When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve and all of pop music’s stars collectively set their resolutions for 2009, let them hold up this, Beyoncé Knowles’s third solo album, as their to-quit resolve. For I Am…Sasha Fierce tidily encapsulates every cliché of the last couple of years. Better used as a time capsule of Bush-era R&B, this beaten-horse corpse of an album fails even to live up to its goofball title.
Split into two sides—half balladic schmaltz, half booty shaking—I Am… shamelessly recycles the two most successful chart acts since, well, Beyoncé: Rihanna and Lil Wayne. “Halo,” a Bette Midler–level hymn from the syrupy first act, lifts the savior theme and chorus chant from Ri’s “Umbrella.” The refrain echoes, “Ha-lo, ha-lo, ha-lo,” begging for our now-conditioned “eh eh eh.” Side B melts down the Liberace-like golden baby grand from the prior 25 minutes to make ill-fitting grillz. Producer Bangladesh re-creates his obnoxious beat from Wayne’s “A Milli” in “Diva,” little more than a trunk-rattling bass line and a robotic chipmunk saying “I’m a, I’m a, a diva” 100 times.
Elsewhere, Mrs. Jay-Z confesses her love for the radio (“Radio”), bemoans her broken heart (“Broken-hearted Girl”) and explores a very tenuous metaphor for miscommunicating lovers in “Satellites.” Worse yet is the talented singer’s affection for “ghetto” patois (“I be on the hah-line like err-day” and “shawty what your name is,” for example). Giving her a pass on vocal talent is like recommending an Eddie Murphy movie for its beautiful weather. The divided halves of Sasha Fierce don’t come off as an expression of Beyoncé’s bifurcated personality so much as a psychological disorder—or just a vapid, cookie-cutter pop album with lazy sequencing.