Beyoncé: Dangerously in Love

Mark Anthony Neal


Dangerously in Love

Label: Columbia
US Release Date: 2003-06-24
UK Release Date: 2003-06-23

With Daddy Knowles in the background like the puppet-master, it was often hard to take his daughter Beyoncé seriously when she shrilled "I'm a survivor" and claimed to be "Independent." The revolving door that was her group Destiny's Child didn't help, so that when rumors began to surface that Ms. B was working on a solo recording two years ago, there was little expectation that the project would be anything but the final collapse of the group. Two years later, the group has three discs to their credit and fellow member Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams have both made solo recordings as Rowland had a hit with Nelly on the syrupy "Dilemma" and Williams weighed in with a gospel disc (yes, even the Bootylicious can be saved). In retrospect, it seems as though Beyoncé's disc was delayed just so she could "get grown" for it's release and beyond all expectation, her solo debut Dangerously in Love finds Ms. B in the midst of a fully flowering womanhood and doing the best singing of her career.

Ms. B, first stepped out on the solo trip in support of her role as Foxxy Cleopatra in Austin Powers: Gold Member. "Work It Out" was a nice slice of chunk-funk that gave some inkling that Beyoncé was ready to shed the "but I'm still not yet a woman" vibe that's earned Destiny's Child multi-platinum status. When rumors began to spread that Ms. B was rolling tight with Young Hov' and the new best friends began referring to themselves as the "new Bobby and Whitney" on Jay's "03 Bonnie and Clyde", everybody understood that baby-girl was getting grown. That was confirmed when the lead single from Dangerously in Love dropped in the late spring. "Crazy in Love" is like R&B on crack -- it's just some other shit and it don't let up. From those hard-core horn lines that open the song (like it's a funk coronation) to the catchy "uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh …", this is about as good as summer pop gets (damn, the four-year-old's shaking her ass again going "uh-oh, uh-oh"). And then there's the boyfriend, oh excuse me, the good friend. Jigga been doin' overtime these days opening sports bars, touring with Fiddy-cent, preparing two new lines of kicks, and droppin' the good shit on the likes Pharrell ("Frontin'") and MC Punjabi (if you don't read anything else from PopMatters this year, you gotta read Priya Lal's piece "From the Harvest Festival to HOVA -- Bhangra Meets Hip-Hop"). And bruh sounds hungry again, cooing in Ms. B's ear: "Jay Z in the range, crazy and deranged … I been inhaling the chain smokers, how you think I got the name 'Hova', I been real and the game's over". Dangerously in Love was gonna move out the store just on the basis of the high-profile collabo.

There are other high-profile collabos, like "Baby Boy" which features the rent-a-dance hall artists of the moment (Shabba what? Beenie who?) Sean Paul, another track with Jigga ("That's How You Like It"), and Missy and Luther (stay up bruh) drop some love on "Signs" and "The Closer I Get to You", a remake of the Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack classic. Most of the tracks are were safe choices -- the Sean Paul joint has "third single" written all over it, Missy gets Ms. B some of that VA funk love and Luther gets her some quiet storm play and vocal props for hanging with the master (though the performance is flat). The most effective collaboration on Dangerously in Love is the most surprising, as Beyoncé links with Big Boi and Sleepy Brown (Dungeon Family in the house) on "Hip-hop Star". The track, which Beyoncé co-produced with Bryce Wilson (who ain't been seen since his days opposite Amel Larreiux in Groove Theory), out-Neptunes the Neptunes, fitting in nicely with Beyoncé's "who the hell is that?" production choices throughout the project. The majority of the 15 tracks are either self-produced by Ms. B or co-produced with Rich Harrison.

But the best evidence of Ms. B's growth as an artist (and woman) is seen in the ballads and mid-tempo tracks. On tracks like "Me, Myself and I", "Be with You", and "Signs", Beyoncé sounds assured, lacking any of the "shrill overboard" that describes some of the "melisma fits" (imagine Patti Labelle on crack) that marked earlier vocal efforts. "Be with You" coyly jacks the chorus melody from Adina Howard's "Freak Like Me", while "Signs" is the best Zodiac song in R&B since the Floaters' "Float On". "Signs" is built around the refrain "I was in love with a Sagittarius" -- Jigga was born on December 4th.

Beyoncé's approach to ballads throughout Dangerously in Love can be best described creamy -- and yes that pun is definitely intended. Tracks like "Yes", the sophisticated "Gift from Virgo", and "Speechless" are vocal orgasms. "Speechless" may be the most brilliant R&B ballad recorded in the last five years -- as good as MJ's "Butterflies", Maxwell's "Fortunate", or Jaheim's "Special Day". The genius of the songs lies in its chorus, where Beyoncé repeatedly coos "you got me …" only uttering "speechless" at what seems the last possible moment with a raspy growl that sounds like … well, I can't go there. The song's rising action recalls Art of Noise's classic "Moments in Love".

The most affecting song on Dangerously in Love is a track that Beyoncé initially thought to leave off the disc. Included as a hidden track, "Daddy" is an extraordinary tribute to her father Matthew Knowles. ("I want my unborn son to be like my daddy / I want my husband to be like my daddy"). By the time listeners get to the 15th and final track, they will have been so pleasantly surprised and impressed by baby-girl's performance throughout, that "Daddy" seems less corny, but a song that finds a young woman, confidently embracing her womanhood and the man that has helped take the kind of artistic leap that Dangerously in Love represents.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.