June 24, 2003
When Beyoncé released Dangerously In Love, her debut solo album, there was a lot on the table. As the lead vocalist of the biggest girl group in pop music, she had a lot of pressure to succeed. We won’t go into the album’s resume, because it’s long and can be easily found on Wikipedia. However, what is perhaps most important and significant about the album is that it laid the blueprint for her long, iconic career. Each of the album’s fourteen tracks helped lay the groundwork for further innovations in her catalogue. So, to celebrate the album, Vincent and Mario walk through each song and discuss just how she has matured from each since then.
The Smash Singles
When the horns of “Crazy In Love” dropped for the first time, it was most definitely a pivotal moment in music: Beyoncé had ARRIVED. The hard beat, the union between soul and modern with the sample, the infectious hook and Jay’s rap verse, were the recipe for a smash hit. The most acclaimed single of 2003, today “Crazy In Love” is still lauded as one of the most recognizable R&B/Pop numbers of that decade and of Beyoncé’s’s career. Its energetic and performance-ready nature also made it a blueprint for future Beyoncé uptempos, designed to re-create the magic. Much of B’Day follows the template set by this iconic track and other R&B starlets have tried to forge their own hommages to it. Still, Beyoncé incorporates live horns into her music and continues to amplify the fierceness that began with this track.
On “Naughty Girl,” Beyoncé flipped her script. On the prior Destiny’s Child album Survivor, the trio sang “Nasty Girl,” about a “nasty, trashy, classless girl,” so naturally criticism came when Beyoncé dropped a song called “Naughty Girl.” Nevertheless, however naughty she’s gotten since, she’s never been a “Nasty Girl.” The Scott Storch production has Arabic influences and boasts a Donna Summer interpolation, and of all the album’s singles, felt the most Destiny’s Child-like in nature/sound. Still, it established that Beyoncé could and would own her sexuality. It also inspired further experiments with Arabic sounding songs, like “Beautiful Liar” with Shakira.
“Baby Boy,” the second single from Dangerously In Love, was an even bigger chart success than the lead single. This island bop produced by Scott Storch features Sean Paul and mixes Bey’s creole background with Sean Paul’s Caribbean origins. Steamy and passionate, the song was accompanied with a hot music video that captured the essence of Beyoncé as a performer. Unfortunately, Bey hasn’t really explored this sounds much further on her later albums, although the Caribbean groove “Standing on the Sun,” used for her 2013 H&M campaign, came very close to matching it. LEMONADE‘s “Hold Up” also boasts a Caribbean flare, and gives hope that she will continue to delve into those sounds.
Two Sides, One Songstress
On “Hip-Hop Star,” Beyoncé came with more urban edge than ever before. Alongside Outkast’s Big Boi, she rode a hard-hitting hip-hop beat, rapping, singing and delivering some (then-) shocking lines. It was out of character for Beyoncé to make a song like this at the time, but since then, she has gone on to create a number of similar songs that are heavily hip-hop. In fact, her joint album with Jay is essentially a rap album, as are many of the songs on The Gift.
“Be With You” samples two soul jams, “Strawberry Letter 23” by Shuggie Otis, and “I’d Rather Be With You” by Bootsy Collins. Brilliantly woven together, “Be With You” is a highlight on the album. It showcased that Beyoncé wanted to go beyond the pop-crossover R&B that she did with Destiny’s Child, and into a more soulful arena. The raw soul of “Be With You” is repeatedly reflected on 4, with songs like “1 +1” and “Rather Die Young.”
Beyoncé has always been one to advocate for female empowerment since the early Destiny’s Child days. “Me, Myself and I” fits that bill. On her first solo album, she delivered this Jazz-ish smooth R&B number, talking about finding herself as a woman and being her “own best friend” after a bad relationship. The topic would be a recurring one in her solo discography, starting with her #1 hit “Irreplaceable” on B’Day which bears a similar empowering message, or even the biting “Best Thing I Never Had,” from 4.
On “Yes,” Beyoncé showed us how she could put her pristine, beautiful vocals over a bass driven mid-tempo. While the bass knocks, she effortlessly glides atop the beat to deliver a slow read of a man who could not take “no” for an answer. While the songs themes of female empowerment have no doubt been emulated throughout her career, so has the style of this song. Tracks like “Love Drought” and “No Angel” achieve the same effect. Meanwhile, on “Signs” a trend of Missy/Beyoncé collaborations continued, though her presence on a Beyoncé album since the debut has been sorely missed.
Dangerously In Love
“Speechless” is the baby making jam of the album, and is just straight up fire. From the bluesy electric production to the sensual vocals, this is one of the best Beyonce deep cuts. Its sexual nature is also the prelude to more to come later in her output: on the Prince-esque “Dance For You” from 4, she declares to be charge of the bedroom duties with her man, while in her iconic self-titled set, Beyoncé explores her sexuality and newfound sexual awakening after her pregnancy. “Rocket” is the prime example of this, one that shares sonic similarities with “Speechless” as well.
“Crazy In Love” and “That’s How You Like It” co-existing on the Dangerously In Love album initiated the tradition of Bey & Jay collabos that would bring us to their first joint album in 2018 (even though they already had an EP worth of material just from past album tracks). “That’s How You Like It” is a cute light bop that samples DeBarge’s “I Like It.” It’s one of the most likable album tracks, although not as famous as others and a valid addition to the track-listing.
Already an icon in the making, Bey collaborated with the legendary Luther Vandross on a cover of the 70s Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway classic, “The Closer I Get to You.” This soulful and sweet remake stays true to the spirit of the original, with a classic sounding production and Luther’s buttery tone complimenting Beyoncé’s softest vocals perfectly. a worthy hommage to a quintessential old school record. Before it was clear that she was the force she now is, Beyoncé was already getting praise and respect from legends like Luther Vandross. She has since gone on to collaborate with other R&B greats, such as Prince, Stevie Wonder and Tina Turner, among others.
“Dangerously In Love” was actually born on the Survivor album, but was remixed with a more bass-heavy version to become the title track of her debut. A saccharine love ballad, the song was clearly Beyoncé’s favorite ballad of hers for years. She dedicated at least 7-8 minutes in all of her shows to the song, from 2002’s world tour with DC, up until she finally removed it from her setlist with 2009’s I Am… World Tour. If anything, we have this song to thank for Beyoncé experimenting with her voice and live covers further. If “Dangerously In Love” has a younger sibling, it’s certainly LEMONADE’s “All Night.”
Gift From Virgo
On “Gift From Virgo” Beyoncé showed once again a penchant for Shuggie Otis’ jazzy soul, and also for recreating a song she loved. “Gift From Virgo” was actually written atop an Otis instrumental that she loved and decided to make into her own song. Obviously an ode to her then-new-boyfriend Jay-Z, it was the most honest track on the album, lyrically. Beyoncé later did similar interpolations, such as “Still In Love (Kissing You),” “Resentment,” and frequently live, mashing “Sweet Dreams” with Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love” and “Dangerously In Love” with Jill Scott’s “He Loves Me.”
Before the blogs gave us the tea on Mathew Knowles, all we knew was that he was Bey’s and DC’s manager and “hero.” On “Daddy,” a grateful Beyonce tells us how Mathew pushed and supported her through her rise to stardom, inspiring her drive and ambition to always better herself. It is interesting to look back on this track in light of two other tracks in her discography: one is “Ring Off” in which Beyoncé commends her mom, miss Tina Lawson, for getting herself together after the divorce; the other is “Daddy Lessons” from LEMONADE, which while not explicitly about Mathew, is a track about the relationship between father and daughter from a more mature perspective. On “Daddy,” Beyoncé sang “I want my husband to be like my daddy.” Sadly, that became all too true. Elsewhere, in LEMONADE’s poetry, she incants, “you remind me of my father, a magician, able to be in two places at once.” Though, unlike her daddy, her husband redeemed himself in the end.
Dangerously In Love, The Blueprint
In short, Dangerously In Love was a defining debut for both artistic and commercial reasons. It’s hard to believe that Beyoncé was just 21 years old when it was released; it’s hard to imagine a time when the now undisputed Queen still had to prove herself. Before she became the most awarded woman in GRAMMY history, before she “renamed Coachella, to BEYCHELLA,” before she graced the Super Bowl stage not once but twice, before she redefined the way in which albums were released… she was a young woman who was Dangerously In Love. Now, she’s a grown woman for whom Everything Is Love.