Dangerously in Love
Beyoncé Knowles wasn’t exactly taking a huge commercial risk when she stepped out from Destiny’s Child for Dangerously in Love, her 2003 solo debut. Her star was already eclipsing her bandmates’, landing high-profile movie roles and collaborating with her extremely famous boyfriend JAY-Z on “03’ Bonnie & Clyde,” although the group would not disband for another couple of years. She definitely stretched herself, though—“Crazy in Love,” the Chi-Lites-sampling, JAY-Z-starring single that all but redefined R&B for that year, was more raucous, more challenging, and more enduring than anything the superstar had done in the group’s context. It was a statement of intent that she has more than lived up to since. That world-beating single wasn’t the only moment here with staying power, either: “Baby Boy” grafted her presence and performance to that of dancehall king-of-the-moment Sean Paul and matched the commercial success of “Crazy in Love.” “Naughty Girl” was thoroughly convincing in its interpolation of Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby”—recognizing prior soul and dance-music greatness and turning it inside out. Splitting the difference between styles—and forgoing the mistakes made by other aspiring “divas”—she also carved out plenty of time for ballads. Standouts on that tip include the near-title tune “Dangerously in Love 2,” a Destiny’s Child holdover that helped the album’s long legs running, and “The Closer I Get to You,” which paired her with R&B titan Luther Vandross. The fact that Dangerously in Love may be overshadowed in her discography is more of a testament to the way she used her untouchable star power to push boundaries and subvert expectations for a pop star. Each subsequent solo project pushed further in different directions at once, to the point where even the term “pop star” didn’t feel like an adequate container. But nothing on that journey would have been possible without a confident first step.