Who is more iconic than Beyoncé? Her legions of die-hard fans would be hard-pressed to find an answer.
It’s almost impossible to describe Beyoncé’s impact on the modern music world, the scope of it would reach far beyond the length of an intro you’d be willing to read, we’re sure. But maybe we will just leave it at 28 Grammy Awards, 26 VMAs, 24 NAACP Image Awards, and 31 BET Awards—all of which are more than any other singer.
As she issues her comeback record, Renaissance (which is sure to find similar success), let’s dive into just a few of the iconic moments that gave Queen Bey her crown.
1. Destiny’s Child
Beyoncé first made waves as a member—and undisputed leader—of Destiny’s Child. Though the group experienced some lineup changes, the core three were Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland, and Michelle Williams.
One of their first hits came in 2001 with “Bootylicious.” Beyoncé reportedly wrote the song after hearing the guitar riff in Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen,” which she said reminded her of a “voluptuous woman.” The riff was then sampled in the song, prompting an appearance from Nicks herself in the accompanying music video.
The song quickly climbed the charts, peaking at No. 1. Soon after, the term “bootylicious” was everywhere. So much so that it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary (defined as a sexually attractive woman) in 2004.
2. Beyoncé Flies Solo
Breaking away from the girl band mold, Beyoncé caused “all this conversation” when she embarked on her solo career in 2003.
Her first solo video for “Crazy in Love” became a pop culture phenomenon. The rest of the debut album, Dangerously in Love followed suit and sold more than 11 million copies worldwide and earned five Grammy Award nominations.
From her debut, Queen Bey proved she would become the uncontested breakout star of the group.
3. Beyoncé Goes Viral with “Single Ladies”
One of Beyoncé’s most viral videos to date came in 2008, as she danced around in a black leotard to “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” The iconic dance became an overnight internet sensation with everyone from Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg to Barack Obama trying their hand at the signature move. Fans also took on the challenge, recreating the video from home and racking up thousands of views.
“Single Ladies” went on to win three Grammy Awards in 2010, including “Song of the Year.” It currently has more than 873 million views on Youtube alone.
4. VMA Pregnancy Announcement
Beyoncé caused quite the stir when she announced her first pregnancy with Jay-Z at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. After giving a powerhouse performance of “Love on Top” she turned to the camera and cheekily rubbed her stomach, hinting at the new addition to their family. She teased the announcement ahead of the song by saying “I want you to feel the love that’s growing inside of me.”
The Blue Ivy news was the most tweeted-about event in the platform’s history, with nearly 9,000 tweets per second.
6. Beyoncé Suprise Drops Her Self-Titled Album
Beyoncé took things to another level when she released her self-titled album in 2013. The release changed the industry as a whole, as she shared the album with no prior promotion, announcements, or singles.
The visual album went on to sell more than 800 thousand copies worldwide within the first three days of its release. Many popular artists, including J. Cole, Drake, and Ariana Grande went on to drop surprise albums after the success of Beyoncé, and the trend continues to this day.
5. Beyoncé Makes Lemonade out of Lemons
Never one to rest on her laurels, Beyoncé leveled up once again when she released Lemonade in 2016.
The Grammy-winning LP tells the story of a woman discovering her husband’s infidelities and the emotional journey they go through before reaching forgiveness. She let the vulnerable album do all the talking for her as the state of her and Jay-Z’s marriage started coming into question.
While much of the album sees Beyoncé make lemonade out of her sour marriage, she also began to transform into a major cultural force, playing on a field much larger than music. Along with touching on personal injustices, she widens her gaze to the archetypal plight of women, particularly in the Black community.
4. “Formation” at the Super Bowl Half-Time Show
A day after surprise-dropping “Formation,” Bey nearly erased her fellow headliners (Bruno Mars and Coldplay) from memory as she took the Super Bowl stage. Flanked by dancers dressed as Black Panthers, Beyoncé delivered a powerful performance of the single, making everything else seem dull in comparison.
While the performance certainly had her “Bey Hive” raving, it also brought out a slew of critics who said the show was “too political.”
The video for “Formation” had clear ties to the Black Lives Matter movement, with scenes of sinking police cars and “stop shooting us” graffiti. BLM activist, Erika Totten, commented on the performance saying, “I think [the message] absolutely belongs in the Super Bowl. Our goal is to disrupt the status quo and bring the message wherever the message may not be heard.”
Beyoncé’s 2018 Coachella performance was so influential that people started calling the event “Beychella” instead to reflect her top status at the festival.
Bey was the first Black woman to headline Coachella when she hit the stage in the California desert that April. Her superstar set was captured in all its glory for the Netflix special Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé—complete with behind-the-scenes clips that prove just how much of a boss Bey really is.
Cinematic in scope, the performance nearly ran through Lemonade in its entirety, along with some old favorites and a surprise reunion of Destiny’s Child. An estimated 1.1 million viewers tuned in to watch the documentary during its opening weekend.
2. Everything is Love
Though Beyoncé and Jay-Z had begun to rekindle their relationship by the time the final notes were heard on Lemonade. The singer made their reunion official by jumping on a trap-influenced album with the rapper titled EVERYTHING IS LOVE.
The Carters appeared in the music video for the lead single “Ape Shit” as unified as ever, standing in front of The Mona Lisa in matching suits.
Arguably the biggest “power couple” of all time, the album solidified that status as the two complemented each other perfectly across the album’s 9 tracks.
1. Beyoncé Has a Renaissance
Beyoncé broke her nearly 6-year solo hiatus when she released “Break My Soul” a few weeks ago (June 20). The song’s ’90s house-influenced beats were another clear evolution for the dynamic singer and became the first teaser of her comeback record, Renaissance.
The rest of the album arrived today (July 29) and it’s every bit the transformation she promised.
Deemed Act 1 of a “three-act project,” Renaissance clocks in at 16 tracks with guest appearances from Tems, Grace Jones, and Beam. The extensive composer credits boast the likes of Hov, Drake, the Neptunes, The-Dream, No I.D., Hit-Boy, Syd, Skrillex, and more.
Across the album, Beyoncé mixes old-school club beats with an experimental edge that brings in it into modernity. She references a number of dance-club greats on the LP – the likes of Donna Summer and James Brown.
Ahead of the album’s release, she wrote on her website, “This three-act project was recorded over three years during the pandemic. A time to be still, but also a time I found to be the most creative.”
She continued, “Creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world. It allowed me to feel free and adventurous in a time when little else was moving. My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, release, feel freedom. It was a beautiful journey of exploration.”
Photo Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment