Beyonce is back with her second album, the all-star-produced B'Day. Guests include Jay-Z, T.I., and Ne-Yo. B'Day has plenty of featured artists and duets - as Beyonce's co-producers include Rich Harrison, The Neptunes and Swizz Beatz. B'Day's first single is "Dja vu" featuring Jay-Z and co-produced by Rodney Jerkins.
History may prove Beyoncé's B'Day
to be a rare double-whammy of an achievement. Not only is it destined to hold up as one of the thumpingest, most polished-sounding discs of 2006, it's also bound to loose a new phrase into the popular lexicon: a "freekum dress" (n.), as described on a same-named track halfway through this excellent CD, is a "right-fittin'" garment owned by every woman; "when they act wrong, that's when you put it on." Linguistic hijinks aside, here is Beyoncé as the public rarely sees her: fully liberated and artistically fearless. "Ring the Alarm," a big-banging, fire-alarm-clanging wake-up call to a cheating man, finds her seething; "Kitty Kat," a feline-like size-up of a stale relationship helped along by the still innovative Neptunes, shows her spurned; the womanly, fire-in-the-belly come-on "Suga Mama" gets her way, way worked up; and the crackling, vocally volcanic "Resentment" steeps her in Aretha-caliber soul. For all the disc's solo trailblazing, though, where it really soars is on one of two duets with Jay-Z: While "Up Grade U" chugs along entertainingly enough about the good life ("I'm talkin' spa bags and fly pads and rooms at the Bloomberg"), opener "Deja Vu" blasts out a bomp-bomp beat nobody with a head to nod could resist. Cake, candles, and Cristal or no, B'Days
rarely get this good. --Tammy La Gorce
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