A Comprehensive Ranking of Beyonce’s Most Culturally Relevant Albums
According to Forbes Magazine, Beyonce is the first solo artist in the World to chart six consecutive number one albums.
Beyonce is one of the 21st century’s most prolific artists. Her artwork has truly defined what the crux of this generation’s culture is. She is the Whitney, the Janet Jackson, the Tina Turner of this generation. In short, she is truly a living legend. Though all of her music has an important place in the course of popular culture and our hearts, let’s reflect on how her respective albums fare against one another!
Beyoncè’s #1 album is Lemonade. This album marks the first time Beyonce has acted as a full fledged artist if Nina Simone’s words about artists ring true — and they do:
“An artist’s duty… is to reflect the times.”
Bey’s most recent album truly reflected the times, detailing the hardship that Black women constantly travail in New Jim Crow America. Beyonce’s love letter to America’s most disrespected demographic has made a lasting impact in America both sonically and culturally. Beyonce stayed true to herself, despite the anticipated backlash of her most critical work’s subject matter. Lemonade is the album that made me a Beyoncè Stan. I’m NOT part of the beehive, but I fully embrace Queen Bey now because she stopped holding back!
Beyoncè’s second best album is Bday. That album helped her solidify her place as a creator of popular culture rather than a mere follower. Sophomore albums are usually a hit or a miss. After Dangerously in Love, Beyoncè had to really rise to the occasion with her second album. And, of course, she did just that. Bday was an instant classic when it first came out. From her hit single Deja Vu to the immortalized club anthem, Freakum Dress, every song was on point. Not to mention, lowkey, Bday was her very first visual album.
Beyonce’s fifth album, known affectionately as ‘Self-titled’ is third on this list. This album marks the first time Beyonce showed us she was capable of putting her heart on an open platter. Bey’s self-titled album will forever live on as the greatest stunt of the 2010s! It really set the trend for how popular musicians will now (and forever) release their music. Little to no promotion or singles from impending albums is now the norm. And Really?! Are you really saying something if you don’t release your album on a whim? Self-titled is one of Beyonce’s most cohesive albums, telling us a vivid story of her love, her sorrows, her triumphs, and her losses. It felt so good for Beyonce to finally show her vulnerable side to her fans. Beyonce was truly cathartic for all of us. It was relatable, well produced, and her first self-declared visual album. Who else is doing that? Nobody.
Dangerously in Love (DIL), Beyonce’s debut album, is a classic. Not her most compelling work but it is culturally important to most of us. DIL is a big part of many of our childhoods. To this very day every lady (and some boys) go crazy when Crazy in Love comes on in the club! And who could forget Bey’s soulful duet with the late, great Luther Vandross? This album was the perfect foundation for our beloved living legend. Where would we be without it? Where would RnB be without it? Pop culture? Nowhere.
I Am…Sasha Fierce (IASF) is number five on the list. Most people claim this album as Beyonce’s least favorable work, but I disagree. IASF is one of the most important contributions to Pop and Rnb ever. IASF started a movement that can never be forgotten. This album marks the time when Beyonce first became a bit less robotic, and more real with us! The album was her way of telling her fans that she had two sides to herself. There was Beyonce, a more modest woman. Then, there was the persona she took on when she performed — Sasha Fierce, who was more sexual and confident. IASF gave the people classic ballads like Halo and If I were a Boy, as well as dance hits like Single Ladies and Diva. This album is a staple in 2000s Classic Pop. You cannot have a proper conversation about Pop music and not mention IASF. This album solidified Beyonce’s place as an artist who could sell out stadiums (not music halls, but STADIUMS) worldwide. The album set the precedent for the Beyonce tour culture today’s stans all know and love. After IASF, Beyonce was finally considered to be one of the greatest performers in history. Perhaps a soon to be Prince or Micheal Jackson.
Last on the list is 4. This album marked Beyonce’s very short plateau period. When you have an album as great as IASF, what room is there left to grow? How do you improve from that within the framework of the Pop music formula? Though it was an extremely strong album, 4 unfortunately showed some musical stagnancy. It had some great hits, but what else? 4 is to Beyonce as Graduation is to Kanye West. It was and is a great album tailor made for the stadiums that Beyonce was known to sell out. Yet, 4 lacked depth. Simply put, 4 is a testament to Beyonce’s work ethic and musical proliferation. The woman could crank out an album in her sleep. Apparently, before 4 was released, Beyonce cranked out a whole album of Fela Kuti-inspired music. She shelved most of the music, and created 4. This is just how much Beyonce puts into her work. She is truly a creative in every sense of the word. Her vision is impeccable, and her drive to do the hard work required of her is even more impressive. 4 marked a period of creative brainstorming for Bey. The album in and of itself was just another decent Pop album, with standard Pop hits, but what it lead to is what changed the world of music. I appreciate it even more for the influence it had on subsequent albums like Beyonce and Lemonade.