If you have met me, or read anything I’ve ever written, or picked up on my psychic energy, you know that I love Beyoncé. She’s the HBIC of our entire cultural landscape, which is actually really major. It’s so important that a powerful woman of color is making daring artistic choices and subsequently gaining the respect and admiration of even the most unlikely people.
She hasn’t ended sexism or racism or anything, she’s a human woman, but she is an exceptional role model to girls—she is an avowed feminist and activist, and she embraces and celebrates her sexuality without shame. She is a mother, a distraction and sacrifice for many, yet has released her best and most gripping work since her daughter was born. Motherhood, for Bey, is one of the many facets of femininity, and she glorifies it without being exclusionary. She’s got the whole world breathlessly awaiting the birth of her twins, so let’s celebrate the mother of all icons!
Aside from being our generation’s biggest icon, she’s a musical artist. A singer, songwriter, and producer that has more hit songs than you can shake a stick at (that’s a phrase, right?) It’s not just her image that is valuable. She’s got songs! Six solo albums worth of glorious songs! A lot of people have only begun to truly appreciate Queen Bey in the past few years, more for her persona than for her actual talent, which is a damn shame. She has been out here on her own since 2003, making our lives better with her art. I present to you Beyoncé’s six albums, in order of the quality of the songwriting on each. This was not easy, but we live in the age of listicles and all must be ranked. Here they are, in order from great to greatest.
Released on her 25th birthday, B’Day is Beyoncé’s second solo effort, best known for spawning the hit single “Irreplaceable“. This is the reason that everyone spent the entirety of 2007 saying “to the left, to the left”. This album was released before I became a Bey-votee, but I would hardly be the aficionado I claim to be if I did not revisit her early works.
I don’t have much to say about B’Day, apart from that it is musically pretty unremarkable. Apart from “Irreplaceable”, it doesn’t have any stand-out tracks. Even the two songs featuring Jay-Z are forgettable. The lyrics, however, are all about female empowerment, laying the foundation for her later work. Solange also has some writing credits on this album!
One thing worth noting is that, apparently, every song on this album has a music video, which indicates that, even seven years before she stealth-dropped the movie/album Beyoncé, visual representation was a priority.
Listen to “Ring the Alarm” and get ready to be pissed at your man.
Dangerously in Love (2003)
This is Beyoncé’s debut solo album, y’all! She came out the gate spitting venom. “Crazy in Love (feat. Jay-Z)” is an enduring banger and “Naughty Girl“, which samples Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby”, is one of her sexiest tracks to date. This album, as a whole, is hardly a musical revelation, but it certainly proved that Bey’s career would be just fine without the other ladies of Destiny’s Child. “Baby Boy” notably features Sean Paul, as all songs did in the year 2003. That was currency back then.
Much like B’Day above, Dangerously in Love was merely sowing the seeds that would bloom Beyoncé into the iconic matriarch she is today.
P.S. Fuckin’ shout-out to “Stole” by Kelly Rowland. I mean no disrespect to the alumnae of Destiny’s Child.
I Am…Sasha Fierce (2008)
I Am…Sasha Fierce is, in my opinion, Beyoncé’s first cohesive album. Like the first two albums, Sasha Fierce spawned a ton of hits, but for the first time, the album was more than a vehicle for singles. The concept was that the double album’s second side would represent the perspective of Beyoncé’s alter ego, Sasha Fierce, an edgier stage version of the wholesome image of Beyoncé. If I remember my pop culture history correctly, this is when people really started paying attention to Beyoncé as an artist, rather than just a pop star. Of course she was already an A-list celebrity, but 2008 is when the veil of mystique that she still wears was cast upon her. Earlier in the year, she married Jay-Z, and his influence no doubt led her to be more selective about her musical projects.
As the individual songs go, this album is a heavy-hitter. “If I Were A Boy” is not only a great track that picks up the girl power theme in a big way, the title also employs the subjunctive tense properly, which never, ever happens in songs. Sasha Fierce also notably contains what may be Beyoncé’s best song, “Halo“. And then, of course, there’s the pièce de résistance, “Single Ladies“, the music video that launched a thousand parodies. Shout out to Ms. Tina’s Deréon jeans! This video is what caused the Kanye Interruption heard ’round the world! No prior moment in Bey’s career so solidified her status as
a cult leader an icon.
Also, in case you were wondering, a diva is a female version of a hustler.
I BEEN DRINKIN. WATERMELON.
‘Twas in this era that we truly began to understand the cultural import of Queen Bey. SNL may have put it best in “The Beygency“. She had revealed years prior that she basically doesn’t need the media when she released the first photos of Blue Ivy on her own site. Then in December 2013, she blessed us with a surprise album that, SURPRISE AGAIN, was also a movie.
*very Stefon voice* This album has everything. Bey was not fucking around with this album. It opens with “Pretty Hurts“, penned by Sia—a scathing condemnation of damaging societal beauty standards. “***Flawless” features Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s TED Talk. This is the era in which Bey performed at awards shows in front of giant neon signs reading “FEMINIST”. Do not underestimate how important it was for a famous woman of color to declare herself a feminist—feminism is for everyone. It is inclusive and intersectional.
I very nearly placed I Am…Sasha Fierce in this spot, but Beyoncé broke the internet and changed the world. Maybe I’ll listen to “Halo” more often than “Blow“, but I’ll always acknowledge the awesome power of Bey’s 2013 sexual revolution.
The only, I mean the only, reason that this album did not take the top spot is the intro to the song “Party”, which features Kanye West rapping: You a bad girl / And your friends bad too / We got the swag sauce / She drippin’ Swagu. The rest of the song is actually great—it features André 3000, for chrissakes—but that Swagu line is so cheesy that I can’t endorse it and must bump the incredible, sensational 4 to second place.
The three most popular tracks on this album are “Run the World (Girls)“, “Best Thing I Never Had“, and “Love on Top“, during a performance of which she revealed her pregnancy with Blue Ivy. The song, apart from being an homage to her main musical influence, Michael Jackson, has a mind-boggling number of key changes. Her range is astounding.
The highlights of this album are, in my opinion, “Countdown” and “I Care” which is a stunning track that features some of Bey’s best vocals to date. She sings along with the guitar solo. It is chilling. Also, can we fucking talk about Frank Ocean’s writing and vocal contribution to “I Miss You”? If you can tolerate crappy-quality YouTube vids, there are quite a few of him performing the song alone, which melt me.
4 is just an incredible album. Every single track is a musical goldmine and I will love each one ’til the end of time.
P.S. I just re-watched the pregnancy-reveal video and cried when Kanye hugs Jay.
P.P.S. The official video for “Party” features J. Cole instead of André and in my opinion, this constitutes a war crime.
Are you surprised, though? Know what surprises me? That Adele won a Grammy for Best Album over Lemonade. That’s institutional racism at work, friends. Beyoncé, despite jumping genres at a break-neck speed, is trapped in the less-respected “Urban Contemporary” category. SMDH @ the Academy forever. And I ain’t sorry.
Lemonade began its journey into our collective consciousness when Bey dropped the “Formation” video prior to her performance at the 2016 Super Bowl. It set the world ablaze, gave us all the best catchphrase of all time (“I got hot sauce in my bag”), and inspired one of my favorite SNL Digital Shorts, “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black“, which skewers the criticism she faced over the controversial video.
Then, in the springtime, the season of rebirth, we were blessed with Lemonade. I will come out and say that I do not care if it is merely a performance piece and she and Jay were 100% fine the whole time. I don’t even care if the Solange elevator moment was unrelated. All I care about is that my queen collaborated with Jack White, Kendrick, James Blake, and The Weeknd to bring us this sensational vision.
P.S. In the time since I started this post, the new season of Kimmy Schmidt dropped, and with it an incomparable “Hold Up” parody by the incredible Tituss Burgess. They also riffed on “Sorry” and “All Night“. I will not rest until Tituss and Bey sing together IRL.
P.P.S. The album also inspired this fabulous video, back when there was still light in the world and we almost had a competent president.
P.P.P.S. Lemonade was released on HBO and Tidal, so not all of the mini-movies are available on YouTube. You can watch the pirate versions, of course, or you could just buy the fucking album.
So, there you have it. Enough Beyoncé #content to have you in a YouTube k-hole for half a day.
63 Grammy nominations, 22 wins, 6 solo albums, 3 children, 1 Beyoncé.
Bow down, bitches.