Monday, November 17, 2008

Instant review: Beyoncé's new album

Beyoncé's third solo album, I Am Sasha Fierce, has just arrived at Discopop Towers... because I went out and bought it this morning. It emerges from is cellophane wrapping to reveal two CDs - one with six tracks and one with five (nuts to the environment, eh readers?)

Resisting the temptation to play both simultaneously in the search for a hidden satanic message, here's a blow-by-blow account of my first listen. Brace yourselves.

Disc One - I Am... (syrupy ballads)
1) If I Were A Boy
This still sounds like a gender-challenged update of Joan Osborne's One Of Us. The tune is essentially the same all the way through, except Beyoncé shifts up an octave for the chorus. Derivative, but super nonetheless.

2) Halo
This is one by Ryan "Bleeding Love" Tedder that Simon Fuller supposedly wanted for Leona Lewis - but Beyoncé gets the lead writing credit. Far be it from me to suggest that Leona's people put that story out to "position" her alongside the world's most successful female solo artist, but something smells a bit fishy here (possibly the smoked mackerel paté I had yesterday, which is repeating on me something rotten). This is actually very good, with big handclaps and an Umberella (ella, ella) style call-and-response hook.

3) Disappear
The word "beautiful" is clearly some sort of magic charm for this song's co-writer Amanda Ghost, who also did You're Beautiful and Beautiful Liar. Disappear does not contain the word beautiful, and is therefore rubbish.

4) Broken Hearted Girl
The lyric booklet consistently mis-spells "you're" as "your" during this song, which invokes an instant penalty of two points. Six more points are deducted because of the incredibly dated mid-90s R&B balladeering, and further one goes because they've put a stupid synth line over the chorus in an attempt to disguise this fact. So that's 1/10.

5) Ave Maria
The verse is lifted from Madonna's Promise To Try, and the chorus is lifted from religion's Ave Maria. Only slightly better than when Michelle Bass sang Pie Jesu on Big Brother Five.

6) Satellites
Sorry, I completely drifted off during this one. But look at this picture from the back of the album. How does she do that?

Disc Two - Sasha Fierce (the uptempo ones)
1) Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
Much better in hi-fidelity than it seems on Youtube, with loads of rumbling bass and a much more expansive sound stage. Feet are tapping...

2) Radio
This starts off with a piercing synth riff like Destiny's Child's Jumpin Jumpin - and it lives up to the standards set by Beyoncé's former band. A europop-influenced love letter to a DJ ("I fall in love with my stereo"), it is really very good indeed.

3) Diva
"Diva is a female version of a hustler," says B. Not according to my dictionary, it's not. It also reckons that a hustler is "a prostitute who attracts customers by walking the streets". Now I'm confused. Is Beyoncé saying she's the female version of a male prostitute? But isn't that just a prostitute? Either way, Beyoncé has been one since "she was 15 in stilettos" which is surely against all sorts of moral and legal codes. The song is bobbins, by the way.

4) Sweet Dreams
A good album track. Sounds a bit like Rihanna, but with decent vocals.

5) Video Phone
This is one of those songs Beyoncé seems to be able to turn out in her sleep - all syncopated rhythms, sparse instrumentation and tricksy backing vocals. A close cousin of Get Me Bodied on her last album.

There is already a special edition with five extra tracks. To be honest, I'm glad I didn't bother spending the extra £2...

Update - 12:36 I've just tried playing both albums simultaenously. It was actually something of an improvement.

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