about these artists, so their album is a chance to tell the real story or at least a slice of who they are or what they like. And maybe Beyonce does this through tracks such as “Video Phone”, “Turn up the Radio” (“I think I’m in love with my radio/ Cause it never lets me down“), or “Diva” (“Diva is the female version of hustler“).
I Am…Sasha Fierce experiments with inconsistencies and succeeds. As two separate albums they are okay–not exactly standing out or offering up new, inspiring sounds, but offering at least three worthy radio singles. As a double disc, it feels schizophrenic and although we all tend to have different voices in us, we certainly don’t always choose to listen to them.