Sasha Frere-Jones, a gifted writer from the New Yorker ponders: since Bruce Springsteen is the de-facto governor of New Jersey, and if America were Europe Aretha Franklin would have a duchy, where does Beyoncé Knowles fit into into the Obama inaugural events. At two inaugural events, no doubt.
Although Frere-Jones asserts that Beyoncè is a "brilliant musician" and "does remarkable things with tone and harmony", she doesn't quite know who she is and too good to be fierce. Introducing fans to a new character - Sasha Fierce - further proves the point. Could her true personality be more in line with Etta James' "At Last" than Sasha Fierce.
Which leads Frere-Jones to ask: "Why Knowles could not make her own record as spontaneous and magnetic probably has something to do with the Knowles vision of Beyoncé’s fans and how much actual fierceness they can take."
[“Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)"] rhythms are provided in part by handclaps, and the chanting vocal line is underscored by a swell of weird, dark synthesizers that don’t seem to know about the party going on in the rest of the song. But, then, the whole thing is a bit off. The singer is out on the town, engaging her single lady friends and enjoying the attention of a new man. Why is she out on the town? Because her man didn’t “put a ring on it.” But this is Sasha Fierce we’re talking about here. And what does Sasha want? Matrimony! When does she want it? Before “three good years” are up. “Single Ladies” is an infectious, crackling song and would be without fault if it weren’t the bearer of such dull advice. The wild R. & B. vampire Sasha is advocating marriage? What’s next, a sultry, R-rated defense of low-sodium soy sauce?
Plus, Frere-Jones says, "If I Were A Boy," has been done. Destiny's Childs' "Independent Women, Pt. 1" accomplished this sort of patriarchy but "with a lot more verve."
Frere-Jones concludes that Beyoncè is "unconvincing role-playing. She’s really good at being good."
But is she fierce?