To label Beyonce as a musical artist would be a disservice to her widespread influence and reputation. From making movies to spearheading clothing lines, the billionaire's global reach makes her one of the most influential humans on the planet, period. She got her start as a member of Destiny's Child, an R&B group that would take over the charts during the late 90s.
However, the group act wouldn't last for much longer. With Beyonce (along with other group members) looking to pursue their respective solo careers, the group was no longer together by the early 2000s. She would release her debut record, 'Dangerously In Love,' in 2003. The first of (so far) seven studio albums, she spent no time growing into her role as a solo act. Her solo career began with the iconic "Crazy In Love," featuring her future husband Jay-Z.
In particular, Beyonce has been as a contemporary or jumping out for fellow Black American creatives. By centering her creative pursuits into the within the context of HBCU culture, she's delivered tectonic performances in a variety of creative lanes. Now 41 years old, some wondered if she would ever release solo music again. She puts those doubts to rest in 2022, releasing Grammy's Dance Album of the Year, 'Renaissance.' We have a feeling we'll have to re-update this list in the near future, as she's hinted at 'Renaissance' being the outset of a trilogy.
Today, we're ranking Beyonce's seven solo studio albums from worst to best. Let us know where you agree or disagree down below!
8. Dangerously In Love
Beyonce spent no time attempting to cocoon herself from her superstardom on her debut studio album, 'Dangerously In Love.' Releasing in 2003, the once-broke Houston-er had officially arrived. Introducing us with open horns on "Crazy In Love," it would end up being her most straightforward R&B album. Still trying to find her distinctive sound, it's one of her weaker full-length efforts/
Beyonce is unapologetically self-loving and self-indulgent throughout the record. Smartly throwing her best tracks at the outset of 'Dangerously In Love,' intoxicating sounds blend with hypnotic guitar riffs. Jay-Z's fingerprints are all over this record, having two features and five writing credits. However, the record is undeniably top-heavy. We're treated to numerous bland, mid-tempo R&B cuts where her voice struggles to carry the length of the song. In addition, her commentary reads as relatively surface-level in comparison to future projects.
7. I AM... Sasha Fierce
One of Beyonce's most commercially successful records, 'I AM... Sasha Fierce' is a pop-star record through and through. Lost in the world of flashing lights and plastic smiles, the 2-disk record is a collection of tracks looking to be hits. The results are a mixed bag, as tracks often read as ingenuine impersonations of prevailing trends rather than originally thought-out pieces of work.
With iconic pop anthems such as "Halo" and "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)," the album raveled in it's 5 Grammys at the 52nd anniversary of the rewards. 'I AM... Sasha Fierce' balances two different personalities. The first half embodies her humble tendencies, as reflected by the easy-going nature of many of the tracks. The second half, her "Sasha Fierce" phase, replaces emotive ballads for powerful and assertive pop anthems. Describing the alter-ego in an interview, she stated "Usually, when I hear the crowd, when I hear the chords, Sasha Fierce appears in my posture and the way I speak - everything is different."
The contrasting personalities make sense. For being known as one of the greatest on-stage performers of all-time, she dually known for her soft personality when the limelight isn't on her. While there's certainly some filler here, the record reads as an entertaining listen that gives the audience a further peak into her emotional state.
On Beyonce's sophomore studio album, she discards the leisured soul facade of 'Dangerously In Love' in favor of a sound that is far more in her wheelhouse. Ditching Amy Winehouse impersonations for funky Neptunes-style drum patterns, upbeat disco inflections and carnal guitar riffs fill 'B'Day.' Steadfastly outperforming her debut, the record cemented her as a talented solo-artist, one that remains one of her best projects to this day.
Similar to 'Dangerously In Love,' Jay-Z's influence is all over the record. From writing to feature credits, the two's sonic chemistry had taken a noticeable leap from 2003 to 2006. Running at a tight-knit 11 tracks, the overarching experience is packaged in a far more consumable manner in contrast to her labored debut. Beyonce sounds more reliable as a vocalist, such as on the thrillingly sharp "Ring the Alarm."
In addition, Beyonce has taken a mature leap as a songwriter. More comedic and self-determining, the only criticism that can be levied against 'B'Day' is its lack of pop hits that usually populate her albums. 'B'Day' sounds like an album of third or fourth singles, as she partially ditches her classic pop persona. The efforts would pay dividends for her down the road, but yield occasional mixed results in her sophomore effort.
5. Beyonce (Self-Titled)
Beyonce's fifth studio album, the surprise Christmas-time release would pan out to be her most sonically experimental project to date. Released in 2014, she explores unembellished stylistic tropes in an album that re-invigorates her image as a hard-hitting Houston-er. Continuing her string of records aided with visual counterparts, there's certainly a cinematic feel to the chaotic song structures and slapdash interludes on 'Beyonce.'
Featuring a crew of 44 writers and producers, Beyonce uses her influence to skew towards niche soundscapes. Taking notes from Solange (her sister), dark and lush instrumentals run through tracks such as "Flawless" and "Partition." Getting rid of the restraints on her vocal range, her elastic vocals sound as if they should be performed at a late-night karaoke bar. Additionally, the self-titled project isn't short of chart-topping hits. "Drunk In Love" sees her dart between different vocal cadences, while "Partition" features menacing synths and afrobeat drums.
Beyonce defines her personal sense of womanhood and sexuality on the record. Infatuating with herself, 'Beyonce' is an expression complex self-love. Amidst a culture that romanticizes "hook-up culture" or exclusive monogamy, she opts to romanticize her marriage. From Pharell Williams to Frank Ocean, she recruits numerous heavy hitters to curate what was her best project to date.
Similar to 'Lemonade, '4' is a relationship-oriented album. The record deals with the realities of committing to a marriage. However, she isn't viewing that commitment in a dogmatic, negative light. Beyonce is accepting of the calamitous nature of marriage, stating "Still love the way he walks / Still love the way he rock them black diamonds in that chain." Full of warm synths and pristine vocals, her drawn-out falsettos contain hints of Prince or Mary J Blige. However, something about the depth of Beyonce's voice keeps it uniquely her.
Featuring production chops from some of household creatives in the industry, Beyonce isn't remised to skip out on creating trademark hits. Take the Kanye West-assisted "Party," which combines a perfect feature from elusive MC Andre 3000. "Love on Top" laces together crisp drums and a sunny chorus, blending the styles of Stevie Wonder or Whitney Houston. "Rather Die Young" is a stark interruption on the soul feel of '4,' opting for a cinematic Broadway feel. With Empire of the Sun leader Luke Steele working on the track, this record certainly isn't short of star names in the background.
While '4' misses out on the cohesiveness of a select few of future projects, it's unparalleled ambition and high-reaching vocal performance makes it an essential project in Beyonce's discography.
Beyonce seventh full-length album, 'Renaissance' is an hour-long celebration of 80s to 90s era dance music. In the past, the Houston-born artist had been known for walking a tightrope between dance and pop styles. Her most recent release sees her fully dive into the former, releasing one of her most cohesive records to date.
Catching on to what music fans were missing most post-pandemic, Beyonce takes her audience back onto a 1am dancefloor. From "Break My Soul" to "Cuff It," there's numerous generation-defining hits on the album. However, it's not a straight-forward dance album with surface-level lyricism. She dives into the many nuances of club culture, ranging from insecurity to perfection. There's an overarching message to "be yourself" and "enjoy the moment" on 'Renaissance,' which is ultimately intended to be a feel-good record.
Running laps around many of her contemporaries, Beyonce took the dance trend and revitalized it into her own form of self-expression. An ode to LGBTQ dance culture, 'Renaissance' forgoes to usual interludes or despondent ballads from her past records. Instead, she just wants her audience to dance.
2. Homecoming: The Live Album
Beyonce's 'Homecoming' is a stunning live experience that snapshots her at her creative summit. Shining a light on African-American artistic experience, her sixth solo album released three years after her career-defining 'Lemonade.' Considering 'Homecoming's is a live album with audio stripped directly from her Coachella performance, it's lack of messiness or randomness is astounding. Incorporating crowd interactions and impromptu rants, it's yet another cinematic addition to her catalogue.
Beyonce's Coachella performance re-defined the accepted belief of what a live performance could. Featuring two-hundred performers, the stage moved in unison amidst orchestral song structures. A divine expression of choreographed black expression, the experience further cemented Beyonce's reputation as a top tier performing artist.
The career-spanning performance contains track which ranged from 'Lemonade' all the way back to Destiny's Child. She even performs some deep-cuts, such as "I Been On," which was solely released on Soundcloud. It's not a feature-heavy project, as the focus solely spans to Beyonce. Grunting and shrieking on ambient horn-filled tracks, 'Homecoming' manages to revive her catalogue in a unique manner.
Yet another cinematic experience, 'Lemonade' is her best record to date. While Beyonce performs with her heart on her sleeve and giving every ounce of her energy to the act, her private life had meticulously been a grey area for her worldwide audience. Her sixth studio album shatters just about any and all theories about what that life may look like, as she's more vulnerable than ever about her day-to-day shortcomings.
While 'Lemonade' eventually morphs into a happy ending, the journey to that mental space is a volatile one. From referencing "smelling another woman's scent" on Jay-Z to her "workaholic to fill a void" mentality, it's her most honest record to date. In fact, there's a point where the listener is almost positive that she's announcing her divorce from Jay-Z, as she claims that he's not able to handle her personality.
Employing the likes of Jack White and James Blake, 'Lemonade' was her most meticulously produced record to date. Her crisp vocals cut through the ethereal production on "Love Drought," while the Diplo-produced "Sorry" features an earworm hook and wonky synth patterns. In addition, she explores her musical capabilities more than ever on 'Lemonade.' Darting from EDM undertones to an emotive piano ballad, the songs do the exact opposite of blending in with each other. Instead, each track symbolizes an uncharted chapter in Beyonce's story.