Review Summary: Sadly I Am…Sasha Fierce comes off as lesser than the sum of its parts.
Everyone’s favorite Destiny’s Child and American gangsta wife has always had sort of a split personality: from the naïve singer from Dreamgirls to the vivacious lovestruck woman in “Crazy in Love” to the defiantly independent ex on “Irreplaceable,” Beyoncé has always been able to fit into many different personas. Her third solo record, I Am…Sasha Fierce takes Beyoncé’s image of herself to new heights, a two-CD affair that is divided according to different aspects of the diva’s personality. While more than a little unnecessary (the regular set clocks in at a mere thirteen songs total) and fairly two-dimensional, it does do an excellent job of splitting the CDs into separate genre exercises, each with their own accomplishments and pitfalls.
The I Am… portion is the starting disc, a seven-song collection of mostly down-tempo R&B ballads that focus more on Beyoncé’s still-powerful voice and various standard pop themes of love, heartbreak, and self-empowerment. There is nothing fairly exceptional here, something which one could potentially say about the entire record, as Beyoncé sings in pretty much the same mode throughout the half. She does manage to restrain her pipes more than she has before, and on songs like the opening “If I Were A Boy” (easily the best on this half), the lyrics, simple beat, and Beyoncé’s upfront performance make for an affecting pop ballad. “Halo,” originally intended for Leona Lewis, is another surefire hit, built on top of a synth-and-hand-clap rhythm and an instantly memorable chorus.
Sasha Fierce, Beyoncé’s apparently random designation for her more wild personality, is, to no one’s surprise, much more entertaining than the first half, although it has its share of misses. Opener “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It),” is almost unbearably repetitive, but the following electro-pop “Radio” more than makes up for it with a synth-heavy, slinky beat and a respectable hook. The disc never really builds up any momentum as song alternate between terribly uneven and uninspired (“Diva,” the quite creepy “Video Phone”), to groovy, immediately catchy jams like “Sweet Dreams.”
Unfortunately, there is nothing here as monumentally poppy as “Crazy In Love” or as memorable as “Irreplaceable,” and sadly I Am…Sasha Fierce comes off as lesser than the sum of its parts. While an interesting concept, neither CD contains enough strong material to match up to either of her previous releases, and at times, the constant barrage of R&B clichés and adult-contemporary production make it sound like Beyoncé is rapidly transforming from hot, hip pop goddess to your standard bored diva. Maybe it’s the married life or the fact that Beyoncé has already proved herself beyond any shadow of a doubt as the reigning R&B queen in recent memory, but she would do well to shake things up for her next move lest she risk becoming irrelevant and (dare I say it") old-fashioned.