United Center; Fri 17
Typing the phrase “Sasha Fierce” into a YouTube search yields a fantastic bounty: a series of video analyses determined to prove that Beyoncé has been possessed by demons. Don’t they mean Britney? If only it were that interesting. As pop alter egos go, Sasha Fierce isn’t as lame as, say, Chris Gaines, but she’s no sinister id-vent like Slim Shady. The artistic persona paraded by Beyoncé’s last album, I Am…Sasha Fierce, just seems pointless. The belly-baring singer who gave us “Bootylicious” scarcely needed to channel her talent into a pseudonymous, scantily clad diva. After a decade of sequined two-pieces, we were ready for that jelly.
The new album, which launched one great hit—“(Single Ladies) Put a Ring on It”—could have used a lick or two of hellfire. Beyoncé revealed surprising emotional depth playing tortured great Etta James in last year’s Cadillac Records. She flat-out sang her ass off on some vintage Chess blues standards, sans superstar studio sheen. That’s the girl we’re hoping—perhaps naively—to hear as the Sasha Fierce tour makes its run.
Up until the recent misstep, Knowles’s string of mighty pop smashes, topped by the soaring “Crazy in Love,” have been a welcome rejoinder to the stagnant misogyny of so much rap-inflected pop. She’s staked out a defiant, heart-strong posture in romance-themed R&B, bolstered by the polished artist’s squeaky-clean offstage image and long-term relationship with hip-hop eminence Jay-Z. Beyoncé is class all the way. Leave the fierceness to Lady Gaga.