B’Day: Courting controversy

News / Special Features / The Sophomores / June 16, 2017

Beyoncé was already famous when she went solo. Her time as part of Destiny’s Child gave her the start she needed in the music business, and she’s been a staple ever since. However, it wasn’t until she went solo that she truly blew up and became the huge cultural icon that she is today. Released in 2003, Dangerously in Love was her debut solo record, featuring songs like “Crazy in Love,” “Baby Boy,” and “Naughty Girl,” all which proved she had what it took to make it as a solo artist. The first week sales didn’t match that of Survivor by Destiny’s Child (663,000), but 317,000 units is still nothing to scoff at.

Three years later, enter B’Day. Out of the 10-track album, six were released as singles and five of them came after the album’s release date. “Déja Vu” was the lead single and features Jay-Z, in one of his two appearances on the album. With this track, Beyoncé hadn’t strayed too far from what she released on Dangerously in Love, but that didn’t make the song any less catchy. There was also a bit of concern over how suggestive the music video for the song was. And that wouldn’t be the last point of concern with this album, either.

“Controversy” isn’t really a word one would typically associate with Beyoncé. Sure, Solange went off on Jay-Z in an elevator, but that was never as drastic as some of the other things we’ve seen in pop music. With this album, her controversy came largely in the form of her cover art for “Ring The Alarm.” The art includes two baby alligators on leashes, with Beyoncé standing just behind their curved tails. She admitted to taping the animals’ mouths shut for the picture, and that it was her idea to do so. Is this the biggest controversy a famous pop star could find herself within? No, but it showed everyone how Beyonce handled a difficult situation. She was a huge star, so she couldn’t just ignore an organization like PETA.

PETA wasn’t the only organization to give Beyoncé some flack during this album cycle either. She appeared on billboards holding a cigarette holder, and naturally, an anti-smoking group had something to say about it. The third controversy to come out about with this album involved the song “I’m Kissing You” by Des’ree. Beyoncé used the song in “Still in Love (Kissing You)” and one of the writers claimed that permission was not acquired for it. However, that was in relation to the deluxe version of the record, released in 2007.

It’s safe to say that Beyoncé is an artist who tends to handle herself with grace. With B’Day, she cracked over 500,000 in first week sales. She’s only become more popular since this album. The final single from this release, “Green Light,” came out on July 30, 2007 — almost a full year after the record. Six singles out of ten songs is something many artists don’t (or can’t) do. However, with major label releases, radio is king, and this album kept Beyoncé on the airwaves consistently throughout the release cycle.

With Beyoncé having huge hits with her last two albums, they took her to a whole other level as a pop icon. Critics and fans adore her and it’s as if she can do no wrong. With Lemonade, she experimented a lot more with various genres, even doing a country-influenced version of “Daddy Issues” with the Dixie Chicks. B’Day was just one of the first steps for Beyoncé. She knew what she wanted to do on that record; she just didn’t have the same amount of influence that she has today. That influence really started to grow when she released 4. Her music could be heard virtually everywhere at that point. She’d be playing at sports stadiums and arenas more than ever before. Her video for “Run The World (Girls)” was insanely popular when it first came out and this was in the post-music video age of MTV. She had her missteps early on, but with these recent albums, she’s seen as flawless by many. She’s shown no signs of slowing down since her release of B’Day.

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Deanna Chapman

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