Beyoncé

Dangerously in Love (Columbia)

There's something terribly wrong about the cover shot of this CD.

Not that I'm a moralist. Sure, the image of Ms. Knowles wearing a bejeweled variation on the beads people hang across open doorways is capable of inspiring impure thoughts among impressionable youths and, well, impressionable non-youths, too, and that's fine. In fact, it definitely enhances one's enjoyment of the disc. "Naughty Girl" is an awfully blunt attempt to raise heartbeats and so on, what with its jailbait cooing and interpolation of Donna Summer's "Love to Love You, Baby." I mean, was sampling a porno soundtrack a little too obvious? Still, let a dude listen to it with the cover in view and -- sproing! -- he'll be trying to figure out where he left the hand lotion.

Neither do I think the platter as a whole is awful. Some of the superstar guest appearances (particularly the Missy Elliott featurette "Signs" and "The Closer I Get to You," a goopy duet with Luther Vandross) are underwhelming, and "Crazy in Love," the lead single, is a slab of Velveeta -- and not just because designated guy-pal Jay-Z name-checks Nick Van Exel. "Baby Boy," with Sean Paul, and "Hip Hop Star," co-starring Big Boi, are better, however, and pretty much everything else is at least listenable -- machine-tooled pop-soul designed to hit the G-spot.

Problem is, that damn cover is capable of making guys who can't stand pop-soul, or maybe even music in general, pick up a copy of Dangerously in Love -- and once the marketing mavens figure that out, Katy bar the door. Risqué Beyoncé photos will grace punk albums, metal albums, classical albums, new-age albums, "Weird" Al Yankovic albums -- and when those sell like crazy, you'll see the same things on cereal boxes, frozen TV dinners, soup cans and bags of cat litter. A trip to the supermarket could become a confrontation with Destiny. Who could afford all that stuff?

So when you see this disc in a store, for God's sake, don't buy it. Although staring at it is probably okay.

 
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