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Review: B’day

September 14, 2006

beyonce.jpgAmidst reports of B’day being Beyoncé’s own Glitterish experience – how she’s overworked, and had to finish the album in two weeks – one would have expected that Beyonce’s second solo studio effort would fall short of success. These rumours of failure were compounded by the underperformance of the first single, Deja Vu, on the Billboard charts (but then again this is Beyoncé we’re talking about, so hitting only the number 4 position is considered a underperforming).

One is therefore glad to find that the reports of her falling standards have been greatly exaggerated. B’day sounds frenetic, yes – perhaps we should attribute this by the very brief period spent in the studio – but never does it sound desperate. The frenzy Beyoncé works herself into, much like the wild dancing of her cited inspiration Josephine Baker, is alluring, sexy, compelling. There are some moments of filler, but even those should make you want to ‘shake your derrière’ and ‘do the Naomi Campbell walk’. B’day sounds as if Beyoncé distilled the essence of Sasha, her stage persona, and recorded it on disc. The result is exactly what we’ve come to know and love about Beyoncé – vivacious, sassy, and so much fun.

Despite its detractors, I still insist that Deja Vu is a great single – I love how crazy she sounds there. Continuing in the trend of insanity is the second single, Ring the Alarm. In the music video Beyoncé plays a woman who ought to have a restraining order taken against her – but makes it look so totally sexy and gorgeous that it makes the guy who dumped her look dumb. And when Beyoncé says that she has adopted Josephine Baker has her dance inspiration, she really means it – the bacchanal that she singlehandedly initiated on the Fashion Rocks stage, for example.

Beyoncé lays the sex on thick – ‘I’m a be like a jolly rancher that you get from the corner store/I’m a be like a waffle cone that’s dripping down to the floor,’ she cooes coolly on Suga Mama (not exactly the most subtle stuff), followed by orders to ‘come sit on mama lap’ – but oh, when you’re this sizzling hot, who needs subtlety! You just want to sit on her lap – and see what has in store for the music video.

Which is not to say that Beyoncé’s talents all revolve around flaunting her booty. She attempts powerballad and succeeds, thanks to her amazing vocals – Resentment, where she sings of love gone wrong, is technically impressive – the Mariahesque runs, the improvisatory bit in the middle of the song, the ability to hit and sustain all the high notes. But more than just technique, Beyonce possesses an amazing ability to emote – you can hear her sing her heartbreak into song. And when she plugs the Dreamgirls movie at the end with the track Listen, you realise that you are in the presence of singing genius – her voice, unadorned by the trend of heavy production that is dominating the pop scene these days, sounds huge and commands your absolute attention.

B’day is a terribly fun album, with the requisite sets that show off Beyoncé’s immense talent. There is more to come from this talented young woman yet, and I look forward to the release of the Dreamgirls soundtrack.

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One comment

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