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by Stefan Schumacher
11 December, 2008@7:15 pm
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Beyonce has become a sort of force of nature.  She’s not only a musician and actress, she’s an icon of the celebrity culture.  She’s Jay-Z’s wife, for God’s sake, and she’s never overshadowed.  But for as many roles as she’s taken on and as popular as she is, it’s just as much her attitude that makes the alias Sasha Fierce seem appropriate.

The “hottest chick in the game” is hot, no doubt, but she exudes her sexuality with such power that it often feels more like a stiletto to the head than a soft caress.  Even her DirectTV commercials are in your face.

Oddly enough, her latest album, I am…Sasha Fierce, isn’t very sexy.  The first half is a series of ballads that sound almost more like they could be part of a Broadway musical than an R&B/pop record.  Songs like “Ave Maria” and “Satellites” have a very onstage quality to them.  You can almost see the backdrop dimming as the spotlight shines on Beyonce while she sings, “Saturn lighhhhhhhhts/flashing byyyyyyy…”

She’s a strong singer and she’s more than capable of bringing down a house or two, but there’s a theatrical quality to the first six songs on I am… She has a habit of singing phrases at first softly and THEN VERY LOUDLY.  It seems to be her way of building the drama.  She does this on the first track, “If I Were a Boy.”

“Cause I know that she’d be faithful, waiting for me to come home/to come home/IF I WERE A BOY!  I THINK I COULD UNDERSTAND!…I’D LISTEN TO HER!  CAUSE I KNOW HOW IT HURTS!”

One thing can be sure with Beyonce, you won’t miss her point.  Subtlety is not in her vocabulary, and this album takes an almost unnerving shift halfway through when it goes from over-the-top ballads to stomp-your-way-through-the-club pop bangers.

“If you like it/than you shoulda put a ring on it,” she scolds on “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)”, which is as frenetic and pulse-pounding as it is ironic–this from the woman who’s wearing a planet-size rock on her finger.

On “Diva” she proclaims, “Diva is the female version of a hustler.” Then she starts doing something she shouldn’t do:  she kinda raps.  I won’t bother getting into the specific lyrics but they’re variations on, “git money.”  I thought divas were drama queens who wanted lots of attention, but here Beyonce makes them out to be something more like pimps or angry drug dealers. Her version of “A Milli”, if you will.

The album closes out on an extremely odd note with “Video Phone,” a song that seems to be suggesting the production of a sex tape, but it comes off as more of a demand than an idea–”If you want me, you can tape me on your video phone.” The content of the song is sexual, but the feel and tone are not at all sensual.  What a strange feeling to walk away from an album with–that of being instructed to make a cell phone sex video with all the romance and eroticism of being told to take out the garbage or put the toilet seat down.

Beyonce leaves nothing to chance.  Everything with her is black and white.  If she were a boy, she’d be a much better man.  If she’s in love, her man is an angel who wears a halo (“Halo”).  If she’s not, she’ll make you regret it. – Stefan Schumacher

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