Not only has Beyoncé steered music trends since the early 2000s – or even the late ’90s, if you’re a Destiny’s Child devotee – but she has done so with fierceness and innovation.
Her 2003 album, “Dangerously in Love,” announced her debut as a solo artist with a gust of horns and irresistible magnetism as she and future husband Jay-Z demonstrated how they were “Crazy in Love.”
While Beyoncé remained loyal to Destiny’s Child for a couple more years, her obvious star power and immediate solo success coalesced into an icon for the aughts.
Fans were stunned Wednesday when Beyoncé’s seventh studio album, “Renaissance,” leaked two days early – her first album of new music since 2016’s critically lauded concept record, “Lemonade.” She has already teased fans with the mirror-ball-worthy first single, “Break My Soul,” and indicated the rest of the album will follow a similar sonic path and beckon listeners to the dance floor.
On Friday, Beyoncé releases her seventh studio album, “Renaissance,” which is also her first album of new music since 2016’s critically lauded concept record, “Lemonade.” She has already teased fans with the mirror-ball-worthy first single, “Break My Soul,” and indicated the rest of the album will follow a similar sonic path and beckon listeners to the dance floor.
In honor of the singer/actress/philanthropist/entrepreneur who holds the record for the most Grammy Awards presented to a female singer (28) and continues to influence everything from fashion to dance moves, here are her 15 best songs, ranked.
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15. ‘Halo’ (2009)
Anchored by the signature pop sounds of co-writer Ryan Tedder, the fourth single from “I Am … Sasha Fierce” tends toward repetition as it clops along, but Beyoncé’s pure voice glides with elegance.
14. ‘Black Parade’ (2020)
Musically, the song released as a surprise on Juneteenth skillfully weaves trap and hip-hop with an electronic base. Lyrically, Beyoncé orchestrates a celebration of Black culture (“Motherland drip on me … I can’t forget my history is her story”), activism (“Put your fists up in the air, show Black love”) and Black pride (” We got rhythm / We got pride / We birth kings / We birth tribes”).
13. ‘Break My Soul’ (2022)
Those wondering which direction Beyoncé would twist on her new album received their answer with this giddy single, a sublime mashup of Robin S.’s 1993 club thumper “Show Me Love,” Big Freedia’s “Explode” and Beyoncé’s own unfettered vocals. When not calling for a reinvention (“And I just quit my job / I’m gonna find a new drive”) Beyoncé semi-raps with attitude: “The queens in the front and the doms in the back / Ain’t takin’ no flicks but the whole clique snapped.”
12. ‘Formation’ (2016)
What the song lacks in melody or hooks, it more than compensates with Beyoncé’s pointed lyrics that touch on race and politics. “My daddy Alabama, my mother Louisiana,” she sings in a slurry vocal as synths bounce like rubber bands underneath her words from her. The song – and its searing video from “Lemonade” remains one of her most consequential musical creations from her that also brought us the lyric “I got hot sauce in my bag, swag.”
11. ‘Listen’ (2006)
The sumptuous ballad that Beyoncé performed in “Dreamgirls” (as her character, Deena Jones) was one of four new songs written for the film version of the musical. Soaring with cinematic drama, Beyoncé-as-Deena sings with conviction about realizing dreams and finding your way, pulling out the vocal fireworks as the song reaches its apex.
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10. ‘Deja Vu’ (2006)
“Let’s go get ’em,” Beyoncé says to Jay-Z with an audible grin as the pair romp through a funky R&B head-nodder that simmers with the pair’s sexual tension. Utilizing soulful horns and a skittering hi-hat, the lead single from “B-Day” further cemented Beyoncé’s status as a burgeoning icon.
9. ‘Best Thing I Never Had’ (2011)
Despite the pretty piano bed and swoopy ballad trappings, there’s nothing squishy about the way Beyoncé reports “Thank God you blew it / Thank God I dodged a bullet.” If you’re looking for a turn-on-your-heel-and sashay-away kiss-off, this is a good place to start.
8. ‘Run the World (Girls)’ (2011)
One of Beyoncé’s greatest contributions is her continued championing of women through anthems of empowerment that are never subtle – and nor should they be. Stuttering backing vocals and militant snare drum power this dancehall-influenced banger that drips with attitude as it celebrates feminine power.
7. ‘Sweet Dreams’ (2009)
Originally titled “Beautiful Nightmare,” the electro-pop stunner from “I Am … Sasha Fierce” represented a musical shift for Beyoncé. Buzzing guitar and a synth-pop beat melded with a creeping bassline that prompted many a comparison to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” This is not a bad thing.
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6. ‘Ring the Alarm’ (2006)
The siren at the start of the song indicated that a more aggressive Bey was about to emerge, so taking cover was advised. After filming the adaptation of Broadway musical “Dreamgirls,” Beyoncé said she was packed with pent-up emotions and ideas and immediately churned out this snarly retort to cheating beaus.
5. ‘Irreplaceable’ (2006)
“To the left, to the left” became an unlikely mantra as Beyoncé directed an ex to pack up his stuff and get out of her life. “I could have another you in a minute,” she sings on this No. 1 hit without a hint of malice but an abundance of confidence.
4. ‘If I Were a Boy’ (2008)
Though technically a cover song (co-writer BC Jean released it), Beyoncé completely sinks into the soft introspection of the ballad. With her voice de ella in prime smoky mode, she contrasts the perceptions of what is acceptable for male or female behavior while also gently instructing about emotional understanding.
3. ‘Crazy in Love’ (2003)
For her debut solo, Beyoncé blasted a mélange of pop, funk, soul and hip-hop (courtesy of then-suitor Jay-Z), dug out a sample of The Chi-Lites’ 1970 song “Are You My Woman (Tell Me So)” and announced to the world that she was ready to have some fun with a whip of a song hook.
2. ‘Love on Top’ (2011)
Along with possessing a glorious assortments of key changes, the song is a showcase for Beyoncé’s underrated range as her escalating vocals climb mountains worthy of Diana Ross. With its ’80s vibe, the hit from her album “4” retains an old-school shimmer along with its sweet, sunshiny bounce.
1. ‘Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)’ (2008)
When the video for your worldwide smash becomes as ingrained in pop culture as the song itself, it’s definitely time to take a bow. With its shrug of a declaration (“If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it”) and an unrelenting beat, the song, which collected a trio of Grammy Awards at the 2010 ceremony, served as both female empowerment anthem and a jab to commitment-phobic men. The video, meanwhile, spawned a gazillion pre-TikTok videos of fans parroting Beyoncé’s dance moves and inspired a brilliant “Saturday Night Live” spoof.
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