“When I started the record,” says Beyoncé about her new double album I AM… SASHA FIERCE, “I knew that, artistically, I had to grow. Even though I’ve been very successful and very fortunate, I want to still be challenged and still be nervous and still be anxious about all the things that make my career exciting.”
One of 2008’s most anticipated new album releases, I AM… SASHA FIERCE is Beyoncé’s first new studio collection since her Grammy-winning multi-platinum-selling B’DAY debuted at #1 on charts around the world shortly after its international release on September 4, 2006 (in celebration of Beyoncé’s 25th birthday).
Each of the discs on Beyoncé’s new double album reveals a distinctly different side of her personality, character and sensibility, a forum for the yin-and-yang of her developing artistry.
One of the discs, titled I AM…, provides Beyoncé with a musical showcase for a group of intimate heartfelt ballads while the SASHA FIERCE disc gives voice to Beyoncé’s up-tempo dance-oriented other side.
“SASHA FIERCE is my alter ego,” says Beyoncé, “and now she has a last name. I have someone else that takes over when it’s time for me to work and when I’m on stage, this alter ego that I’ve created that kind of protects me and who I really am. That’s why half the record, I AM…, is about who I am underneath all the makeup, underneath the lights, and underneath all the exciting star drama. And SASHA FIERCE is the fun, more sensual, more aggressive, more outspoken side and more glamorous side that comes out when I’m working and when I’m on the stage. The double album allows me to take more risks and really step out of myself, or shall I say, step more into myself, and reveal a side of me that people only know me see.”
With I AM…, Beyoncé reveals a variety of musical aspects and interests that may take her fans by surprise. Citing a range of influences including “folk songs and alternative songs and acoustic guitar…stuff that’s different from what I sing,” Beyoncé has produced, written, recorded and performed a finely crafted selection of contemporary ballads that combine the best elements of pop and soul music while expanding the possibilities of both genres.
“You can hear with ‘If I Were A Boy,’ (one of the album’s first singles), it’s not a traditional R&B song,” she offers. “It’s difficult to grow and to break out and do new things because people have strong expectations. I feel like at this point, I wanted people to hear songs with stronger lyrics and songs that made you feel. I love singing ballads because I feel like the music and the emotion in the story is told so much better. It’s a better connection because you can hear it and it’s not all these other distractions. I really wanted people to hear my voice and hear what I had to say.”
For her I AM… collection, Beyoncé collaborated with some “writers and producers that I normally hadn’t worked with” including producer Toby Gad on “If I Were A Boy” and UK songwriter Amanda Ghost on “Disappear,” which reminds Beyoncé “of the Beatles a tad bit,” “Satellites” and “Ave Maria,” in which Beyoncé re-imagines a classic aria in a new and original musical setting. “When I knew that certain things I wanted to say, I couldn’t say myself, I invited other writers to come in,” she says. “Lyrically, it’s the best album I’ve ever had. If a song didn’t say anything or mean anything to me, I didn’t put it on the record.”
According to Beyoncé, “SASHA FIERCE is kind of the opposite, she’s more the other side because sometimes you don’t want to think; sometimes you just want to feel good. She’s the party girl, she’s Bootylicious. She is but I’m not. She’s my alter ego. I’m finally revealing who I am.”
The lead-in track on the SASHA FIERCE disc is “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It),” Beyoncé’s scorching anthem of personal empowerment. “That song is all about: ‘I’ve been with you all this time, you’re taking too long and now I’m looking hot and you see it and you gotta suffer because you shoulda put a ring on it,'” Beyoncé explains. “In my life, when I put on the stilettos, it’s all about being confident, sometimes overly confident, and hearing all the things that women need to hear to boost themselves and go out and to move on.”
“SASHA FIERCE is fun. There’s an up-tempo song called ‘Radio’ that basically talks about my childhood. It just seems like a feel-good record but when you really listen to the lyrics, it’s about me growing up. In my household, I didn’t go to all of the parties and I didn’t do all the things that a lot of the other teenage girls did because I was so in love with my radio and my music. I was so in love with this radio and my parents were happy that I was into something positive. I try to make up-tempo records that feel good but underneath they’re still saying something. SASHA FIERCE is a collection of the kinds of songs that I’m usually known for and I love just as much as the more intimate side of me.”
Songs on Beyoncé’s I AM… include “If I Were A Boy,” “Halo,” “Disappear,” “Broken Hearted Girl,” “Ave Maria,” and “Satellites.” Beyoncé’s SASHA FIERCE records include “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It),” “Radio,” “Diva,” “Sweet Dreams,” and “Video Phone.”
Producers and writers collaborating with Beyoncé on I AM… SASHA FIERCE include Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Stargate, C. “Tricky” Stewart & Terius “The Dream” Nash, Rodney “DarkChild” Jerkins, Sean “The Pen” Garrett, Solange, Jim Jonsin, Rico Love and Ryan Tedder.
I AM… SASHA FIERCE is Executive Produced by Beyoncé Knowles and Mathew Knowles for Music World Productions, Inc.
In addition to the multiple artistic achievements on I AM… SASHA FIERCE, Beyoncé has recently completed work on a pair of high profile movie projects including her role as R&B legend Etta James in Darnell James’ “Cadillac Records.” According to Beyoncé, becoming Etta James on-screen, “was a challenge for me emotionally because Etta had a lot of challenges in her life, things that I’ve never experienced. I had to really dig deep so that I could have the right performance and represent her well. One thing she taught me is her fearlessness; she was Etta all the time. She was bold and she did not try to change who she was for anyone. She was one of the queens. If it weren’t for her crossing over -she was the first African-American woman to cross over on the radio, I wouldn’t have the opportunities that I have. It was the best performance I think I’ve done on screen. It gave me the strength and the confidence to step out of my comfort zone even more.”