Beyoncé In 10 Songs

With Renaissance arriving this week, we're breaking down the many facets of Queen Bey

beyonce in 10 songs
Beyoncé’s artwork for Renaissance (Instagram)

    This article originally ran in 2016 and has been updated.

    Ever felt overwhelmed by an artist’s extensive back catalog? Been meaning to check out a band, but you just don’t know where to begin? In 10 Songs is here to help, offering a crash course and entry point into the daunting discographies of iconic artists of all genres. This is your first step toward fandom. Take it.

    From bursting onto the scene with Destiny’s Child in 1998 to high-profile endorsements, clothing lines, movies, mic-drop pregnancy announcements and solo mega stardom, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s resume is so layered that she really doesn’t need an introduction. In fact, she falls into the category of public figures that are instantly recognizable around the world at the mention of just a first name: Beyoncé.

    As a brand, Beyoncé has come to represent a tireless work ethic, high-energy performances, strength, and beauty, all of which have inspired fierce loyalty to the woman in charge of it all. But we only have suggestions as to who she really is, because she is notoriously private and gradually stopped granting interviews to any outsider who might try to lift the veil.


    In April 2016, a surprise album dropped out of the sky as a complete visual experience called Lemonade. Shucking the norms for release schedules and redefining what an album is, no longer just something you can listen to but something you can also watch, Lemonade is still one of the most exciting things to happen in popular culture. With its many cameo appearances, references to Southern American culture, and maybe even glimpses of troubles that were hinted at but never confirmed, it has given listeners and viewers so much to dissect.

    At every stage of her career, Beyoncé’s relentless creativity has pushed the boundaries of what it means to be a star. Few other artists can provoke such wide-ranging discussion. Either way Bey probably won’t sweat it. After all, you know you’re that bitch when you cause all this conversation.

    Vanessa Okoth-Obbo


    “Hey Ladies” from The Writing’s on the Wall (1999)

    Before she became the powerhouse that she is today, Beyoncé was a member of Destiny’s Child – originally a quartet of talented young singers from Houston, Texas. They went on to be one of the best-selling girl groups of all time. Through lineup changes and breaks for solo careers, the group released four studio albums packed with infectious, pop-infused R&B songs. On each new album, Beyoncé has bent the R&B genre to her will in different ways. There are the slow burns like “Dangerously in Love” and “Broken-Hearted Girl” and the grown-and-sexy album 4, which featured songs like “Countdown,” “Love on Top,” and “Party” that took us back to the golden era of R&B.

    Of the more animated strain, “Hey Ladies” off the group’s second album, The Writing’s on the Wall, is an example of DC at their best – sisters coming together to support one another through good and bad times. They tackle the minefield that is young love, in this case taking aim at a cheating boyfriend and letting him know that he’s got to go, but in the most melodious and danceable way possible. Now that we know “hot sauce” isn’t just a condiment that Beyoncé carries around in her bag, the guy who crossed her back then is probably thankful that he got off so lightly. — V.O.O.


    “Crazy in Love” from Dangerously in Love (2003)

    By 2001’s Survivor, it was clear that Destiny’s Child had settled into their new status as a trio: Kelly, Michelle and Beyoncé. But from early on, it was quite clear that Bey was leading from the front, and even casual observers could tell it was only a matter of time before she decided to break away. As the first single off her solo debut album, “Crazy in Love” confirmed what many already suspected — Beyoncé had the star power necessary to take pop culture by storm. It seems like the obvious and cliché choice here, but the importance of this song in Bey’s oeuvre cannot be overstated.

    Not only did it cement her status as a superstar, but it was also the first public acknowledgement of the relationship that has been a huge part of her life and the inspiration for so many of her subsequent songs that we know and love. It is also one of the strongest tracks from an album that had excellent singles but fell flat elsewhere. From the time the horns hit, resistance is futile. In the accompanying music video, 21-year-old Beyoncé struts confidently up to the camera, cocks her head to the side, and asks: “You ready?” Looking back on it now, we probably weren’t. — V.O.O.

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