Label: Sony Urban/Columbia
4 out of 5 stars
By Norman Mayers
Destiny's Child front woman turned solo superstar Beyonce doesn't seem to get much vacation time. She returns to the spotlight once again with her second solo release, "B'Day". Recorded in just two weeks after B wrapped the big budget film Dreamgirls, "B'Day" finds Beyonce at the top of her game. Its a joyous uptempo album full of vibrant vocals, fierce production, and boundless energy. The only complaint is that it's over too soon.
Beyonce is pretty much the dominant force in mainstream R&B and with good reason. The extremely polished songwriter, singer and performer delivers the goods every time. "B'Day" builds on the strengths of "Dangerously In Love" and multiplies them. No one can touch Beyonce on an uptempo track and the album is packed with some of the best dance tracks of her career. Besides the funky lead single "Déjà Vu" standouts such as the Rich Harrison produced "Freakum Dress" and the Neptunes helmed "Kitty Kat" are destined to become classics. Musically the album seems to incorporate more of a live sound, the prime example being the 70s funk flavored "Suga Mama". Every track has a fresh approach in terms of production and will probably raise the bar for R&B production in the coming year. Second single "Ring The Alarm" is true evidence of Beyonce's willingness to take chances. The aggressive shouting and rock edge found on the Swizz Beatz production is the last thing anyone would have expected from the superstar diva, which makes it all the more brilliant. The tempo of the album drops for the last track, which is expected, although it would have been nice if Beyonce completely committed to the dance vibe. But at just 10 tracks the album feels slightly incomplete. For an artist with this level of talent the fans deserve another three cuts.
Beyonce's place at the top was probably solidified at the Grammys two years ago but with "B'Day" she continues her winning streak. In the world of contemporary soul, everyone is just catching up to her.
Columbia Records site
Tuesday, September 12, 2006