Beyoncé Knowles
has done a lot in the last 25 years. She’s led the single most successful
female R&B group of all time to hundreds of awards and over 100 million
records sold. She’s gone solo, (as lead singers tend to do) only to find even
more acclaim and popularity. Twenty-five years after her original B-Day, she’s celebrating a quarter
century by giving us a 10-track birthday present.

B-Day is a wonderfully arranged
album, complete with quality, original production from a long list of
mega-producers. Rodney Jerkins is
the mastermind behind “Déjà vu,” which he both wrote and produced. “Déjà vu,”
stands out as a defining track for three reasons. First, she displays her
trademark ability to actually blend her voice with the trumpets, so much so
that you only need to hear the instrumental to hear the words themselves.

Know that I can’t get over you, cause
everything I see is you, and I don’t want no substitute, baby I swear its Deja

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, she succeeds in re-creating the easy
authenticity of 2003’s Crazy in Love,
on which she flaunted a (then) thinly-veiled romance with Jay-Z. The concepts are virtually identical, and “Déjà vu” could
have easily come off as a “part-two” Instead, it stands on its own (try singing
the above hook and then the hook to “Crazy in Love”- tough right?). Once you
appreciate that you’ll be able to fully appreciate the song’s title. Finally, Young Hov’s 2nd verse makes this track
truly exceptional.

It’s H-O/ Light up the dro/ cause you
gon’ need help tryin to study my…bounce/ flow, blow, what’s the difference?/
One you take a vein while the other you sniffin/ It’s still dough/po-po try to
convict him/ that’s a no-go my dough keep the scales to tippin…

“Get Me Bodied” is a sassy, swing inspired cut which provides a nice contrast
to the opening club banger. Swizz
contribution is perhaps a little too Swizz-esque, (you can only take hey, hey, hey, hey for so long) and
Beyoncé’s struggles a bit to keep
the party going. “Suga Mama” features Beyoncé
doing a 180-degree turn from her early days of lamenting bug-a-boos and men who
ran up her cell phone bills. Rich
(who produced “Crazy in Love”) opts this time for a sassy,
eclectic, guitar-laced track which is clearly without the soulful yet light
flair that Beyoncé usually achieves.

Four tracks in we get the album’s best song – “Upgrade U” – and it’s worth the
wait. “Upgrade U” is one of those trend-setting songs that we’ll look back on
in five years and say, “Oh, that’s who started saying let me upgrade you.” Beyoncé sings her head off on this one,
mixing a provocative (if materialistic) hook with a seductive blend of chanting
and pleading that is, well, hot. Plus, the beat is damn hard for an R&B
track. And lest you think that I’m just hyping this one because Jay-Z is on it, allow me to cite just
one more bar:

I’m talking Spy bags/ and fly pads and/
Rooms at the Bloom-berg/ and ru-mors/ you on the verge of a new-merge/ cause
that rock on your finger’s like a tu-mor/ you can’t fit you hand in your

“Ring the Alarm” features a typically cool, collected and demure Beyoncé absolutely tripping. The psycho
ex-girlfriend theme is played, and frankly a little scary. True fans will
certainly compare this one to 2003’s “Me, Myself and I.” I’m all for multi-dimensionality
in an album, but “Ring the Alarm” is a serious departure from the man-friendly
theme of the first half of the disc. “Kitty Kat” is a playful breather on which
B milks a pussy-cat/sex metaphor for
all it’s worth while dismissing a boyfriend because he has better things to do
than lust after her body.

Yeah right.

To make matters worse she sing-raps a verse or two as well, including one Kelis-inspired line where she gets a
little bossy:

Rock diamonds on my neck, got diamonds
on my records/ since sixteen I was coming down ridin Lexus

“Freakum Dress” is also good-and-horrible. The
come through in a big way with “Green Light,” on which Beyoncé sounds like Amerie trying to sound like Beyoncé. Perhaps the best production on
B-Day comes from an anonymous
Norwegian pop music production team known as Stargate on “Irreplaceable.” “Irreplaceable” is a feel-good,
stand-up-for yourself, sing-along rallying cry for self-respecting women
everywhere; made specifically for all those cocky guys out there who think
they’re God’s gift to females.

Like I said: yeah right.

Speaking of God, “Resentment” sounds like church music. He lied. You moved on.
Get over it already. There’s also a hidden track (ooohhh) which is a song from Beyoncé’s upcoming starring role in the
silver-screen musical Dreamgirls. “Listen”
is a heartfelt preview of the highly anticipated musical, and Dreamgirls (due out Christmas 2006) just
might serve as a brilliant encore to B-Day.
B-Day might not be Beyonce on her best day, but then again
I’d take Beyoncé any day of the week.