BEYONCE: I Am… Sasha Fierce (Label: Music World, Columbia)

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BEYONCE: I Am... Sasha Fierce

No matter what you think about Beyoncé and her career trajectory there’s no denying she has one helluva soul voice. OK… she’s the Queen of R&B, the darling of the MTV generation and can sell out massive arenas and each and every one of Las Vegas’ huge concert rooms but when she turns it on vocally she can rival the soul greats. This was brought home to me the other weekend when she performed ‘If I Were A Boy’ on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. The girl packed plenty of power and emotion and seeing her perform it live I got the poignant point of the song and it made me approach this new album with a more receptive mind. Essentially, ‘I Am … Sasha Fierce’ is a double CD – the first disc (‘I Am’) sees B in ballad mode while the second disc (‘Sasha Fierce’) is the one for the butt-bumping R&B beaters, and, listening more carefully than I might have done before that ‘Strictly’ performance, my opinion on the lovely lady’s voice was reinforced. She handles both the ballads and the beaters with committed, yet controlled soul intensity – sadly though, especially on the ballads, that voice deserves songs to match the passion she brings. Too many of the selections are middle of the road, superficial dramas, like ‘Halo’ and ‘Disappear’, while ‘Ave Maria’ does use the traditional hymn as its basis. ‘If I Were A Boy’ is clearly the best song and little wonder that it was chosen as the lead single. The follow-up, we’re told, is the first cut on the ‘Sasha Fierce’ disc – ‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)’, and, make no mistake, by Christmas this will be THE party tune. It’s a brash boomer – out of the same stable as ‘Crazy In Love’ – and clearly destined to become as a much a club staple as ‘Crazy’ has become. Elsewhere ‘Radio’ is an odd combination of broken beats and hi-energy, ‘Diva’ is a sparse bumper, ‘Sweet Dreams’ is standard contemporary R&B fare, while ‘Video Phone’ is designed to fuel adolescent (and maybe not so young) fantasies. With just eleven tracks the double CD album Is perfectly focused – a typical and totally professional artefact of Knowles plc. Yes, for sure, it’s not traditional soul as soul purists know it, but the lady has one of the great soul voices. Imagine what might happen if she were paired with a writer/producer like, say, Sam Dees? But you know what they say about pigs and flying…
(BB) 3/5