Beyonce’s brand of empowering, soulful and powerful pop has captured the imagination of a generation of young women, and she’s often cited as a role-model. She was born in Houston, Texas in 1981, and showed a tenacity for singing from a young age. While in high school, she formed a band with her cousin Kelly Rowland, and after a number of lineup changes, Destiny’s Child got signed to Columbia Records in 1997, soon becoming one of the most popular R&B acts in America.
Despite still being part of Destiny’s Child, Beyonce began exploring other projects such as a stint acting in the Mike Myers film Austin Powers: Goldmember, and beginning her solo career. In 2003 she released her first solo-album, Dangerously In Love, which was a huge success both commercially and critically. The album came just a year before Destiny’s Child split up.
Beyonce’s career has gone from strength to strength as a solo artist. At the 2010 Grammys, she walked away with the most honours ever bestowed on a female artist at one time. In 2013, she surprised fans and critics with the release of her self titled album Beyonce, which sold 800,000 copies in its first weekend. Her final offering, Lemonade, debuted at number 1, making Beyonce the only artist in history to have all six of her albums reach the charts.
Crazy in Love (Dangerously In Love, 2003)
Beyonce performs in the music video to Crazy In Love
Columbia Records released Crazy In Love as the lead single from the album Dangerously In Love, in May 2003. It rocketed to number one in the States and in the United Kingdom. At the 48th Grammy Awards, it won Best R&B song, and Best Rap / Sung Collaboration. The song is undeniably catchy, and it’s up beat, feel-good hook makes you want to hit the dance-floor!
Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) (I am… Sacha Fierce, 2008)
Beyonce and backing dancers performing the now famous dance to Put A Ring On It
If you’re in a club and this song comes on, every woman in there will jump up, and shake their hands along to the chorus. What an empowering track! The song tells the story of a man who lost a woman, because he wasn’t committed enough, and now he’s jealous because she’s being desired by other men. For example, she sings: “Cause you had your turn, but now you’re gunna learn, what it really feels like to miss me.” Commercially, the song was a massive success, and is one of the best selling singles of all time.
Drunk In Love (Beyonce, 2013)
Beyonce and Jay Z in the video to Drunk In Love
Drunk In Love is one of Beyonce’s most sumptuous, heartfelt and personal songs. It starts with the sound of the sea crashing on the shore, which then serves as a bed to Beyonce’s sensuous, confident vocals. The lyrics explore female sexuality and employ a number of double entendres to get their message across. Her husband Jay Z appears in the video, which was directed by Hype Williams and was filmed on the beach in Florida. Some critics have speculated that the song is a follow up to her song Crazy In Love, which also featured her husband.
Run The World (Girls) (4, 2011)
Video to Who Run The World (Girls)
If you’re looking for a catchy sing-along song about female emancipation and empowerment, then look no further! The lyrics dissect the relationship between men and women, effectively saying that women have the upper hand: “You’ll do anything for me!” In an interview with Billboard, Beyonce described the song: “It felt a bit African, a bit electronic and futuristic. It reminded me of what I love, which is mixing different cultures and eras to make a new sound.”
Irreplaceable (B’Day, 2006)
Beyonce in the sassy video for Irreplaceable
Irreplaceable is the perfect song to listen to after a breakup – ahem, I’ve never done that… It tells the story of a woman who was cheated on by her boyfriend, so she decides to kick him out telling him he’s not irreplaceable. Written in a traditional ballad format, it was the 25th most successful song of the 2000s, and won several awards including a nomination for Record of the Year at the 50th Grammy Awards.
Halo (I am… Sacha Fierce, 2008)
The cover of Beyonce’s single, Halo
Halo is a pop power ballad, and its lyrics describe an intense and powerful love shared by a couple. The video was intended to give a behind-the-scenes look at Beyonce’s life, with her stripped of her makeup and celebrity trappings. Beyonce wrote the song in collaboration with Ryan Tedder, and it was a smash hit, topping the charts in Brazil, Norway and Slovakia, and gaining triple platinum status in Australia.
Partition (Beyonce, 2013)
Partition by Beyonce
What a beat… the song lures you in with a sparse, stripped-back sound, and a heavy pumping baseline, which Beyonce’s half-rapped lyrics then break on top of. It was released on her fifth self titled album, and is about being late to a club because of getting ‘distracted’ by her partner in the back of a limousine. The song was co-written by Justin Timberlake, and on its release it received a warm critical reception. Fans love it for its flow from a sugary girl band aesthetic to a dirty hip-hop style.
Say My Name (Destiny’s Child, The Writing’s On The Wall, 1999)
Cover to the single Say My Name which includes the original line up for Destiny’s Child
Yes, this is by Destiny’s Child, but it couldn’t not be included. It was released on their second studio album, The Writing’s On The Wall, and was co-written by Beyonce and a number of collaborators. The song’s lyrics are about the protagonist’s suspicion that her partner is having an affair because he won’t say her name like he used to. A critical success, Say My Name won two Grammy Awards, and its video won the MTV Music Video of the Year for Best R&B Video.
Bootylicious (Survivor, 2001)
Beyonce Knowles, Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland appear in the video for the single, Bootylicious
Yes, it’s another Destiny’s Child, but it’s just too good to overlook. From their third album Survivor, it was co-written by Beyonce, Rob Fusari and Falonte Moore. It is a classic R&B record, written in a medium tempo time and a common beat with one of the most catchy and dance-inducing choruses of the Noughties. In the United States it peaked at number 66 in the charts, while in the UK it reached number 2, just pipped to the top spot by Atomic Kitten’s cover of Eternal Flame. According to the Urban Dictionary, Bootylicious means an attractive woman – the term was even added to the Oxford English Dictionary, too.
Formation (Lemonade, 2016)
Beyonce in the video for Formation
Lemonade is Beyonce’s most avant garde and experimental album, and Formation was the lead single from the album. The lyrics are strongly political, and they’ve been described as a statement of radical black positivity. She describes being really proud in her black heritage, and how that gives her power, giving a view of black Americans not usually seen in the mainstream media. The song was nominated for two Grammy Awards, and won Best Music Video.