Music World Music/Columbia 719492

Executive producers: Beyonce & Matthew Knowles

Track listing: If I Were a Boy / Halo / Disappear / Broken-Hearted Girl / Ave Maria / Satellites / Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) / Radio / Diva / Sweet Dreams / Video Phone

I_Am..._Sasha_Fierce

December 6, 2008
1 week

There had been other two-CD sets to top the chart, yet Beyonce’s I Am…Sasha Fierce is likely the first double-CD chart-topper to feature one disc credited to the artist of note and the other to a newly revealed alter ego.

“That is my alter ego and now she has a last name,” Beyonce said of “Sasha Fierce” in an interview with the Telegraph‘s Daniel Jackson. “I have someone else that takes over when it’s time for me to work and when I’m on stage, this alter ego that I’ve created that kind of protects me and who I really am.” As such, the I Am disc shows of Beyonce’s more personal and stripped down side, while the Sasha Fierce disc spotlights Beyonce’s wilder, club-bangin’ diva persona.

To tap into the former, Beyonce reached out to Amanda Ghost, who co-wrote James Blunt’s international hit “You’re Beautiful.” When Ghost was first contacted by Beyonce, through her husband, superstar rapper and music mogul Jay-Z, she was a bit surprised. “I said I don’t know anything about urban music,” she told Jackson. “But she likes so many different styles, as does Jay-Z. The reason they wanted me was because I wasn’t from that world. And we started a friendship up. We spent three weeks together in New York working on the new record and we had the most incredible time. She has a complete, almost laser-like focus on what she is and what she can do.” Ghost ended up co-writing three songs on the I am disc, “Disappear,” “Satellites,” and an adaptation of Charles Ground’s much-covered classic “Ave Maria.”

Another influence of the album was Beyonce’s acting gig in Cadillac Records, the film in which she portrays legendary blues belter Etta James. “I’m the most proud of that movie, more than anything I’ve done so far,” she told Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times. “More than anything, it changed me. It changed my art. It changed my way of looking at everything; my approach to the songs I chose and the way I sang [on the “I Am . . . “] record. I kept it a lot cleaner and lot more simple. In the studio, I sang those songs the same way as if I had a scene with my acting coach. I was in there crying, screaming and sweating, all of that. . . . All of that is in the music. I couldn’t go from that to just singing anything. It had everything to do with ‘I Am . . . ‘ Those songs are just from the heart.”

Both the new approach and the more dance-friendly sounds of Beyonce proved to be a hit with the fans. Upon the release of I Am…Sasha Fierce both sides of Beyonce’s personality were making noise on the charts. The confessional “If I Were a Boy” was in the top 10 of the Hot 100 while “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” was on top of the Hot R&B Hip-Hop Songs chart, setting the stage for I Am…Sasha Fierce to become Beyonce’s third consecutive chart-topping debut on The Billboard 200.

The album didn’t disappoint, selling 482,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That sum wasn’t enough to top B-Day‘s bow in 2006 with 541,000, but it did best Beyonce’s solo debut, Dangerously in Love, which entered the chart at the top with sales of 317,000 copies in 2003.

THE TOP FIVE
Week of December 6, 2008

1. I Am…Sasha Fierce, Beyonce
2. Dark Horse, Nickelback
3. David Cook, David Cook
4. Fearless, Taylor Swift
5. The Promise, Il Divo