On April 23, we celebrated the 5th anniversary of Lemonadethe sixth and latest album by singer, dancer, composer, producer and actress Beyoncé, aka Queen B. On this occasion, I was asked to rank all her albums, and this is (really) the worst something that could happen to me.
This artist, I idolize her since my youngest age. His songs, I’ve listened to them all hundreds of times, and his concerts, I put all my savings into them. So easy, you might think, for a connoisseur like me to do a simple ranking. But no, it was like choosing who I prefer between my father and my mother. If only because I adore them all in the same way, but above all because they are all musically very different, and they each illustrate a new stage in Beyoncé’s artistic evolution. It’s not a ranking, it’s a path.
And then after many re-listenings for days, I tried to detach myself from the love I have for these six albums. Of the first two, Dangerously in Love and B’DayI detached the child seized and amazed, from I Am…Sasha FierceI detached the pre-teen discovering a devouring love for music and the voice, from 4 and BeyonceI detached the teenager dreaming of being a diva with a shapely body, and LemonadeI detached the young woman (and feminist) seeking a place in a decadent world.
In the end, I (almost) succeeded in (re)discovering with another eye (and another ear) his powerful and conquering discography, his lighter or stronger texts, often committed, his soulful, pure and skinned at the same time, its different tones, covering almost four octaves, its breathtaking runs and its perfectly mastered vibes. Because whether we like it or not, Beyoncé is one hell of a vocalist. In short, here is my ultimate classification of the six albums of the queen of R’n’B.
B’Day, this is Beyoncé’s second album, released on her 25th birthday in September 2006, one year after the dissolution of Destiny’ Child, the group in which she shone alongside Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. With a very R’n’B style, sprinkled with little touches of funk, pop and hip-hop, it is surely the most danceable album of B, as proven by the titles “Upgrade U”, “Get Me Bodied”, “Beautiful Liar”, in duet with Shakira, and “Deja Vu”, featuring the one who will become her husband, Jay-Z.
There are also softer ballads like “Listen” and more old school like “Resentment” and “Suga Mama”. But the biggest success of the project remains the single “Irreplaceable”. With B’DayBeyoncé is definitely sitting on her throne as a solo star, but the future will show us that she can do much more.
5. Dangerously in Love
Dangerously in Love is Beyoncé’s first solo album, released in March 2003 while on hiatus from Destiny’s Child. With this first project, the singer proves that she can shine on her own (not that anyone can doubt it). She also served as the album’s executive producer and co-wrote the majority of the songs.
While it may not be his most acclaimed album to date, it remains the best-selling of his entire career at 12.5 million copies. Dangerously in Love allowed Beyoncé to win five Grammy Awards and reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with the hits “Crazy in Love” and “Baby Boy”. A very fresh first R’n’B and soul album, offering ballads and mid-tempo titles, which established Beyoncé as the new performer of the music scene at the time. But she still has to prove that she is much more than the girl of the girl band that everyone knows until now.
This self-titled album is the American artist’s fifth. Released by surprise, without any promotion, in December 2013, Beyonce shook the internet. It then became the best-selling album in the history of the iTunes Store, with 828,773 copies sold in just three days. Going even further in the artistic approach, Beyoncé accompanies and illustrates the release of the project with a clip per song, to make it a visual album.
Beyonce is B’s most intimate, sensual, dark and wild album. try rapping (“7/11”, “Partition” and “Drunk in love”) in a smooth voice. She tackles themes such as feminism and sex, which highlight her image as a girl power tigress and which, ultimately, resemble her more. In “Pretty Hurts” and “No Angel”, her vocal performance is remarkable. If this is not necessarily the kind of album that we appreciate from the first listen (no hit stands out apart from “Drunk in Love”), time has made it a masterpiece.
Contrary to Beyoncethe album 4 is much more sung. The songs are vocally perfect and full of freshness, marked by much more pop and funk influences, unlike his other albums. It’s a very personal project, in which Beyoncé has invested more, whether in the artistic approach or the composition, and which shows the different musical styles of the singer.
We thus find “Run the World (Girls)” with dancehall and alternative hip-hop sounds and a text promoting the emancipation of women. It became one of the biggest hits of his career. Also acclaimed are the ballads “Best Thing I Never Had”, “I Was Here” and “I Care”, the slow R’n’B “Dance for You” and the funky “Love on Top”. 4 is the first album released after Beyoncé severed professional ties with her father and manager. It was also his fourth studio album, hence the name.
2. I Am…Sasha Fierce
I Am…Sasha Fierce, released in November 2008, is Beyoncé’s third solo album. The work features “Sasha Fierce”, the singer’s alter ego on stage (a more obscure and expressive performer, who contrasts sharply with the notoriously reserved woman she is in real life). This double album is a mix of slow R’n’B and pop ballads (like Beyoncé), and more up-tempo electro and dance sounds (like Sasha).
With the video for “Single Ladies”, the biggest hit of the project, Queen B marks the world with a now famous choreography and her emblematic “hand flip” movement. Other hits include “If I Were a Boy”, “Halo”, “Broken-Hearted Girl”, “Diva”, “Ego” or “Hello”. In short, the success with the public will be confirmed by the seven nominations of the album to the Grammy Awards and its record of six victories, that is to say the greatest number of awards gained in a ceremony by a woman.
Lemonade, Beyoncé’s latest album is a real cry from the heart. This is his second visual album (after Beyonce). Its release, on April 23, 2016, was a total surprise. First previewed on Tidal, it is then available as a paid download. It is accompanied by a 65-minute film broadcast exclusively on HBO. We find in the project a wide variety of musical genres such as pop, reggae, blues, rock, hip-hop, trap, soul, country, electro, as well as prestigious collaborations, from Kendrick Lamar to The Weeknd via Jack White.
It is surely the singer’s most introspective, painful, cathartic and constructed album. She recounts the phases she went through to rebuild herself and save her couple after Jay-Z, her husband and the father of her children, cheated on her. Intuition (“Pray You Catch Me”), denial (“Hold Up”), anger (“Don’t Hurt Yourself”), apathy (“Sorry”), emptiness (“6 Inch “) and finally responsibility (“Daddy Lessons”).
With the impressive “Formation” and “Freedom” with Kendrick Lamar, but also the moving “Sandcastles”, Lemonade also explores the history and origins of the artist with a very afrofeminist prism and references such as the work Daughters of the Dust, the first American film directed by a black woman. The album is also directly inspired by her grandmother, Agnéz Deréon, and that of her husband Jay-Z, Hattie White. At the end of the title “Freedom”, we hear the latter say, during the celebration of her 90th birthday in April 2015: “I was served lemons, but I made lemonade” (“Life gave me lemons, I made lemonade”).
Lemonade, which sold 653,000 copies in one week, was one of his most critically acclaimed albums. All of the tracks on the album reached the top Billboard Hot 100 and the project was nominated for nine Grammy Awards in 2017. It was also listed by NPR as the sixth greatest album of all time directed by a woman. .
Throughout her career and with just six studio albums, Beyoncé has sold over 100 million albums worldwide, making her one of the biggest sellers in the world. With a list of 28 trophies, she is also the most awarded woman in the history of the Grammy Awards. She was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by the Time Magazine for two consecutive years, and Forbes ranked her as the most powerful woman in entertainment on its 2015 and 2017 lists. She is the first artist whose first six albums (thus her entire discography) topped the Billboard 200. really something to add?