The music industry has a lot in common with the average automobile plant. Lots can go wrong, but when everything's operating at peak efficiency, it's still capable of turning out impressive products. Like, for instance,B'Day
, a sleek new model that displays all the benefits of custom manufacture. Granted, Beyoncé Knowles provides promising raw material; a team of engineers couldn't design a performer with broader appeal. But rather than relying upon her basic allure to shift units, producers like Stargate and Rich Harrison have created a slew of settings that take advantage of her attributes, whether it's the way she purrs at lower speed (the Neptunes-helmed "Kitty Kat") or her seldom-used upper gears (the unexpectedly persuasive "Ring the Alarm"). And they don't skimp on extras. Also included is the toweringly melodramatic "Listen," a hidden-track preview from the forthcoming movie
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, whose soundtrack will be the next Beyoncé tie-in to roll off the assembly line. Thanks to its machine-tooled nature,B'Day
feels about as organic as a Lexus. But it's bound to get great mileage.