On The Download: Is Beyonce Finally Coming Into Her Own With ‘I Am… Sasha Fierce’?

As the resident mainstream pop music fanatic for “On The Download” at Access, there aren’t many albums that I’m more excited for than Beyonce’s third solo effort, the double-disc, “I Am… Sasha Fierce,” which comes out on November 18.

(Well, I’m almost as excited for Britney’s and Pink’s new albums, but that… my friends, is for another post!)

If Beyonce’s first two singles (which is all that most of the world has heard so far) are any indication, this album looks to be a vast improvement over “B’Day” (which was reportedly put together from start to finish in a matter of a few weeks) and more in line with her 2003 solo debut, “Crazy In Love.”

While both of Beyonce’s new tracks are odes to feminism, the first track, “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” is a sassy dancefloor step anthem, which reminds me a lot of what I thought was the best track to come from “B’Day” – the never-released-as-a-single “Get Me Bodied.”

The irony of course, is that Beyonce is singing about being single and getting a wedding ring in the year that she got married to longtime boyfriend Jay-Z.

But therein lies the genius of this song – Beyonce never formally announced her marriage to Jay-Z. They’ve given huge hints and all but said “we’re married” – in fact, in a recent interview with Essence earlier this month, she talked about ceremony details, even though she never said “we’re married.” (note: her father has since officially confirmed that the couple is married)

So, in this new single, she continues the “Am I, or aren’t I?” game. She’s essentially saying, “Even if I am, this is who I am as a pop singer…. I am an icon who will represent all women’s voices – married and unmarried…. (natch: “I Am… Sasha Fierce!”).”

The song is as good as Beyonce’s solo single debut (“Crazy In Love” – the song, not the album), and will no doubt soon re-establish her back alongside Rihanna at the top of the pop charts.

On her Web site, the singer recently wrote, “I have worked on this album for close to one year. I have taken the time so I can create my sound. Something that says who I am at this stage in my life. I have poured my heart and soul into it. It is my baby… I am in a different place right now and I wanted people to see the many sides of me. The music is upbeat for the dance, fun side and it is reflective, passionate and serious for the personal side. I have taken risks here….”

Simultaneously, Beyonce released “If I Were A Boy” from the ballad half of the new album. And the song is a gender-war song for the ages.

The lyrics are simple, but incredibly profound. She writes:

“If I were a boy / I think I could understand / How it feels to love a girl / I swear I’d be a better man / I’d listen to her”

Unlike “Single Ladies,” this adult contemporary track gives us a bit more insight into the true Beyonce. We see the person behind the superstar – the feminist – the fighter – and yet at the same time, the damaged everywoman. The song makes her instantly relatable.

In fact, in the key art (for both singles), Beyonce is stripped of any make-up or glam – we just see an up-close portrait that allows her fans to look into her eyes and her soul.

It is a portrait of a superstar who is willing to make herself accessible to her fans.

Both songs are complete hits for their respective genres. Although very different, they share common themes.

If this is pre-cursor of what’s to come in the rest of “I Am… Sasha Fierce,” I expect 2009 will be a very good year for Ms. Knowles.

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