Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Beyoncé: B'Day [Columbia, 2006]
If opulence can signify liberation in this grotesquely materialistic time, as in hip-hop it can, then Beyoncé earns her props with a bunch of songs she says were inspired all in a rush by her Dreamgirls character. Many suspect they were actually inspired by Jay-Z, who has the noblesse oblige to save the only expression of erotic longing on the record. I don't. But I admire her for opening the possibility, which leaves Hova with his hands full whether he's a thousand miles away or getting one-upped on "Upgrade U." Not counting "Irreplaceable," where hook subsumes meaning anyway, the key track is "Suga Mama," which ends with Beyoncé ordering her boy toy to remove the duds she just bought him--real slow. On most of them she's wronged yet still in control because she's got so much money. A-