37

Crazy In Love

Beyonce featuring Jay-Z

Dangerously In Love (2003)

Although her underrated Austin Powers soundtrack song “Work It Out” was technically Beyonce’s first solo single, it was “Crazy In Love” that immediately turned Beyonce into BEYONCE. That frantic drum loop, sick horn sample, and killer rap from Jay-Z all served as the perfect supporting cast to the newly crowned queen bee of R&B. The lyrics speak of reckless abandon in love, and the colorful video meshed well with the song’s vibe of structured pop chaos. She may have had the better part of a decade to practice for the role of lead diva, but Beyonce launched her solo career with a flawless song choice.

Also check out: Chrisette Michele’s “Be OK”

23

Ring the Alarm

Beyonce

B’Day (2006)

It happened gradually enough that it never really caught anyone off-guard, but Beyonce went from a fairly tame R&B singer to a flat-out crazy bitch over the past ten years. Her early work with Destiny’s Child was decent but by no means did she stand out as the future pop superstar it now seems like she was (ahem) destined to become. Seriously, take a look at the cover of their album “The Writing’s on the Wall” — can you even identify which one is Beyonce at first glance? Every time I see that image I have to pick her out by process of elimination. In any case, her solo debut introduced us to some pretty nutty dance moves, but it wasn’t until “Ring the Alarm” from her second album that Beyonce really let her freak flag fly. This surprising choice for a single (her first solo effort to miss the top ten, albeit barely at #11)  featured instrumentation that practically clangs, a chorus that is more like screaming than singing, and a music video where she is flailing against security guards and dancing like she’s epileptic. And damned if I don’t want to clip on a fake ponytail and fling my head around along with her every time I hear this song. Girlfriend is ANGRY and I love it. I hesitate to ever heap unqualified accolades on an artist, but Beyonce is so much the real deal in pretty much every possible aspect (and damn it, she even seems like she’s a nice person), that she is worth every ounce of the praise she gets.

Also check out: Amerie’s “1 Thing,” another frantic hip-hop confection.