But the song also hints at what’s wrong with the album: its vision of romance is profoundly unconvincing.
Maybe this album is merely a misstep, and maybe Beyoncé has yet to record the brilliant solo album that people expected. Or maybe it’s proof that she isn’t quite as versatile as she seemed. She’s a strong and independent singer, no doubt, but maybe she seems strongest and most independent when she’s got a posse behind her.
Kelefa Sanneh, NYT in 2003
In a 2003 music editorial Kelefa Sanneh proclaimed that Beyoncé was “No Ashanti.”
At the time Ashanti was riding the wave of “Foolish” and had just released her second album Chapter II, that spawned the hit “Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)”. She was known for her collabs with Ja Rule and other rappers, but Sanneh says she “does fine without them.”
Sanneh didn’t think Dangerously in Love, Beyoncé’s first solo effort, was “brilliant,” and he wasn’t alone. He shared the one consistent critique: the album wasn’t cohesive.
That’s not to say Dangerously in Love was garbage. Quite the contrary. I mean Bey had a duet with Luther Vandross, and the album is home to the greatest song of the 00s. The problem was that the songs didn’t mesh well.
What makes Sanneh’s review funny is othe comparison. Beyoncé’s solo career was under a watchful eye because she was the lead to one of the best girl groups of all time. By the time she went solo, Beyoncé had already made three successful albums with Destiny’s Child. And like most know she was the brain behind many of their hits. She was awarded ASCAP’s Songwriter of the Year in 2002.
Ashanti was popping: she was a pretty girl with a good voice, good songs and was associated with a record label with successful artists. She didn’t have the career and reputation the line like Bey did.
Oddly enough, even with the mixed reviews and much to the dismay of Bey’s record label, Dangerously In Love was still *that* album. Five hit singles, five Grammys—including one for Best Contemporary R&B album beating out Ashanti who won the award the before.
Perhaps the mixed reviews helped Bey. It’s easy to only listen to the praise, but it can make you complacent.
Ashanti hasn’t been a Grammy nominee since that night.
Beyoncé is the second most awarded woman in Grammy history, behind Alison Krauss. And most of Krauss’s awards are from being in Union Station, only three of Beyoncé’s Grammys are from Destiny’s Child. All but one Beyoncé album has been named the best album of its category. Three have been nominated for Album of the Year.
Her albums are now considered to be the best of the year. When she doesn’t get awards, people don’t take it lightly.
Now, we expect an eclectic sound. Lemonade was praised for the different genres it touched. A Jack White collab on the and a track that was re-record with the Dixie Chicks, all on the same album? The Mother of the Bees was showered with praise for her versatility.
Beyoncé has kept her spot as a Queen and cemented her legacy because she became an innovator. None of her albums sound the same. The 21-year-old singing about being a naughty girl, is nothing like the 25-year-old who wanted to ring the alarm, is nothing like the 27-year-old who’s man put a ring on it, is nothing like the 30-year-old who is trying to make three out of two, is nothing like the 32-year-old the flawless queen, or even like the 35-year-old who is in formation.
So happy birthday to the album that started a successful career, one where Beyoncé continuously beats her competition and herself.