Writing about the multiple successes of Beyoncé’s albums and singles would yield endless pages of number-one hits, national and international awards, multiple massive world tours and, let’s not forget, the picture-perfect not-so-personal life.
Throughout her career, Beyoncé has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making her one of the world’s best-selling music artists. She has also won 22 Grammy Awards and is the most nominated woman in the award’s history. She was listed among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world for two years in a row, and Forbes ranked her as the most powerful female in entertainment on their 2015 and 2017 lists.
The latest news from the acclaimed singer-songwriter is her world tour, “On the Run II,” with husband and fellow musician/mogul Jay-Z, whom she also released her 2018 joint album, Everything Is Love, with.This tour marks the second time the pair has toured together since their 2014 original “On the Run” tour that was in support of both of their new albums at the time.
In a not-so-definitive ode to Bey, we’re ranking her first six solo studio albums to date. Even if you aren’t completely on board with our rankings, it’s hard to deny what an incredible career she has had in such a small amount of time.
B’Day is the second studio album by Bey and was released to coincide with her 25th birthday in 2006. With musical stylings ranging from funk influences and balladry to hip-hop and R&B (with even some live instrumentation), this album was a commercial success and released six singles, including one of her most successful of all time, “Irreplaceable .”
KEY TRACKS: Deja Vu, Irreplaceable , Beautiful Liar
B’Day, $9 at Amazon
4 celebrates the first album released after Bey had severed professional ties with her father and manager. This was also her 4th studio album (hence the name) and was considered a more intimate, personal LP emphasizing independence, female empowerment and self-reflection. This album had five international singles, including the female empowerment anthem, “Run the World (Girls) .”
KEY TRACKS: Run the World (Girls), Best Thing I Never Had, Party , Love on Top
4, $4 at Amazon
4. I Am… Sasha Fierce
I Am…Sasha Fierce was Bey’s third consecutive number-one solo album in the U.S. This album introduced “Sasha Fierce,” who is the singer’s on-stage alter ego—an expressive, aggressive performer who’s a stark contrast to the notoriously private and reserved Bey IRL. The album also introduced the now-iconic “hand flip” move from the singer’s “Single Ladies” music video.
In its initial release, this album was formatted as a double album with the first disc entitled I Am containing slow and midtempo pop and R&B ballads, and the second, Sasha Fierce, focusing on more uptempo beats that blended electropop and dance genres. Garnering seven Grammy nominations, this breakthrough album won a record-setting six wins, which is the most awards won in one night by a female.
KEY TRACKS: If I Were a Boy, Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), Diva, Ego , Why Don’t You Love Me
I am…Sasha Fierce, $10 at Amazon
Developed as a “visual album,” the release of Beyoncé was accompanied by non-linear short films that illustrate her musical concept conceived during production. To create even more drama, this album was randomly dropped digitally to the iTunes Store without prior announcement or promotion, and still debuted at number one. The surprise album drop was the “breaking the internet” moment of 2013 when it was released, and became the fastest-selling album in the history of the iTunes Store up to that point.
Beyoncé was a very eclectic album, with a mixture of experimental material combining contemporary R&B with electronic and soul music, along with themes of female empowerment and sensuality. It marked a more mature and personal offering both in terms of sound and lyrics, and critics praised the new, introspective Beyoncé.
KEY TRACKS: Drunk in Love, Pretty Hurts , Flawless
Beyoncé, $16 at Amazon
2. Dangerously in Love
Dangerously in Love was Beyoncé’s debut solo studio album while on hiatus from her girl group, Destiny’s Child. With this album debut, Beyoncé proved that she was a solo star (not that anyone doubted that). She also served as executive producer on the album, taking on a wider role in its production, and co-wrote a majority of the songs.
Though maybe not her most critically acclaimed album to date, this debut put her on the map as a force to be reckoned with and was a worldwide commercial success, earning Bey five Grammy Awards and producing two U.S. Billboard Hot 100 hits with her songs, “Crazy in Love” and “Baby Boy.”
KEY TRACKS: Crazy in Love (ft. JAY-Z), Baby Boy (ft. Sean Paul), Me, Myself and I , Naughty Girl
Dangerously in Love, $13 at Amazon
Beyoncé’s latest and probably most prolific album to date is Lemonade. This was her second “visual album” (her first being her self-titled Beyoncé), as well as a concept album which was accompanied upon its release with a 65-minute film which aired exclusively on HBO.
This album encompasses a wide variety of musical genres, such as pop, reggae, blues, rock, hip-hop, soul, country, and electronic, and features guest vocalists from Kendrick Lamar to The Weeknd and Jack White.
Its release was as unique as the album itself—it was made available for online streaming through her co-owned streaming service, Tidal, then it was released for paid purchase the following day. It was later launched for purchase by track or album online and then at physical retailers a few days later.
Rolling Stone listed Lemonade as its number one on their annual year-end list. In 2017, Beyonce released a limited edition Lemonade box set that included a double vinyl LP and a book entitled, “How To Make Lemonade ,” which featured a set of pictures and behind-the-scenes content showcasing the making of the album.
Lemonade was one of her most critically-acclaimed albums as well and was nominated for nine Grammy Awards. It was also listed as the sixth greatest album made by a woman of all time by NPR, and Metacritic named it the second most critically-acclaimed album of 2016. (The number-one album of 2016 according to critics, was Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree.)
KEY TRACKS: Formation, Sorry, Hold Up, Freedom (feat. Kendrick Lamar), Daddy Lessons (feat. The Dixie Chicks)
Lemonade, $18 at Amazon
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Credit photo. StyleCaster