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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Beyoncé’s career spans decade, genres

Following Beyoncé’s musical progression
Beyoncé accepts the Innovator Award from Stevie Wonder at the iHeartRadio Music Awards on Monday at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Beyoncé’s albums have changed throughout history nad have spanned multiple genres. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

From “Dangerously In Love” to “COWBOY CARTER,” Beyoncé has found a way to transform as an artist without losing herself.

With the recent release of Beyoncé’s newest album, “COWBOY CARTER,” it is time to take a deep dive into her 34 years of artistry.


“Dangerously In Love” released in 2003 as Beyoncé’s debut solo album. 

Following her departure from her longtime group Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé released “Dangerously In Love.” The album featured songs like “Dangerously In Love,” “Crazy In Love” and “Me, Myself and I” that contained a sultry R&B pop mix. The album also featured notable artists such as Jay-Z and Missy Elliott. 

The album coined a signature sound for Beyoncé as a vocal R&B powerhouse. “Dangerously In Love” shined as a debut album as it allowed Beyoncé to show her vocal range and fierce performing prowess. 

“B’Day” (2006)

B’Day” is Beyoncé’s sophomore album released in 2006 on the singer’s 25th birthday. The album is pop-heavy with R&B influences and allowed Beyoncé to highlight she is not only a singer but a performer. 

The album was re-released as a visual album to show off the artistic development of the songstress. Beyoncé’s stage presence had a noticeable improvement as she became robustly more confident in her command of the stage. “B’Day” was Beyoncé’s performance album that allowed her to shine as an entertainer. 


“I AM…SASHA FIERCE” released in 2008 features two discs. Disc 1 showcased Beyoncé in her natural element. The songs were slow ballads that allowed Beyoncé’s range and vocal prowess to shine. Disc 2 featured heavy pop beats that showed Beyoncé’s alter ego: Sasha Fierce. 

Some of Beyoncé’s most notable songs like “Halo,” “If I were a Boy and “Diva” were born from the “SASHA FIERCE” release. The album gave a peek into the closed-off personality of the singer. Showing when she is in solitude, she is softer and mellowed while her stage performance oozes confidence, sass and sexiness. Beyoncé established herself as a star with the release of “I AM…SASHA FIERCE.” 

“4” (2011) 

“4” was released in 2011 shortly before the announcement of Beyoncé’s pregnancy with her first child Blue Ivy Carter. The album is glitzed in pop records from top to bottom, making it Beyoncé’s graceful descent from being titled an R&B and “urban” artist. “4” showcases a raspier, more mature Beyoncé voice that shines through on songs like “Best Thing I Never Had,” “Love on Top” and “Countdown.” The melodic production makes the album appear more timeless with every listen. “4” is seen as the signature Beyoncé sound with deep, loud vocals, soulful pop production, and stacked with choreography-ready songs. 

“BEYONCÉ [Platinum Edition]” (2014)

“BEYONCÉ” was released in 2014 and signaled the singer’s most freeing era. The album was surprise released on Nov. 24, 2014, and shook the industry with a Monday release date. At the time, artists all over the industry released their music on Tuesdays. The singer’s album release changed the system of album releasing, and the effects of this album can still be felt even today. 

The album is dripped in sex and poise as “BEYONCÉ” opens with a sexy and mature side of the artist. The songstress also goes on to write ballads such as “Heaven,” that speaks on her previous miscarriage, and “Blue” featuring Blue Ivy Carter that shows the glimpse of Beyoncé’s love for motherhood. She finishes the album with songs like “Ring Off,” which hint at the confirmed suspicions of her husband Jay-Z’s affair. The album feels liberating as you feel Beyoncé lay down the perfect facade she often portrays and let her audience into her small world. The album dips into the R&B genre as Beyoncé also dabbles into hip-hop and pop.

“Lemonade” (2016)

“Lemonade” was released in 2016, breaking the news of the affair occurring between Jay-Z and his mistress coined “Becky with the good hair.” The album detailed Beyoncé’s stages of grief when finding out about the affair. The album was released as a visual album and foreshadowed her newest album, “COWBOY CARTER,” as it featured “Daddy Lessons,” a country song that has only been performed at the CMAs with the Chicks. Beyoncé takes “Lemonade” as a chance to truly speak her mind on a number of issues, even the Illuminati conspiracies in songs like “Formation.”


“RENAISSANCE” was released in 2022 and accompanied by a documentary after a six-year hiatus by the artist. Beyoncé takes time on this album to breathe life back into the house genre that originated from Black artists. The groovy and snappy beats can be felt on tracks like “AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM” and “VIRGO’S GROOVE.” The songs hold a nostalgic feel that is reminiscencent of an early 2000s Beyoncé voice with sultry light vocals and deep trills. 

The album is high intensity and plays into Beyoncé’s music strengths in songs like “I’M THAT GIRL” and lead single “BREAK MY SOUL.” The album is Beyoncé in full legendary status, free to explore sonically new territory for her as an artist. She does so with grace and intellect as she co-writes the album with a host of legendary house artists. “RENAISSANCE” was the first installment of Beyoncé’s trilogy highlighting popular genres that stemmed from Black artists and influences. 


“COWBOY CARTER” was released in 2024 as the second act of the Beyoncé trilogy. The album sprouted in retaliation and disdain that Beyoncé received at the 2014 CMAs while performing “Daddy Lessons” with the Chicks, who were blacklisted for their criticism of the George W. Bush administration. During the performance, Beyoncé was criticized for not being country and not deserving of the honor to perform at the CMAs. Beyoncé held onto that feeling and decided to make a country album to challenge what is considered country. 

Ending her album release with, “This ain’t a country album, This is a ‘Beyoncé’ album,” she does exactly that as she integrates her unique Beyoncé sound into the country sphere to create “COWBOY CARTER.” Songs like “BLACKBIIRD” are chockfull of bluegrass and folk influences with the help of country artists like Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy and Reyna Roberts. While the creation of the album stems from Beyoncé making right of a petty situation, she highlights an unspoken topic. She shows that in white spaces she is treated as nothing more than a “Black artist.” 

With “COWBOY CARTER,” Beyoncé highlights that there are plenty of Black artists who are completely ignored and not given the proper space in country music they deserve. 

Beyoncé has gone from the creation of her own signature sound to the development of her sound as a genre. She interpolates herself with historically Black music genres; all while erasing stereotypes of what genre is fitting for a Black artist. 

She is no longer tied down by the “urban” or “R&B” labels that have been pushed onto her by music executives and award shows like the Grammys and CMAs. Beyoncé has changed from a singer to an activist, using her voice to bring light to the uphill battle of Black alternative artists.

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