BERKELEY'S NEWS • SEPTEMBER 26, 2022

Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’: 10 essential tracks

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JULY 29, 2022

No matter the time or genre, Beyoncé always comes out “on top.”

Since bursting into the spotlight as part of Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé’s oeuvre has grown into a glistening, eclectic fusion of R&B, pop, hip-hop, country, rock and rap. Over the decades, her songbook has proved both enduring and ever-expansive: Beyoncé’s starpower knows no bounds. 

With the release of her seventh studio album Renaissance this month, Beyoncé shows she still has much more to give. As both preparation and celebration for the much-anticipated release, here’s a guide to 10 essential tracks. 

***Flawless (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), Beyoncé (2013)

“***Flawless” is a masterclass in everything Beyoncé does best. All at once, it is a self-love anthem, a feminist declaration and an homage to her Houston roots. A danceable trap beat buzzes beneath catchy, memorable maxims, with Beyoncé boldly asserting, “I woke up like this.” Midway through the track, a sample from author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” layers over Beyoncé’s ascendant vocals. “Feminist: A person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes,” Adichie says. Beyoncé may be married, but don’t get it twisted — she will never be defined by a man. 

Hold Up, Lemonade (2016)

In the music video for “Hold Up,” Beyoncé dances through the streets with a flowing yellow dress, gleefully smashing cars and cameras with a wooden baseball bat. Her buttery alto spreads smoothly over a bouncy rhythm as she questions, “What’s worst, lookin’ jealous or crazy?” Addressing Jay-Z’s marital infidelity, this layered track explores the complexity of loving her husband but hating his disloyalty. With interpolations from Soulja Boy’s “Turn My Swag On” and the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Maps,” “Hold Up” further solidifies Beyoncé’s ability to traverse genre and time. 

‘03 Bonnie & Clyde, The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse (2002)

Before “Crazy in Love” and “Upgrade U,” there was “ ‘03 Bonnie & Clyde.” In their first collaboration, Beyoncé and Jay-Z liken themselves to the famed 1920s bank robbers while sampling Tupac Shakur’s “Me and My Girlfriend.” Though the track primarily features Jay-Z, Beyoncé’s bridge is what steals the show. A glittering gem from the early aughts, “ ‘03 Bonnie and Clyde” takes listeners back to the beginnings of the superstar power couple. 

Mood 4 Eva (feat. Oumou Sangar), The Lion King: The Gift (2019)

Beyoncé’s role as Nala in 2019’s photorealistic “The Lion King” was a gift that just kept giving. Her companion album The Lion King: The Gift features a host of African artists as she celebrates Black culture and presents some of her most iridescent work to date. With features from Oumou Sangaré, Jay-Z and co-star Childish Gambino, “Mood 4 Eva” is nothing short of excellence — former president Barack Obama agrees too. 

Countdown, 4 (2011)

Sexy, confident and incredibly catchy, “Countdown” combines the energy of “Crazy in Love” with the passion of “Partition.” “Oh, killing me softly/ And I’m still falling,” Beyoncé declares with full force. Shifting between a ringing belt, fast-paced speak-sing and an energetic countdown, the track spins through the exhilarating, whirlwind experience of falling in love.

Soldier (feat. Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams) – Homecoming Live, Homecoming: The Live Album (2019)

Beyoncé not only made history at Coachella as the first Black woman to headline, but also delighted fans with a much-needed Destiny’s Child reunion. In this live version of “Soldier,” Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams bring the classic back to life with the accompaniment of a full marching band. Talented as ever, Destiny’s Child is and will always be a monumental fixture of R&B.

Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), I Am . . . Sasha Fierce (2008)

Perhaps one of the most celebrated Beyoncé tracks, “Single Ladies” is an anthem for being on your own — though, ironically, it was released shortly after she and Jay-Z secretly tied the knot. With an iconic music video and an equally iconic Liza Minelli cover, “Single Ladies” is the perfect track whether you’re married, single or simply figuring it out.  

Nice, Everything is Love (2018)

From the power couple’s marital qualms sprung the perfect trinity of albums: Beyoncé’s Lemonade, Jay-Z’s 4:44 and their joint project Everything is Love, released as The Carters. On “Nice,” the duo, along with Pharrell Williams, addresses everything from their personal accomplishments to the experience of being Black in America. In a particularly remarkable verse, Beyoncé addresses her decision to release Lemonade exclusively on Tidal, asserting, “If I gave two f—, two f—s about streaming numbers/ Would have put Lemonade up on Spotify.” Beyoncé doesn’t need external gratification; she already knows she’s the best. 

Check On It (feat. Bun B & Slim Thug), B’Day (2006)

Though often overlooked, “Check On It” remains one of Beyoncé’s most catchy, nostalgic singles. Clad in all pink, Beyoncé sparkles and stuns as an early 2000s icon in the accompanying music video. Fast-paced with an irresistible dance beat, “Check on It” stands apart as one of the best tracks from the singer’s early solo career. 

Crazy in Love (feat. Jay-Z), Dangerously in Love (2003)

They may have their ups and downs, but Beyoncé and Jay-Z remain an unstoppable power couple. The lead single from Beyoncé’s first solo album, Dangerously in Love, “Crazy in Love” is a triumphant herald of her stardom. Crazy in chemistry, the song also leaves room for both artists to shine on their own. Beyoncé and Jay-Z have come a long way since their days as the “03’ Bonnie & Clyde,” but “Crazy in Love” remains a staple in both their songbooks.

Contact Lauren Harvey at 

LAST UPDATED

JULY 29, 2022


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