I Am... Sasha Fierce - Beyoncé Platinum Album Review
Platinum Album Review
'I Am... Sasha Fierce [Platinum Edition]' is the CD/DVD re-release of the three times platinum (as of October 2009) selling third solo album from stunning American diva Beyoncé Knowles. The original release, described by amazon.co.uk as an 'intentionally schizophrenic affair', came as two discs, each portraying a side of Beyoncé's split musical personality by means of adopting one of two characters; 'I Am' being Beyoncé's inner emotional, sensitive self and 'Sasha Fierce' her fun loving, booty shaking alter ego. The first disc is a collection of superb emotional down-tempo tracks and ballads which showcase Beyoncé's complete vocal control and outstanding vocal ability while the second disc is a selection of infectious, more upbeat R&B tracks reminiscent of her 'Crazy In Love' days. Also containing four bonus tracks and a DVD of the single videos and behind the scenes extras, the platinum edition, however, abandons the blatant split musical personality concept as tracks are relisted side by side on one twenty track CD as a musical roller coaster of variety.
So, to the musical content itself. The strutting, booty shaking, R&B pop brilliance that is 'Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)' introduces the album; Beyoncé the diva on fine form. This super start, however, rapidly deteriorates from such fine form with dirty hip hop/R&B track 'Diva', a disappointingly weak second track with a repeated 'I'm a I'm a diva' sample throughout which is reminiscent of a chipmunk and rather irritating. Merely three tracks into the album, the inconsistency that continues throughout the selection is evident. The fourth track is a return to magnificent haunting ballad 'Halo' which is both beautifully sung and orchestrated; synth pads reminiscent of a choir, piano introduction, and low synthesised strings over another simple kick drum and synth clap drum beat. Lulls in the orchestration throughout create the perfect variation to highlight Beyoncé's utterly lush vocal, particularly evident in the chorus. In a similar vein to the number one single 'If I Were A Boy' which precedes it, 'Smash Into You' is another down tempo number with a gorgeous, delicate vocal during the verse building into a stronger vocal in the chorus, picking up pace throughout, building into a moving 'oooh' refrain highlighting Beyoncé's outstanding range and flexibility. The composition isn't particularly reflective of the lyrics on this track; 'I wanna run and smash into you' hardly brings a beautiful slow ballad with a stripped down, acoustic guitar and piano accompaniment underneath Beyoncé's lush vocal to mind. Interspersing doses of grooving R&B among beautiful, down tempo ballads, the album continues with the singles 'Sweet Dreams' and 'Broken Hearted Girl' and then another R&B filler 'Scared of Lonely'. Tracks nine to thirteen are the mediocre lull of the album, highlighting the aforementioned inconsistency throughout.
Tracks fourteen to seventeen are bonus tracks exclusive to the platinum edition of '...Sasha Fierce'. Kanye West meanders his way through a one and a half minute rap over the funky piano, bass, kit and synthesized brass groove of 'Ego' in its second "remixed" appearance on the album; in reality, the track is identical to the previous hearing, except that Kanye takes the first verse before returning the reigns to Beyoncé for the remainder of the song. Her vocal tone towards the end of the song is, however, questionable; an attempt at a high-pitched almost whisper-like tone turns out to sound shredded and strained. 'Why Don't You Love Me' is a harmonically dull, bongo-ridden latin dance pop number, followed by the contrasting Billy Joel cover 'Honesty' and 'Save The Hero', the latter of which both showcase Beyoncé's lovely, soulful voice and outstanding vocal range.
Beyoncé's vocal talent is indisputable and ever-present on 'I Am... Sasha Fierce'; frequent melismatic phrases in the delicate melodic lines of ballads suggest obvious comparisons with the likes of Mariah Carey, similarly the strong power vocal so prominent in the big choruses highlights the influence of big selling American female vocalists such as Tina Turner, Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin. With the high points of this album, 'Halo', 'If I Were A Boy' and the stunning conclusion 'Ave Maria', Beyoncé now stands among the likes of the aforementioned artists in, as a solo artist in her own right, becoming one of the absolute gems of the American music industry, especially where the ballad is concerned.
The conclusions drawn from multiple plays of 'I Am... Sasha Fierce [Platinum Edition] are diversity in genre (which is great!), yet inconsistency in quality. Some tracks, with their rambling love song lyrics and monotonous harmony, pass by as "just another track" whilst others, notably the singles and the lush, tear jerking close 'Ave Maria' stand out as really strong tracks. Fair enough, this is the extended platinum version but even judged on the original release, despite being value for money in terms of quantity; Beyoncé could've condensed the content to a shorter track listing and thus released a stunning album free of fillers. As it happens, as much as her talent shines, she unfortunately dilutes her fine form with much weaker tracks: disappointing inconsistency. Having said that, for it's high points, 'I Am... Sasha Fierce [Platinum Edition]' is a fine showcase of the further progression, variety and musical maturity of an undoubted talent.
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