I Am... Sasha Fierce is the third studio album by American singer Beyoncé. It was released on November 18, 2008, by Music World Entertainment and Columbia Records. In its initial release, the album was formatted as a dual disc, intending to market Beyoncé's contrasting facets of artistry. The first disc, I Am..., contains slow and midtempopop and R&Bballads, while the second, Sasha Fierce (named after Beyoncé's on-stage alter ego), focuses on more uptempo beats that blend electropop and Europop genres. In composing the songs' lyrics, Beyoncé worked with many writers, with each session accompanied by live orchestration.
Beyoncé credited both her husband, rapper Jay Z, and jazz singer Etta James for inspiring her to push the limits of her songwriting and artistry. Musically, I Am... drew inspiration from folk and alternative rock, while blending acoustic guitar elements into contemporary ballads. The tracks on the first disc were written and produced by Beyoncé, during collaborative efforts with Babyface, Tricky Stewart, The-Dream and Ryan Tedder. Sasha Fierce boasted production from Darkchild and Sean Garrett.
I Am... Sasha Fierce debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 482,000 units, earning Beyoncé her third consecutive US number-one solo album. The album earned over thirty platinum and one diamond certifications in separate worldwide markets. As of 2015, I Am... Sasha Fierce has sold over 8 million copies worldwide The album garnered seven Grammy Award nominations at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony, winning five and eventually collecting a record setting six wins—the most awards won in one night by a female. To promote the album, Beyoncé made several award show and televised appearances across Europe and America and embarking on the worldwide I Am... World Tour (2009–10).
The album spawned several singles; some served as international and stateside releases, while others were purely for promotional purposes. The two lead singles from I Am... Sasha Fierce, "If I Were a Boy" and "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)", both charted highly internationally. The former topped the charts in over eight countries and reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100, with the latter becoming her fifth number one single on the Hot 100 chart. "Diva" and "Ego" were released as US-only singles, while "Halo" and "Sweet Dreams" were promoted internationally as the third and fourth singles respectively. "Broken-Hearted Girl" was released internationally as the fifth single, while "Video Phone" was released in September 2009 and "Why Don't You Love Me" was released in July 2010.
"I'm a human being. I cry. I'm very passionate and sensitive. My feelings get hurt. I get scared and nervous like everyone else. And I wanted to show that about myself. It [The album] is about love. I'm a woman, I'm married, and this portion of my life is all in the album. It's a lot more personal. I'm very private and I don't talk about a lot of things, but there are certain songs that are on the album that are very personal. It's [The album] my diary. It's my story... I still have my album of fun songs."
—Beyoncé on the development of the album.
For the I Am... disc, Beyoncé was influenced by folk and alternative rock genres, while incorporating other instruments she had not normally used previously, such as the acoustic guitar. Tedder specifically assisted Beyoncé with crafting the album's balladry. The ballads were crafted in a way to combine "the best elements" of pop and soul music, while simultaneously "expanding the possibilities of both genres". Beyoncé attempted something different as people had strong expectations from her; she experimented with stronger lyrics. Beyoncé worked with Ghost to re-write Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria" after having co-written "Disappear" in London. Ghost told The Daily Telegraph that they were both inspired by their then-recent marriages and had walked down the aisle to "Ave Maria".
During the eight-month period, Beyoncé recorded over 70 songs and decided during the editing process that she did not want to reconcile the two approaches into one disc. If a song was meaningless to her, she cut them off during the process of elimination for the final track-listing. Making comparisons to a magazine, Beyoncé further elaborated that the record was a double album and that it had two covers. The black-and-whiteartworks for the standard, deluxe and platinum editions of I Am... Sasha Fierce were all shot by German photographer Peter Lindbergh.
In an interview for Billboard magazine, Beyoncé described I Am... Sasha Fierce as a double album. She said, "One side has songs that are more mainstream and another has my more traditional R&B songs for my fans who've been there the whole time. Some of it sounds like Barbra Streisand, Karen Carpenter and The Beatles around the 1970s." Music writer Andy Kellman of Allmusic viewed its first disc as, "essentially a small set of adult contemporary ballads. Acoustic guitars, pianos, strings, contemplative soul searching, and grand sweeping gestures fill it out, with more roots in '70s soft rock than soul." The second disc, Sasha Fierce, contains consistent electro influences, which are displayed in songs like "Radio" and "Sweet Dreams". Kellman said in his review that "Diva" resembles B'Day's "Freakum Dress" or "Ring the Alarm" in terms of audacity. Despite being on the Sasha Fierce disc, "Ego", "Why Don't You Love Me" and "Scared of Lonely" were noted to be a meeting ground between the album's halves. According to Jennifer Vineyard of MTV News, they resemble Sasha Fierce musically, but thematically and lyrically, they are vulnerable like Beyoncé on the I Am... disc. The album formally introduces Beyoncé's alter ego Sasha Fierce. She revealed that Sasha was born during the making of her 2003 hit single "Crazy in Love". In an interview with Emmet Sullivan of People magazine, Beyoncé affirmed that her alter ego is strictly for the stage, with the editor describing Sasha Fierce as the singer's sensual, aggressive alter ego.
"If I Were a Boy", the first single of I Am..., stands as the only song on either disc that Beyoncé did not co-write. BC Jean, who wrote most of the song's lyrics, took inspiration from the product of a poor relationship. Beyoncé explained in Essence Magazine that "If I Were a Boy" is different from her previous songs in the sense that it is not a traditional R&B song. Music critics remarked that the song seemed to be a mixture of Beyoncé's 2006 hit "Irreplaceable", Fergie's 2007 single "Big Girls Don't Cry", and Ciara's 2007 single "Like a Boy".Ann Powers of the Los Angeles Times saw the song's theme of female empowerment as an expansion on that of "Irreplaceable". Musically, "Single Ladies" is an upbeat-dance-pop and R&B song, and features dancehall and bounce influences. According to Jonah Weiner of Blender, the song makes a clear reference to marriage while Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune felt that the lyrics had a connection with "post-breakup". "Halo", composed by Ryan Tedder and Evan Bogart, was initially intended for Beyoncé but was almost recorded by Leona Lewis due to Beyoncé's schedule. According to Christian Williams of Billboard, "Halo" has a mainstream pop sound, with subtle R&B undertones. Critics noted "Diva" as a variation on Lil Wayne's "A Milli" and coined it as its female counterpart. "Diva" carries a stuttering beat. "Sweet Dreams" was critically acclaimed for its use of electronic bassline, which some critics compared to Michael Jackson's "Beat It", and for its electropop sound. "Sweet Dreams" is derived from contemporary R&B and incorporates influences from the classic 1980s funk. "Broken-Hearted Girl" is a midtempo piano ballad. Its production and melody is backed by strings and a drum machine beat. According to Spence D. of IGN Music, "Hello" comes off like another ballad that "populate[s] the first part of the album." It contains the Jerry Maguire line – "You had me at hello" – as part of its chorus. It essentially consists of "sweet guitar-picking and delicate harmonies." According to critics, "Video Phone" contains lyrics that are in reference to "a celebration of Skype sex and putting on a solo show, on camera, for a guy you just met at the club". The remixed version featured both Beyoncé and Lady Gaga trading verses with one another. Musically the song consists of simple lyrics, with hidden innuendos, and is backed by thin-spread beats; Beyoncé and Gaga uttering gasps and groans while singing the song. "Disappear" consists of "sweet guitar-picking and delicate harmonies". "That's Why You're Beautiful" is a slow-tempo soft rock and rock power ballad, which consists of a "grungy" guitar riff and stuterring drums. Critics compared the song with the materials by Alice in Chains and Jill Scott. The platinum edition of the album also included a cover version by Beyoncé of the 1979 Billy Joel song "Honesty".
The deluxe edition of the album was released simultaneously with the standard edition.[better source needed]Mathew Knowles, Beyoncé's father and then manager, held a listening party for the album in New York on October 22, 2008. On June 16, 2009, Above and Beyoncé: Video Collection & Dance Mixes was released as a combined CD and DVD. The release included a CD of dance remixes to the singles of the album (including the "Ego" remix with rapper Kanye West) and the DVD features videos previously released for these singles. Finally, the platinum edition of I Am... Sasha Fierce was released in a list of selected countries in November 2009, featuring a CD and a DVD. The deluxe edition of the album was re-issued in the United States on November 23, 2009, including all of the previously released songs in addition to the new songs "Poison", "Why Don't You Love Me", and the remix of "Video Phone" with Lady Gaga.
An EP titled I Am...Sasha Fierce – The Bonus Tracks was released on November 23, 2009, in several countries featuring these new tracks. Beyoncé covered a version of the song "Honesty" (a 1979 song by Billy Joel) and included it as a bonus track for the platinum edition of the album. In February 2010 a bonus track from the album's multiple re-releases, "Why Don't You Love Me", which served as a promotional single, climbed up the US Hot Dance Club Songs chart, eventually taking the top spot and becoming Beyoncé's thirteenth number-one dance hit. On May 4, 2010, a full-length music video appeared online after its release as a promotional single.
To promote the album, Beyoncé embarked on a worldwide tour with several performances. The I Am... World Tour kicked off in Edmonton, Canada, on March 26, 2009, in support of the album. The European leg of the tour started on April 26, 2009, in Zagreb, Croatia, and ended on June 9, 2009, in London, England. On June 21, 2009, she began the third leg of the tour in the United States and finished in August with the I Am... Yours 4-day revue at Encore Las Vegas on the Las Vegas Strip. Starting on September 15, 2009, the fourth leg began in Melbourne, Australia and finished on September 24 in Perth, Australia. Beyoncé then went on to perform in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and the United Kingdom, before finishing the 2009 portion of the tour on November 24 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The tour had its final leg in 2010, visiting Latin America. Starting on February 4, 2010, in Florianópolis, Brazil, she visited five other places before ending in Trinidad on February 18, 2010. According to Pollstar, the tour earned $17.2 million between January 1 – June 30, 2010, which added to her total of $86 million for her first 86 concerts in 2009, bringing the tour total to $103.2 million for the 97 shows. The I Am... Yours residency at the Encore Theater in Las Vegas was recorded on August 2, 2009, and later released as a DVD, audio CD and television special in late November 2009 titled I Am... Yours: An Intimate Performance at Wynn Las Vegas. Various performances on the tour were filmed worldwide for a live DVD, I Am... World Tour, which was released on November 30, 2010.
Beyoncé performing "Broken-Hearted Girl" in Antwerp
On October 8, 2008, Beyoncé premiered two lead singles from the album. "If I Were a Boy" peaked at number three on the US Billboard Hot 100, topped eight charts worldwide and reached the top ten in many other charts. "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" was the second lead single and peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming Beyoncé's fifth number-one single, and was also successful in other international markets, peaking in top-ten listings around the world. The singles were certified 2× platinum and 4× platinum, respectively, by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). "Diva" was released as a US-only single and peaked at number nineteen on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming Beyoncé's twelfth top-twenty single, and at number three on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. It was certified gold by the RIAA. The next single, "Halo", was released internationally and peaked at number five in the US Billboard Hot 100, proving to be commercially successful and reaching top-ten listings around the world. It was certified double-platinum in early 2010 by the RIAA.
Following announcements of the I Am... World Tour two more singles were initially lined up, namely "Broken-Hearted Girl" and "Sweet Dreams"—though they switched order to become the sixth and seventh singles respectively. "Sweet Dreams" reached the top-ten in most countries, managing to top the New Zealand Singles chart, and was certified platinum in the United States. "Broken-Hearted Girl", the seventh single, reached the top-forty in charts around the world, despite never being certified nor released in the United States. More than one year after the album's release, "Video Phone" was released as the eighth single from I Am... Sasha Fierce with a music video and digital download release, taking form as an extended remix featuring American recording artist, Lady Gaga. Like its predecessor, it reached the top-forty in countries around the world, peaking at number sixty-five in the US. It also became Beyoncé's fourteenth number-one on the US Dance Club Chart. As of July 2010, the digital tracks from the album had sold a combined total of 12.3 million units in the United States; and according to Columbia Records the album has sold 15 million digital singles worldwide.
I Am... Sasha Fierce received mixed reviews from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 62, based on 24 reviews.Slant Magazine's Sal Cinquemani wrote that the album's "strength" is "its individual songs ... a testament to Beyoncé as one of today's most reliable singles artists", but felt that "the real disparity is her inability to reconcile the adult-contemporary schmaltz of I Am with the more modern, edgy sounds of Sasha Fierce." Adam Mattera of The Observer felt that both discs lack depth, observing that the first is "too busy chasing radio formats to expose any genuine soul", and criticizing the second disc's "succession of independent woman anthems such as 'Single Ladies' and 'Diva', which will no doubt inspire drag queens the world over but leave most others bemused."AllMusic's Andy Kellman called its double-disc "gimmick" "flimsy" and favored its second disc's "decent, if easily forgettable, upbeat pop." He expressed that on the I Am... disc, "Beyoncé feels each line to the fullest extent, which almost rescues the set's staidness." In his consumer guide for MSN Music, Robert Christgau named it the "dud of the month", indicating "a bad record whose details rarely merit further thought". He found its "split-personality bit" to be "deeply vapid", only observing "three good songs on this 11-track artifact".
Jonah Weiner of Blender commented that "Beyoncé is still a beauty-shop feminist, quick with the smack-downs, and she still describes the rattling rush of love with preternatural poise". Stacey Anderson of Spin commented that its first disc "meanders over [...] down-tempo cuts" and called ... Sasha "an intriguing but diluted direction".The Village Voice's Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond felt that the I Am... disc lacks cohesion, but complimented "Sasha Fierce as "brassy, big-headed, confrontational, and witty," and stated, "each incendiary track challenges you to leave your inhibitions at coat-check." Christian Hoard of Rolling Stone noted that its slow songs are "full of bland self-affirmation and saggy lines", but wrote that "the "Sasha" disc boasts Beyoncé's most adventurous music yet". Colin McGuire of PopMatters called the album "a little rough around the edges at times" and viewed its Sasha Fierce disc as "a far more compelling trip down dance-lane". Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly wrote that the album offers "two compelling sides" of Beyoncé and stated: "The collection might have been better served had she edited it down to one disc, rather than belabor what ultimately seems like a marketing gimmick. And while fans will surely speculate, there's little in the lyrics that feels more revealing than previous emotional fire-starters."Sasha Frere-Jones from The New Yorker found the album to be "something of a mess", mostly because the alter ego "trips on the idea of redefinition".
Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly ranked I Am… Sasha Fierce at number two on her list of the 10 Best Albums of 2008, stating that "'If I Were a Boy' and 'Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)' are undoubtedly album highlights; still, the surprise here is how consistently satisfying the rest of it is – even the less showy tracks blossom on repeated listening." Mark Edward Nero of About.com ranked it at the ninth place on his list of the Best R&B Albums of 2008. Christian Gerard of NBC Washington placed I Am... Sasha Fierce on his list of "Honorable Mentions" while writing the list for the Best Albums of 2008. Agence France-Presse, as reported by ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs, recognized the album as the twelfth best selling one of 2008. On The Village Voice'Pazz & Jop year-end lists, I Am... Sasha Fierce was ranked at numbers 333 and 580 in 2008 and 2009 respectively. The album was ranked number twelve on the list of Best Albums of the Decade in Rolling Stone's Reader's Poll. The writers of Entertainment Weekly ranked I Am... Sasha Fierce at number eight on their list of The Best Albums of The 2000s.
The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, selling 482,000 units in its first week and giving Beyoncé her third consecutive number one album in the US. With this, Beyoncé became the third female artist of the 2000s decade to have her first three albums debut at the top spot of the US Billboard 200 albums chart. Having sold 1,459,000 copies in 6 weeks of release in 2008 alone,I Am... Sasha Fierce emerged as the tenth best selling album of that year according to Billboard magazine. With this achievement, Beyoncé eventually equaled Garth Brooks, Mariah Carey, and Shania Twain for placing an album in Nielsen SoundScan's year-end top 10 for the fifth time. The album later emerged as the second best selling album of 2009 in the US itself. It has been certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). As of January 2014, I Am... Sasha Fierce has sold 3.12 million copies in the US. In the United Kingdom, the album debuted at number ten on November 29, 2008, becoming Beyoncé's lowest-debuting album despite having higher first week sales than her previous album, B'Day. Following her performance at the 2008 The X Factor finale with winner Alexandra Burke, the album moved up to number nine on December 27, 2008. Due to the success of its singles in the United Kingdom, particularly "Sweet Dreams", I Am... Sasha Fierce rose from number five to its highest peak of number two in its thirty-ninth week on the chart, which was the week of August 16, 2009. It is her best-selling album in the UK, having sold over 1.5 million copies.
In Australia, I Am... Sasha Fierce debuted at number nine in late November 2008 and peaked at number eight in early January 2009. Following the success of singles "Sweet Dreams" and "Broken-Hearted Girl", the album rebounded to a new peak of three on two separate occasions in October 2009 and it was certified triple-platinum on November 23, 2009. In New Zealand, the album debuted at number 16 in late November 2008 and initially peaked at number six in early March 2009. After growing popularity of its singles, especially "Sweet Dreams", the album upped to a new peak of three on September 21, 2009. The album was certified platinum on April 26, 2009, (after twenty-three weeks on the chart) shipping over 15,000 copies to retailers and was later certified double platinum. In Spain, the album debuted and peaked at number 7 on November 26, 2008, and was certified platinum for shipment of over 60,000 copies on October 26, 2009. The album was also the best-selling international album in Turkey in 2009. As of December 2015, the album has sold over 8 million copies worldwide.
In September 2009, an enhanced two-disc version of the album was released, its first disc featuring 16 tracks from the original version with four bonus audio tracks, and its second disc, the video collection from Above and Beyoncé, including seven music videos.
"Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)"
Stewart, The-Dream, Harrell, Knowles
Knowles, Bangladesh, Garrett
Blac Elvis, Lilly, Knowles
Knowles, Tedder, Bogart
"If I Were a Boy"
"Smash into You"
Knowles, Stewart, The-Dream, Harrell
Knowles, Jonsin, Wilkins, Love
Babyface, StarGate, Knowles
"Scared of Lonely"
Darkchild, Daniels, Cristyle, Love, S. Knowles, B. Knowles
^Williams, Christian (January 17, 2009). "Lily Allen The Singer Speaks Out On EMI, Endorsement Deals, And How She Deals With Perez And The Paparazzi". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. 121 (2): 34. ISSN0006-2510.