Beyonce and Luke the Drifter

Because her public appearances are stage-managed to the hilt, and otherwise she generally stays out of trouble (or out of sight altogether), Beyonce is of constant interest but limited use to gotcha!-media outlets like TMZ. "It's hard to imagine Beyonce scratching an itch without undergoing a little media training first," Blender senior editor Jonah Weiner writes in "Pop Dopplegangers," an interesting article Rocks Off ran across today on Slate.com.

Playing off Beyonce's decision to record half of her new double album I Am...Sasha Fierce as flamboyant stage princess "Sasha Fierce" and the other half as "herself," Weiner traces the history of alternate pop personalities through Ol' Dirty Bastard/Russell Jones, Eminem/Slim Shady/Marshall Mathers and David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust all the way back to 1950, when Hank Williams Sr. recorded several inspirational songs under the pseudonym Luke the Drifter. Seems he was afraid radio stations wouldn't cotton to the same man responsible for "Cold, Cold Heart" and "Your Cheatin' Heart" suddenly singing about coming to Jesus.

"Luke the Drifter gets at something essential about musical alter egos," Weiner writes. "Williams was grappling with the disorienting experience of being watched by millions, of being subject to a clumsy, mass gaze that doesn't see a person in full, but rather a distortion of him [or her]."

Turns out Sasha Fierce (a "fembot") isn't much of an alter ego, though - and neither is Miss B: "The so-called unguarded tracks offer us no deeper understanding of Beyonce, unless you count the revelation, on the shivering power ballad 'If I Were a Boy,' that this booty-shaking, beauty-shop feminist has feelings too, and that they can be hurt." 

Nevertheless, I Am... Sasha Fierce debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 this week, shifting 482,000 units - not bad at all for a double album (Billboard's exact word choice is "whopping"). Read the full Slate article here. - Chris Gray


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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray