Beyoncé saved her most boldly experimental beats for her self-titled fifth album, a mature but still mischievous opus that makes monogamy cool and stability sexy. “Drunk in Love” is soaring, ecstatic, and intimate, an instant wedding-playlist staple; “Partition” has Bey at her flirtiest and most independent. Throw in a feminist motivational speech, on self-love anthem “***Flawless,” and a handful of instantly iconic ad-libs (you’ll never think of the word “surfboard” the same again)—it's a triumph that’s both audacious and effortless.
Beyoncé has designed an album that reflects a dual personality. The first side (I Am…) demonstrates her vulnerability, while the second half exudes attitude and assertiveness. From the first set, “If I Were a Boy” and “Disappear” are acoustic downtempo tunes. On the opposite end, her larger-than-life voice is perfectly suited to the sonic enormity and melodrama of “Halo.” She is one of the few performers who can swiftly shift from a song like “Ave Maria” to the booty-shaking uproar of “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It).” And her sass and swagger matches the fearsome throb of “Diva.”
"Crazy In Love," the single that all but redefined R&B for that year, was more raucous, more challenging than anything Beyoncé had done in Destiny’s Child. "Baby Boy" successfully grafted her style to that of dancehall king Sean Paul. Splitting the difference between styles, she made plenty of time for ballads. "Dangerously In Love 2” helps keep the album's long legs running.