With two wildly successful solo albums and 10 Grammy wins already behind her, Beyoncé’s desire to grow as an artist led her to experiment with new concepts and genres on 2008’s I Am… Sasha Fierce, including folk (“If I Were a Boy”), alternative rock (“Smash Into You”) and electropop (“Sweet Dreams”).
Beyoncé, a true renaissance woman, is notoriously private in interviews, leaving the Beyhive to wonder what the superstar is like off stage. Luckily for us, the hardest-working woman in show business made a conscious effort to give fans a glimpse into her world on her third studio LP, I Am… Sasha Fierce– a double-disc album intended to show off the two facets of Beyoncé’s personality. The I Am… disc consists of all stripped-down ballads, whilst the edgy material on Sasha Fierce boasts Bey’s sexy alter ego and reinforces female empowerment.
“I know that people see celebrities, and they seem like they’re so perfect—they seem like their life is so great, and they have money and fame,” Beyoncé told MTV News at the time of the album’s release. “But 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.”
The entertainer’s transparency was rewarded in the coming weeks, months and years. Debuting atop the Billboard 200, I Am… Sasha Fierce sold 482,000 units in its first week and went on to sell over eight million copies worldwide. In addition, the album was certified double platinum by the RIAA and racked up a record-breaking six Grammy awards in one night, including Song of the Year for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).”
To celebrate I Am… Sasha Fierce’s 10th anniversary, VIBE ranked every song on the album’s deluxe edition.
Check it out below.
Most people steer clear of poison, but what’s a woman to do when that special someone is the affliction and the remedy? “I don’t see how something good could come from loving you/ The death of me must be your mission,” Beyoncé sings on the set’s closing number, before finally accepting the inevitable.
There’s nothing worse than realizing you neglected your partner once it’s too late. That’s the deal on “Disappear,” in which Bey retraces her steps, fully acknowledging the role she played in a failed relationship, e.g., “When I think about it/ I know that I was never there or even cared.”
The mezzo-soprano singer’s lower register takes center stage as she fights for another chance to make it right.
16. “Scared of Lonely”
Even the confident, booty-shaking Sasha Fierce gets scared of lonely — a stark contrast to the album’s more aggressive cuts (e.g. “Video Phone” and “Diva”). On “Scared of Lonely,” Bey’s fearless alter ego bares her soul in a riveting vocal performance that deserves a standing ovation.
15. “Broken-Hearted Girl”
Bey’s no broken-hearted girl, but she learns that love and heartache aren’t always mutually exclusive, hence the opening lyrics, “You’re everything I thought you never were/ And nothing like I thought you could’ve been.” Co-written by Babyface, Norwegian production duo Stargate and Mrs. Carter herself, the pop-heavy “Broken-Hearted Girl” reveals the fiercely private superstar’s vulnerable side — the main ingredient on the I Am… disc.
14. “Ave Maria”
This gem has been noted by Beyoncé as the “most personal” song off I Am… Sasha Fierce — which is likely due to the fact that she and hubby JAY-Z walked down the aisle to Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” inspiring the then-newlywed to record her own version of the classic. Lyrics, such as “I’ve been alone when I’m surrounded by friends/ How could the silence be so loud?” will give you all the feels.
Ahead of Beyoncé’s iconic 2009 performance at the Wynn Las Vegas, she stated: “People don’t know that these songs meant more than just the chorus that’s catchy, they don’t know that it meant way more than the video. People don’t know that it’s my life.” That’s evident in “Satellites” –which hints at the difficulties of making a relationship last when you’re in the public eye, e.g., “We’re always on display/Let’s run and hide.”
“Radio” isn’t your typical love song, making it a standout track on the Sasha Fierce disc. Beyoncé trades in her R&B roots for electropop, techno, house and synthesizers, which translates into a futuristic-yet-timeless sound that gets stuck in your head for days.
The song’s inspiration stems from Bey’s younger days. “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,” she explained. “I was so in love with this radio, and my parents were happy that I was into something positive.”
Borrowing Jerry Maguire’s famous “You had me at hello” line for the song’s hook, Beyoncé’s “Hello” is about, as she puts it, “meeting the man of your dreams for the first time.” Since 2003’s Dangerously In Love, the Queen has laid down countless tracks (“1+1”) that give us a glimpse into her and Jay’s coupledom, but “Hello” ranks among her best love songs.
10. “That’s Why You’re Beautiful”
Bey’s raw, sublime vocals on the grunge-tinged “That’s Why You’re Beautiful” will make you wonder why it didn’t make the final cut. More importantly, the electrifying ballad sounds like a precursor to “Rather Die Young,” “Start Over” and a handful of other 4-era tracks.
9. “Smash Into You”
Here, Bey sings about surrendering herself to the unknown at the start of a new relationship. “Smash Into You” gradually builds up in intensity, but is gentle at its core and guaranteed to give you goosebumps after every listen.
8. “Video Phone”
Beyoncé takes flirting to the next level on “Video Phone.” In between sly moans and groans, the Houston native spits some of her naughtiest lyrics: “What, you want me naked?/ If you likin’ this position you can tape it.”
The remixed version featuring Lady Gaga was a moderate success, reaching No. 65 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Braggadocious Beyoncé is the best Beyoncé. “Fifty million ‘round the world and they say that I couldn’t get it/ I done got so sick and filthy with Benjis, I can’t spend it,” she raps over a stuttering beat, with production notes from Bangladesh, Sean Garrett and Queen Bey herself. The answer to Lil’ Wayne’s “A Milli,” “Diva” is notable because Bey’s rapper persona on “***Flawless” (remix) and “Top Off” can be traced all the way back to the Sasha Fierce disc. Oh, and in case you forgot: A diva is a female version of a hustla.
“It’s too big/ It’s too wide/ It’s too strong/ It won’t fit/ It’s too much/ It’s too tough” — what’s Beyoncé singing about? On this brassy R&B/jazz hybrid, Mrs. Carter sings about being attracted to her man’s huge ego, but he’s not the only one who’s got over-the-top swagger. During the song’s memorable piano breakdown, Bey unleashes her vocal prowess (skip to 2:52), proving that she really is the baddest woman in the game.
5. “Why Don’t You Love Me?”
Co-penned by Solange, the retro-style bonus track, “Why Don’t You Love Me?” features a fed up Beyoncé attempting to knock some sense back into an undeserving lover, whose failure to recognize all her wonderful attributes is truly despicable, to say the least.
In the end, with just seconds remaining, Bey ponders, “Maybe you’re just not the one/ Or maybe you’re just plain dumb.” We’re convinced that this guy is just plain dumb. Plus, you can’t go wrong with a 1950s-inspired music video, in which “BB Homemaker” washes dishes, scrubs floors, bakes heart-shaped cookies and dusts off her 16 Grammys (at the time).
4. “Sweet Dreams”
Never confused with Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams,” Beyoncé struggles to differentiate whether Prince Charming is a “sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare.”
The eerily fantastic dance track received favorable reviews from music critics, who praised the song’s “keyboard-propelled” arrangement, which only broadened the singer’s fan base. “Sweet Dreams” reached No. 1 in New Zealand and managed to crack the Top Five in Australia, Ireland and the UK, further solidifying the entertainer’s international appeal.
Co-written by OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, “Halo,” which took home a Grammy award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 2010, features Beyoncé very much in her prime. Flexing those heavenly pipes, ‘Yonce finds relief in knowing she’s found her perfect match.
Prior to its release, the former Destiny’s Child frontwoman was no stranger to performing ballads (“Listen”), but the genius of “Halo” is that even the most casual Beyoncé fans can appreciate it and sing along to the timeless tune. Up until 2018’s On the Run II tour, the downtempo hit remained a staple during the megastar’s concert setlists.
2. “If I Were a Boy”
In 2018, the thought-provoking, gender-swapping “If I Were a Boy” holds its relevance now more than ever. It’s incredibly refreshing to hear the tables turn on I Am… Sasha Fierce’s lead single, in which a sick-and-tired Beyoncé calls out all the hurtful things some men do while they’re in committed relationships.
“I’d put myself first/ And make the rules as I go/ ‘Cause I’d know that she’d be faithful/ Waitin’ for me to come home,” she broods in the second verse, before delivering one of the most heartfelt vocal performances throughout her illustrious career.
Even country music legend Reba McEntire covered “If I Were a Boy” for her 26th studio album, All the Women I Am.
1. “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)”
“Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” is a ferocious, game-changing number that speaks for itself, but we’ll do our best to articulate the magic of this masterpiece, which started a cultural phenomenon and one of the biggest dance crazes of the 21st century.
This dancefloor classic instantly went on to become Beyoncé’s fifth chart-topper, but the lyrics serve as a clear warning to all the no-good men out there, who refuse to commit in relationships. “Don’t treat me to the things of the world/ I’m not that kind of girl/ Your love is what I prefer, what I deserve,” she commands on the bridge.
“I’ve always tried to pick songs and singles that were a part of pop culture, a part of things that people are passionate about and want to talk about and debate. ‘Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)’ is an uptempo song that’s fun,” she explained to Billboard. “But it’s also something women go through every day.”
Beyoncé has lots of fierce girl power anthems (“Freakum Dress” and “Run the World (Girls)”) in her arsenal, but “Single Ladies” is the most iconic.
At times, 2009’s seventh best-selling digital single feels like a fun gathering amongst close girlfriends, who are simply telling it like it is, which is probably why we’re still gushing over it a full decade later. When “Single Ladies” arrived 10 years ago on this day, the unstoppable Tricky Stewart/The-Dream production would go on to transcend all genres, solidifying Bey’s status as one of the great performers of our generation.
Stream the album in its entirety below.
Princess Gabbara is a multimedia journalist and storyteller. She’s a former reporter for the Lansing State Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, who has written for outlets such as Billboard, Shondaland, Bitch Media, Bustle, The Boombox, The Grio, Ebony magazine, Essence, and Sesi. Follow her on Twitter/Instagram: @PrincessGabbara.
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