Beyoncé divides her third album into two discs. One is credited to the comely singer who’s sold tons of records over the past decade; the other introduces Sasha Fierce, Beyoncé’s diva alter ego, who has no problem getting naked for your video phone. Together, they’re supposed to represent the two sides of Mrs. Jay-Z: the pipes-bustin’ ballad belter and the hips-lockin’ dance-floor grinder. But the setup is clumsy. By the time the sixth ballad on the first disc starts, you’re dying to get to the club.
Likewise, the five cuts on CD two rewire their robotic beats to the point where you’re hoping Sasha will slow things down so you can catch your breath. No surprise that I Am … Sasha Fierce’s strongest songs lead each disc. “If I Were a Boy” is Beyoncé’s best-ever ballad, a men-are-dicks-but-what-do-you-expect? shrug; “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” propelled by percussive handclaps, makes no excuses. Every other piece falls into place. Too bad Beyoncé didn’t mix them up a little bit.