The Top 10 Beyoncé Singles of All Time

After the surprise release of quite possibly her best album to date, it's time to have a look at the tracks that propelled this R&B darling into super-stardom.

Beyoncé Knowles has had quite the career. In only 32 years she’s managed to release 10 full-length albums (five with super girl-group Destiny’s Child), toured almost as many times as she released LPs, starred in seven feature-length films, and received all kinds of accolades and awards for her contribution to pop and R&B. She effectively filled the very glaring hole left by Janet Jackson when she decided that she wasn’t going to be cool anymore. Since her departure from the group that skyrocketed her into stardom, Beyoncé has led an almost incomparable solo career all the while maintaining her hotness. She’s been fairly contradictory in her music, simultaneously decrying the need for a man, all the while buying into the heteronormative matrimonial standards. She does it with class and integrity that makes it difficult to find fault in her fairly conservative standards.

Recently, she shocked the Internet with the completely surprise release of her fifth solo album, titled simply BEYONCÉ, which managed to hit number one on the Billboard charts, earning her a place in music history as the first solo artist with five consecutive No. 1 albums! In celebration of this illustrious career, PopMatters gives you the Top 10 Best Beyoncé Singles of All Time.

10. “End of Time”
(4, 2011)

Although there are probably a dozen different singles that could have been slotted in this position, it's the formidable "End of Time" that stands out as the favoured track. It's a chaotic tune packed with drumcore snares, impressive (even for Beyoncé) vocal acrobatics, and a sentiment that is ever endearing. From her fourth album, titled simply 4, "End of Time" was a small release that didn't make the kind of impact that it probably should have. With its hypnotic chants and formidable presence, you can't help but appease her when she sings: "Say you'll never let me go!"

9. “Halo”
(I Am... Sasha Fierce, 2008)

While most of singles on this retrospective have some type of social conscience, or have been huge catapults for her career, “Halo” stands as one of the only singles that Beyoncé’s produced where the simplicity and overall catchiness stands front and centre. The singular concept is simple enough, likening her love to an angel -- “Halo” makes little sense, but dammit if it won’t get stuck in your head. On the track “Partition” from her latest album, there’s a line where she sings: "And why you think ya keep my name rolling off your tongue / ‘Cuz when you wanna smash I'll just write another one." Well, “Halo” is proof of that truth.

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

Probably one of her most questioning tracks, “Single Ladies” is the kind of tune that through a spectacularly minimal music video and superior live version, was elevated beyond its relatively sparse production and entirely heteronormative lyrics enforcing the patriarchy of monogamy and matrimony. It’s difficult to hear a vibrant and thoroughly independent young woman sing about wanting her man to “put a ring on it” if they like it -- as if to imply there is a way to possess her, you just have to be willing to commit. This message becomes completely subverted in a live performance with a fully female band rocking the shizzle out it. Beyond that, it has become one of her most recognizable tracks and helped to transform the being of feminism that can still groove with patriarchal structures in ways that was never intended. It’s like transformation and rebellion from the inside.

7. “I Care”
(4, 2011)

4 was littered with tracks that delved into '70s R&B and marriage-hood. While the majority of them celebrated her complex (and some would argue befuddling) relationship with rapper Jay-Z, “I Care” is one of the finest—even if it was a small release that saw little impact on the charts. While many in the past have dismissed women who have had the audacity to “care” about things their partners do not, Beyoncé doesn’t take to being dismissed or belittled too well: “I know you don’t care too much, but I care!”, striking power dynamics on their head and forcing her partner to understand that unless he begins to see her truth in the situation, he’ll be caring about no one but himself. Musically, the song crackles and builds until the ferocity through which Beyoncé sings becomes all too prevalent -- you are forced to care, where you previously hadn’t.

6. “XO”
(BEYONCÉ, 2013)

Mired in the kind of controversy that Beyoncé has not previously been privy too, “XO” is the accidental lead single off her surprise fifth album that stunned the world upon its release. Dismissive non-creatives lambasted Beyoncé with decries of being “insensitive” and “tasteless” for daring to sample Steve Nesbitt speaking in regards to the Challenger disaster -- forgetting that although it was a specific thing that happened to people with families, it exists in the consciousness and history of many, and is not a holy grail incapable of being included in creative works. Its placement in such a beautiful track, the likes of which Beyoncé has never written before, provides a poignancy of the urgency of love in a fleeting world.

Next Page





Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.


Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".


The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.


The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.


Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.


​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.


John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".


Roots Rocker Webb Wilder Shares a "Night Without Love" (premiere + interview)

Veteran roots rocker Webb Wilder turns back the hands of time on an old favorite of his with "Night Without Love".


The 10 Best Films of Sir Alan Parker

Here are 10 reasons to mourn the passing of one of England's most interesting directors, Sir Alan Parker.


July Talk Transform on 'Pray for It'

On Pray for It, Canadian alt-poppers July Talk show they understand the complex dualities that make up our lives.


With 'Articulation' Rival Consoles Goes Back to the Drawing Board

London producer Rival Consoles uses unorthodox approaches on his latest record, Articulation, resulting in a stunning, beautiful collection.


Paranoia Goes Viral in 'She Dies Tomorrow'

Amy Seimetz's thriller, She Dies Tomorrow, is visually dazzling and pulsating with menace -- until the color fades.


MetalMatters: July 2020 - Back on Track

In a busy and exciting month for metal, Boris arrive in rejuvenated fashion, Imperial Triumphant continue to impress with their forward-thinking black metal, and death metal masters Defeated Sanity and Lantern return with a vengeance.


Isabel Wilkerson's 'Caste' Reveals the Other Kind of American Exceptionalism

By comparing the American race-based class system to that of India and Nazi Germany, Isabel Wilkerson makes us see a familiar evil in a different light with her latest work, Caste.


Anna Kerrigan Prioritizes Substance Over Style in 'Cowboys'

Anna Kerrigan talks with PopMatters about her latest film, Cowboys, which deviates from the common "issues style" approach to LGBTQ characters.


John Fusco and the X-Road Riders Get Funky with "It Takes a Man" (premiere + interview)

Screenwriter and musician John Fusco pens a soulful anti-street fighting man song, "It Takes a Man". "As a trained fighter, one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned is to walk away from a fight without letting ego get the best of you."


'Run-Out Groove' Shows the Dark Side of Capitol Records

Music promoter Dave Morrell's memoir, Run Out Groove, recalls the underbelly of the mainstream music industry.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.