Beyoncé I Am… Sasha Fierce

Beyoncé I Am… Sasha Fierce
Since we last heard from Ms. Knowles on 2006's underwhelming B'Day, she was overtaken in the charts by her newfound nemesis Rihanna, whose Good Girl Gone Bad was one of the most consistently satisfying commercial pop albums in years. Well, Beyoncé has come back in full force, with a double album that presents her two personalities: the soft ballads of Beyoncé, and the aggressive and sexual club cuts of her alter ego, Sasha Fierce. In the spirit of OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, Beyoncé presents two very different sides to the artist, but where Andre 3000 and Big Boi turned in a classic, B settles for an exhausting and uneven division of soppy love songs and flaccid bangers. I Am's "If I Were A Boy" is a weak attempt to put a spin on gender perspective, while "Ave Maria" is a preposterous take on the opera classic. Only the uplifting hand-clapped "Halo," one of her best songs yet, and the shockingly slow grunge of "That's Why You're Beautiful," keep Beyoncé from losing her soul completely into a sea of cheese. Sasha Fierce, on the other hand, isn't even that lucky. In the dirty Southern hip-hop attempt called "Diva" she tries to convince us that "a diva is a female version of a hustler," and that's her hook. On "Ego," she appears to be dissing her man, who knows, but the cake is taken by "Video Phone," where she resorts to Janet Jackson's raunchy desperation, telling her lover: "You want me naked/If you likin' this position you can take it on your video phone." But the biggest problem, among the many, is in the lacklustre talent she has behind the boards, even with the work of Rihanna's guru the-Dream; when you're married to Jay-Z, why not put him to work? There's nothing as electric as "Crazy in Love" here, and considering her profile, Beyoncé should be giving us so much more. It feels like since her debut, Knowles has been riding her famed name instead of writing the material that she made it with back in Destiny's Child. Perhaps she should look to her younger sister Solange, who, for the time being, is the Knowles to beat. (Columbia)