Beyoncé’s Albums Ranked, From ‘Dangerously in Love’ to ‘Renaissance’

Beyoncé could bow out of music today, and she’ll have released enough music to explore for decades to come. But that’s not a worry — with the release tonight of “Cowboy Carter,” she’s onto the second act of a three-part project.

She’s been a pop and R&B powerhouse since the 1990s, first as a member of the girl group Destiny’s Child. She catapulted into solo stardom on her 2003 album “Dangerously in Love”; raised the bar of R&B on 2006’s “B’Day”; began branching out with “4” and her 2013 self-titled album; and took fans on the emotional rollercoaster of her iconic 2016 effort “Lemonade.” With “Cowboy,” she’ll break new ground yet again, as evidenced by its lead singles “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages,” embracing country music and etching a space for herself in the genre.

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As the Beyhive gears up for the “Cowboy” rodeo, here’s our ranking of every Beyoncé studio album to date: her seven solo efforts, the “Lion King” companion, and “Everything Is Love,” her 2018 duo album with husband Jay-Z.

9. “I Am… Sasha Fierce” (2008)

“I Am…” arguably sits as Beyoncé’s most chaotic album, but in an effective and engaging way. The double-disc set exhibits contrasting sides of Beyoncé Knowles-Carter who, at the time of the LP’s release, had been married to Jay-Z for seven months. The first half laid bare Beyoncé’s vulnerabilities over airy pop production, her fluid vocals climaxing on “If I Were a Boy,” “Broken-Hearted Girl” and the eternal wedding anthem “Halo.” On the flipside, disc two exuded nothing but club bangers with the high-wattage “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and the invigorating “Sweet Dreams.” “I Am…” served as a primer into Beyoncé adopting new sounds a decade after being introduced with Destiny’s Child, “I Am…” was somewhat dizzying, but nevertheless ushered Bey into world-class status.

8. “The Lion King: The Gift” (2019)

Beyoncé honored the African diaspora and brought some friends with her, from the worlds of Afrobeats (Burna Boy, Tems, Tiwa Savage) and home (Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell, 070 Shake). For those who didn’t take notice of “The Gift,” the 2019 companion album to the live-action “Lion King” – which Beyoncé starred in – the BeyHive paid attention when its visual album, “Black Is King,” dropped on Disney+ the following year. On it, Beyoncé motivates on “Bigger,” gives nostalgic reflections on “Find Your Way Back” and toasts the high life with Jay-Z and Childish Gambino on “Mood 4 Eva.” “The Gift” once again proved Beyoncé’s adaptability as she embraced the motherland with open arms.

7. “Dangerously in Love” (2003)

Beyoncé kicked down the door on her solo debut with an appropriate lead single that stood the test of time: Over 20 years later, “Crazy In Love” remains one of her most popular tracks and put Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s romance into high gear. While “Crazy” has been reworked on Beyoncé tours in the years since, “Dangerously in Love” set the tone for the early 2000s R&B wave with flirtatious anthems (“Naughty Girl,” “Baby Boy,” “Be With You”) and an empowering message in self-worth (“Me, Myself and I”). A nod to her 2003 breakout, Beyoncé revisited her throwback ballad “Dangerously in Love 2” during last year’s “Renaissance” world tour, and was met by singalongs from crowds worldwide. After all these years, her prestige remains unshaken.

6. “Everything Is Love” (2018)

Across their collaboration album, and its subsequent “On the Run II” tour, Beyoncé and Jay-Z said that salacious rumors about their marriage only strengthened it. One year after giving birth to her youngest children, twins Rumi and Sir, Beyoncé’s voice had grown huskier and more seasoned, powerfully crooning from sensual opener “Summer” to the boom-bap of “Lovehappy.” The Carters went simian mode on the trap feel of “Apeshit,” flaunted their esteem over the melodious horns of “Boss” and playfully brushed the haters aside on “Heard About Us.” The “pretty thug out the Third Ward” was in top form with an equally braggadocious and unwavering husband by her side.

5. “B’Day” (2006)

Partly inspired by her role as Deena Jones in the 2006 musical film “Dreamgirls,” Beyoncé followed through with her sophomore album, “B’Day.” Pegged to her 25th birthday, Beyoncé successfully presented her artistic maturity on the cinematic “Déjà Vu,” gave a whirl on “Get Me Bodied” and set things off on the commanding “Ring the Alarm.” Despite keeping the energy high for a majority of the album’s 14 tracks, the mood shifts on “Irreplaceable” and “Resentment,” where she gives voice to scorned women. “B’Day” is a testament to Beyoncé’s growth as an artist and woman.

4. “4” (2011)

Out from under the wing of her manager-father, Beyoncé expressed newfound independence on her aptly-titled fourth album, also her debut on her multimedia company Parkwood Entertainment. With a leonine spirit, she harmonizes over the ‘90s style of “Party,” nods to an ‘80s-era Prince on “Schoolin’ Life” and tempts on the alluring slow wind of “Dance for You.” Keeping pace with the early 2010s trend of electropop, she took a note from EDM trio Major Lazer on “Run the World (Girls)” and saluted three years of marriage – and her first pregnancy – on “Countdown.” On “4,” Beyoncé swaggers from song to song and keeps her full-bodied vocals intact.

3. “Lemonade” (2016)

Beyoncé’s fifth album was a seminal record that changed the landscape of pop and gender studies courses at institutions globally. The concept album was an admission of Bey’s mercurial nature, wrought by an unfaithful lover that many assumed to be Jay-Z (the rapper would respond on his tenth album, “4:44”). She bitterly confronts her partner’s wrongdoings on the reggae-lite “Hold Up” before damning him to adulterous purgatory on the rocker wrath of “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” Tipping a hat to what would later become “Cowboy Carter,” Bey oozes Southern charm on the country romp of “Daddy Lessons.” Battling it out for the LP’s rightful protest anthem is the haunting radicalism of “Freedom” and the driving single “Formation.” Softness peers through on ambient bonus track “Sorry (Original Demo)” but across the wide-ranging “Lemonade” — and its stunning film — Beyoncé pours into forgiveness after the pain.

2. “Beyoncé” (2013)

If “4” representing Beyoncé’s creative flowering, her surprise-dropped self-titled album was the singer’s cultural juggernaut. Not only did the album break the mold by falling out of a clear blue sky — complete with an accompanying “visual experience” — but it was a complete detour from the Bey we once knew. Declaring herself a feminist under the themes of self-love, sexual freedom and motherhood, Bey’s eponymous LP began with the singer admitting her imperfections (“Pretty Hurts”) before coasting into a career-defining ride. She claims her seat as a rap queen on the intoxicating “Drunk in Love,” teasingly singing her NSFW sexual fantasies on the song’s second verse. The love affair flows onto the roller rink (“Blow”) takes it to the backseat (“Partition”), then hits the sheets (“Rocket”) and back again.

1. “Renaissance” (2022)

After six years without a full-length solo album, Beyoncé delivered glittery escapism on her monumental seventh LP, “Renaissance.” With samples and production textures tailor-made for her coloratura, Beyoncé reimagines yesteryear dance grooves and launches them well into the future. She burns the disco out on “Cuff It,” struts over Chicago house on the disarming “Break My Soul,” and effortlessly demonstrates Jamaican patois on the sunny riddim of “Heated.” As her full catalog shows, there’s more to Beyoncé than it seems at first glance, and “Renaissance” serves as her multidimensional statement.

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