Album: Beyonce

Dangerously In Love, Columbia
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"I know that folks love me as a pop star. Now I want them to understand me as an artist," says the founding member of Destiny's Child of her first solo album. Poor, deluded fool. The airbrushed image on the album-sleeve, in which the singer wears, well, almost nothing, will doubtless give potential purchasers a clue as to the record industry's take on Beyoncé Knowles. Musically, it's a depressing affair. In all the tracks - from the soft rock of "That's How You Like It" to the sappy soul of "Speechless" - you can practically smell the furniture polish in the executive boardroom. There are nods to old-style soul and contemporary R&B, with guest slots from Luther Vandross and Missy Elliott, though further starry collaborators, among them The Neptunes, Sean Paul and Outkast's Big Boi, fail to lift the album above a torpor of low-grade pop and R&B. Beyoncé adopts a series of guises throughout the album - in "Naughty Girl" we have brazen Beyoncé, while in "Hip Hop Star" we're presented with bad-ass Beyoncé. The surfeit of ballads, meanwhile - "Be With You", "Yes", "The Closer I Get to You" and "Me Myself and I" - ensure we're familiar with her sensitive side. Lyrically, it's beyond bad. "I wish he was a Virgo, same sign as me/ Because I've been hurt by a Pisces," she coos in "Signs", before having recourse to some Mariah Carey-esque yodelling. That would be almost forgivable if there were at least a couple of booty-shaking anthems on a par with Destiny's Child's "Independent Women Part II" or "Jumpin Jumpin". Alas, nothing here comes close.

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