The Meaning Behind Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” and How It Kick-Started Her Solo Career

Before Beyoncé kick-started her solo career, it was apparent her R&B group Destiny’s Child wouldn’t hold her star power much longer. At the height of her group’s success, Beyoncé released “Work It Out,” which appeared on the Austin Powers in Goldmember soundtrack.

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However, her 2003 smash, “Crazy in Love,” began Beyoncé’s meteoric rise as a culture-shifting superstar.

Avoiding the Paparazzi

Beyoncé struggled to develop a lyrical theme for “Crazy in Love.” She planned to leave the studio to buy a birthday present for her cousin, Destiny Child member Kelly Rowland. She thought she looked “crazy with my clothes” and felt embarrassed to be seen in public.

I look and stare so deep in your eyes
I touch on you more and more every time
When you leave, I’m begging you not to go
Call your name two, three times in a row

With Beyoncé’s mismatched clothing and disheveled hair, she told her producer Rich Harrison, “I’m looking crazy right now.” Harrison said, “That’s the hook!”

Got me looking so crazy right now
Your love’s got me looking so crazy right now
Got me looking so crazy right now
Your touch got me looking so crazy right now

“Crazy in Love” was released as the first single from Beyoncé’s debut solo album Dangerously in Love (2003). It features a rap from her future husband Jay-Z. The song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The Chi-Lites

“Crazy in Love” is built on a sample of “Are You My Woman? (Tell Me So)” by The Chi-Lites. Beyoncé’s hit turned the 1970s funk-horn section into a modern hip-hop and pop classic. Harrison thought the beat was a hit but hesitated to pitch it to an artist.

He told MTV, “I remember when I first did the beat. I played it for a lot of my buddies, as I normally do, and they couldn’t dig it. But that’s when I knew I had something special.”

Harrison sampled the old soul song before he met Beyoncé. “Yeah, I had it in the chamber. I hadn’t really shopped it much because sometimes you don’t want to come out of the bag before it’s right. People don’t really get it, and you’ll leave them with a foul taste in their mouth. So it was just something that I held on to until I got the call from B.”

Beyoncé wasn’t immediately warm to the musical idea, as she thought the track was too retro. But she trusted Harrison could modernize the sound and told him to write the song. She gave him two hours to finish it. Under pressure, Harrison wrote the verses and hook and performed all instrumentation. He left the bridge open for Beyoncé to complete.

Destiny’s Child

While Beyoncé pursued a solo career, she carried pieces of her former group. She often appeared in videos with two dancers or singers on either side and her 2008 hit “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” echoes the R&B girl-group harmonies of Destiny’s Child.

Meanwhile, Destiny’s Child continued alongside Beyoncé’s early solo success.  

But “Crazy in Love” sounds radically different from her group. She and Jay-Z first collaborated on his single “03 Bonnie & Clyde.” Kanye West produced the single and sampled Tupac Shakur’s “Me and My Girlfriend.” Though Jay-Z’s track was a Top-10 hit, “Crazy in Love” was a pivotal moment in pop music.

Jay-Z was the world’s biggest rapper, and Beyoncé was already a pop star. However, her solo debut began a tectonic shift in pop music culture as Jay-Z focused on business, and Beyoncé’s career height was rivaled only by Taylor Swift.

A star like Ringo, war like a Green Beret
You crazy? Bring your whole set
Jay-Z in the range, crazy and deranged
They can’t figure him out, they like, “Hey, is he insane?”

As the de facto leader of Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé always felt larger than life. Her group topped the charts, too, but “Crazy in Love” delivered unprecedented fame.

Studying History to Make History

The arc from her skepticism of “Crazy in Love’s” retro sample to her latest albums, “Cowboy Carter” and “Renaissance,” is an interesting one. Her recent albums are vivid appreciations of Black music history, from 1970s dance club culture to celebrating pioneer Linda Martell on her country album.

She’s built her solo work on the foundation of music history and her place within it. On her debut album, Harrison brought a ’70s soul sample into the 21st century to create “Crazy in Love.” Similarly, Beyoncé studied the legends of music’s previous eras, and as the old phrase goes, she stands on the shoulders of giants.

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Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage for Clear Channel Entertainment

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