On The Download: Beyonce’s “I Am…. Sasha Fierce”

It’s hard to avoid Beyonce this month – In the last two weeks alone I’ve watched her on “Saturday Night Live,” the American Music Awards, at the World Music Awards in Monte Carlo, on the red carpet for her premiere of her new movie “Cadillac Records,” on “Ellen,” on the finale of “TRL” and on the “Today” show.

And she’s got a lot more to go in promoting her third studio album, “I Am… Sasha Fierce,” which came out last Tuesday, November 18. This morning we all learned that her album debuted #1 on the Billboard album charts.

Her live performances have been nothing short of incredible. While the “SNL” windblown version of “If I Were A Boy” was a tad awkward, she blew us away on the AMAs and on “Today” this morning. Her accompanying all-female band is refreshing to see, and the “Single Ladies” choreography is infectious, even starting a wave of YouTube imitations.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the first two singles from the album – the uptempo jam “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) and the ballad “If I Were A Boy” – each of them equally strong, and amongst her best songs to date.

This past weekend I finally listened through the full album a few times. Beyonce and her father / manager, Matthew Knowles, have divided it into two-discs – the ballads (the “I Am…” disc) and the bangin’ hits (”… Sasha Fierce” – Beyonce’s on-stage alter-ego).

Now, the album was released in 3 different versions – the Standard Edition, which is the only version her record label has sent thus far to Access Hollywood, and has only 5 songs on each disc – the Deluxe Edition, which has 10 (ballads) and 9 (uptempo) tracks on each disc – and an International version. The different versions are meant to market to different folks.

I was annoyed at the Standard Edition, because of the simple fact that I didn’t want to go through with the physical act of hitting Eject on my CD player and changing discs after only listening to 5 songs. It’s an awkward user-experience.

That being said, the ballad CD is infinitely better than the uptempo disc. Beyonce has refined her voice to a level that it’s never been at before, and in my opinion, it works best when not accompanied by all of the surrounding action.

The best song on this new disc is undoubtedly the ballad “Halo,” which could very well go on to be the best-selling single of her career. Her vocals soar high and the reverb on the refrain of the chorus is actually used well in the recording studio for once. Also standing out on this disc is her version of “Ave Maria,” which is truly a religious experience for anyone who listens (this coming from a Jew).

There wasn’t a single track on the “Sasha Fierce” disc that I enjoyed as much as lead single “Single Ladies.” “Sweet Dreams” and “Radio” are both cute, but left me wanting more.

Now, that being said, I haven’t heard 9 of her 19 new tracks. I’ve heard that “Ego” and “Hello” are both stand out tracks from the Deluxe version of “…Sasha Fierce,” but I haven’t heard them yet.

I was hoping this would be the magnum opus album of Beyonce’s career thus far, but I think that honor still belongs to her debut disc, 2003’s “Crazy In Love,” which didn’t have a generic song anywhere on it.

Then again, the label has apparently put the Deluxe Edition in the mail for us, so when I get it, maybe I’ll write about it a third time and hold some new opinions.

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