For all of the images introduced in various aliases or alter egos in the rock ‘n’ roll era — from David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust to Chan Marshall as Cat Power — what has ultimately mattered most is not so much a name as the quality of the music such personas represent.
As for Beyonce, who on her latest album assumes the fictitious role of Sasha Fierce — a name she’s long ascribed to her onstage semblance — she demonstrates how giving a character a voice has, in turn, enabled her to reveal far more of her own.
I Am… Sasha Fierce finds Beyonce at her most creatively daring to date, exploring the breadth of her talent while broadening the scope of her sound. Over the span of this double album, she melds elements of rock, hip/hop, folk, and R&B into a cohesive soundtrack that refreshingly renders her as less an elusive superstar than it does a visceral (and vulnerable) woman.
In pensive songs of self-examination, Beyonce contemplates her demons as well as her desires with maturity and music to match. Amid an understated, folkish vibe of “Disappear,” she comes to terms with her own commitment issues, at one point conceding to a lost love, “I missed all the signs, one at a time / You were ready.” Conversely, as a similarly organic rhythm strengthens and softens like a fist clenching open and shut in frustration, she laments being unappreciated in “If I Were A Boy,” telling her ex that, if the roles were reversed, “I’d listen to her / ‘Cause I know how it hurts.”
Indeed, themes loneliness and isolation surface throughout the album and Beyonce imparts them with unflinching candor and empathy. Such is perhaps most palpable on “Satellites,” a gorgeously ethereal song in which she implores, “If we don’t communicate / We’ll exist in our own space.”