Picks and Pans Main: Music

updated 09/11/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/11/2006 01:00AM

Beyoncé B'Day
REVIEWED BY CHUCK ARNOLD
CRITIC'S CHOICE
R&B

You ain't never seen a fire like the one I'ma cause," sings Beyoncé on her new, siren-blowing single "Ring the Alarm." And judging by her blazing second solo CD, who could argue with Miss B? Even better than 2003's Grammy-winning, quadruple-platinum Dangerously in Love, B'Day—which arrives on Sept. 5, the day after Beyoncé's 25th birthday—celebrates her ever-growing confidence as a singer-songwriter and producer. Having called it quits with Destiny's Child last year, she is a fully independent woman now, and you can hear it on beat-driven tracks boasting more soul, more sass and more sex appeal. "Get Me Bodied" is a fat-bottomed club banger set to a hand-clapping groove, while the ladies' anthem "Freakum Dress" finds Beyoncé working all her bootylicious powers over some slamming funk. Best, though, is "Deja Vu," one of two cuts on which she teams with rapper beau Jay-Z. Against a jazzy hip-hop backdrop punctuated with Earth, Wind & Fire-esque horns, he plays it cool, she turns up the heat, and the sparks fly.

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DOWNLOAD THIS: "Deja Vu"

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