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Beyoncé gives unkind present with ‘B’day’

Broderick Henry | Thursday, September 14, 2006

For the average person, birthdays represent an opportunity to party. But for Beyoncé Knowles, former lead singer of the best-selling female group Destiny’s Child, long-time girlfriend of one of today’s most popular rappers, Jay-Z, and the arguably most “bootylicious” woman on the planet – birthdays are a time to go to work.

The release of Knowles’ second solo album, ‘B’day,’ was accompanied by the typical hype often associated with the birth of a celebrity baby.

Released a day after Knowles’ 25th birthday, ‘B’day’ is an attempt by the R&B diva to assert her independence and reaffirm her artistic abilities. Unlike its predecessor, her 2003 album ‘Dangerously in Love’ – which sold more than six million copies worldwide and earned her multiple Grammys – ‘B’day’ was recorded without the knowledge of Matthew Knowles, Beyoncé Knowles’ father and manager. His marketing prowess has been cited as the most influential force behind his daughter’s success.

Knowles recorded ‘B’day’ over a two-week time period, bringing a number of producers into one building and launching a competition to land the most songs on the album. This risky recording approach – along with the absence of Matthew Knowles’ vision – is a clear indication of why the album is in such a state of disarray.

The first single released off of ‘B’day,’ “Déjà Vu,” features Knowles’ beau, Jay-Z, and is performed in the vein of a 70s disco classic. With multiple horns blaring and an up-tempo beat, the song sounds a great deal like Knowles’ mega hit “Crazy in Love.” But, unlike that smash song, Jay-Z’s rhymes are lackluster at best, and Knowles’ over-singing is nothing more than a distraction.

“Ring the Alarm,” the second single off the album, is, quite simply, a musical disaster that allows its production to steal as much attention as possible away from Knowles’ sultry voice.

The song is composed of sirens and alarms screaming in the background, accompanied by aggressive singing that is not melodic and can best be described as “rap singing.” However, Knowles lacks the credibility and grittiness of voice to make the song believable.

It seems that in recording ‘B’day,’ Knowles’ forgot to take the temperature of the current music environment. At a time when R&B has made a comeback by emphasizing both melody and lyrical content, the singer chose to make an album that demonstrates the exact opposite.

She gives listeners offerings such as “Freakum Dress” and “Kitty Kat.” The corny lyrics to these songs include, “Let’s go, let’s go Little Kitty Kat/ I think it’s time to go, let’s go Little Kitty Kat/ He don’t want no mo/ Let’s go Little Kitty Kat /Quite frankly no mo’ getting it /I’m not feeling it.”

A number of songs sound like tracks that appeared on previous Jay-Z albums or are mere imitations of other artists’ songs.

“Green Light” even comes off as a mediocre rendition of the hit “One Thing.”

As much as ‘B’day’ suffers from a lack of vision, it also suffers from a lack of content – only ten tracks compose this uninspiring set. Considering that not a single one of these tracks is a masterpiece, listeners will find this dearth of material disappointing.

‘B’day’ achieves much of what Knowles intended with her sophomore effort. It definitely shows she is willing to take some artistic risk – at the same time, the diva forgot that her listeners actually need to enjoy the music.

Beyoncé’s album is neither empowering or uplifting – nor is it a worthwhile birthday present.