|Ask Beyonce what she wants people to hear when they listen to Dangerously In Love, her debut solo album, and the multi-platinum-selling pop/urban recording artist answers, "My range. I want them to hear all of the musical influences from hip-hop to rock to jazz, there's even a Shuggie Otis sample. I want them to really hearthe talent. I know that folks love me as a pop star. Now I want them to understand me as an artist."
That they will. Musically challenging and lyrically honest, Dangerously In Love is more than just a solo CD from a superstar. It is everything you'd expect from Beyonce and more than you could have hoped for. Another side of someone we've loved for years, Dangerously In Love is equally divided between seductive mid-tempos, lush ballads and fiery club bangers, providing a sharp focus on who Beyonce is right now: as a performer, as a woman, and as a creative force to be reckoned with. The vibe is more mature, more playful, more deeply passionate and sexually aggressive. Dangerously In Love is the sound of a grown woman clearly staking her claim in the world and, in the process, redefining expectations of who she is.
A 21-year-old Houston native, Beyonce Knowles is a founding member and chief songwriter of Destiny's Child, one of the biggest selling female acts of all time. With many of the group's hit songs co-written and co-produced by Beyonce, Destiny's Child has sold more than 33 million records worldwide. When Beyonce won the 2001 ASCAP Pop Songwriter Of The Year Award, she became the first African-American woman -- and the second woman ever -- to receive that honor.
Led by founding members Beyonce Knowles and Kelly Rowland, Destiny's Child burst on the scene in 1997 with their multi-platinum single, "No, No, No," from their self-titled album. That success was dwarfed when Destiny's Child's The Writing's On The Wall was released in 1999. The album would go on to sell more than 10 million copies worldwide, driven in part by three Top 10 hits: "Jumpin, Jumpin," "Say My Name" and "Bills, Bills, Bills," which spent 9 weeks at #1 on the Billboard RandB singles chart.
A year after Michelle Williams joined Destiny's Child in 2000, the group recorded Survivor, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Survivor was certified double platinum four weeks after its release and has gone on to sell more than nine million copies worldwide. In 2001 Destiny's Child took home two Grammy awards: Best RandB song ("Say My Name") and Best RandB performance by a Duo or Group ("Say My Name"). Destiny's Child has won numerous other awards, among them Billboard Artist of the year, NAACP Image Awards, American Music Awards, Nickelodeon Kid's Choice and The Sammy Davis Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year at the Soul Train Awards. The group has toured worldwide and performed at many high profile events including The Michael Jackson 30th Anniversary Concert Special and the Concert For New York City.
Given the fact that the general public is so familiar with chart-topping songs such as "Say My Name," "Independent Woman, Part I" and "Survivor," it's fair to enquire how Dangerously In Love differs from a Destiny's Child project. "Naturally the songs on my album are going to share some similarities," Beyonce admits. "But this time because I only had to write for myself, my songs are much more personal. I also wanted beats that were harder and to be able to collaborate with other people. Basically this record was a chance for me to grow as a writer and a singer. There are more ballads. The vocals aren't as precisely produced and because it's just me, there aren't as many harmonies. The experience was very liberating and therapeutic. I felt free, because I could go into the studio and talk about whatever I wanted, but in many ways it was actually harder to be on my own creatively. I depend so much on Destiny's Child (Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams) to tell me if they like something or not. I'm so critical of myself that it's scary to have to depend on your own instincts."
Helping Beyonce trust those instincts are an impressive array of musical collaborators, among them Missy Elliot, Jay-Z, Sean Paul, Mark Batson, Mario Winans, D-Roy and Mr. B, OutKast's Big Boi, Rich Harrison, Fanatic, Scott Storch, and the legendary Luther Vandross on "The Closer I Get To You." Beyonce shares co-executive producer credits on Dangerously In Love with her father and manager Mathew Knowles. She took an active role in all aspects of the album: from writing and choosing material to producing, mastering and mixing the tracks. Beyonce pays tribute to her father on the hidden bonus track, "Daddy," which was produced by Beyonce and Mark Batson.
The sexy first single, "Crazy In Love," featuring Jay-Z, was co-produced by Beyonce and Rich Harrison. Jay-Z returns the favor for Beyonce's part on his hit "Bonnie and Clyde 03." With a beat that Beyonce says is "so hard it makes your heart hurt!," "Crazy In Love" is about that moment when you realize you're falling into love and looking crazy but you simply don't care. The abandon continues on "Speechless," produced by Fanatic. "As soon as I heard the track it inspired me," she admits. "It's very sexy, very sensual. The sort of ballad that I've never done before. This song is definitely a population increaser!"
Laced with an Arabic ambience, fused with a ghetto-fied edge and encompassing a sample from Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby," "Naughty Girl" is uptempo and party perfect: a sexy fantasy about having that one night where you lose all your inhibitions, head to theclub and work it like a naughty girl. "Many of the songs on the album examine aspects of relationships, and this is one element."
Also sexy is the dancehall-Arabic flavored "Baby Boy," featuring the red hot Sean Paul. "I knew Sean had to be on my album because I love his approach," she says. "'Baby Boy' is another song about a fantasy and it's one of my favorites."
Such unabashed and upfront emotions might come as a surprise to long time fans but make no mistake, Dangerously In Love isn't a rejection of DC's sound. "I love Destiny's Child and I am a member of the group, "she asserts. "We haven't broken up. We're going to continue to tour and record and be a group. We've recorded a song, 'I Know,' for "The Fighting Temptations" soundtrack. We all decided a long time back to explore solo projects and I'm the third member of the group to release my own record. Things like working apart keep the fire going and keep the fans eager for you. I'm not trying to get away from DC or the legacy we have. I just wanted to show a different approach and the growth I've experienced. "
That growth is evident in Beyonce's burgeoning acting career. In 2001 she starred in MTV's "Carmen." In 2002 she appeared as Foxy Cleopatra in "Austin Powers in Goldmember." This year she will co-star with Cuba Gooding Jr. in "The Fighting Temptations." She has two more features currently in production and can also be seen on the small screen in a series of Spike Lee-directed commercials for Pepsi-Cola. She is also the spokesperson for L'Oreal.