Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Beyoncé

  • Dangerously in Love [Columbia, 2003] *
  • B'Day [Columbia, 2006] A-
  • I Am . . . Sasha Fierce [Music World/Columbia, 2008] B

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Dangerously in Love [Columbia, 2003]
With her daddy, the bonus cut reveals--as if we didn't know ("Yes," "Baby Boy"). *

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-

I Am . . . Sasha Fierce [Music World/Columbia, 2008]
In truth, there are three good songs on this 11-track artifact, and deeply vapid though the split-personality bit is, the trick of dividing the album into two CDs does leave a 17-minute dance disc that can be played without gastric distress by any purchaser who isn't picky about diva gangstaism or videophone porn. But me, I'm a hater, and thus I'm something like outraged, by not just those two pimp-outs but an "Ave Maria" lacking even the dumbstruck literalism of Pink's rendition or the grotesque conversion of "Umbrella" into "Halo." Interpreted autobiographically, this halo seems to adorn Jay-Z, who elsewhere inspires little romantic realism or romantic bliss in his bride. In fact, two of the good songs are rather hard on Jeezy's gender, and mine. When in the third Be claims she's in love with her radio, you can only wonder at her determination to live in the past. B