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| Highest Rated 2006
Beyoncé the Valley
of the Dolls
Dangerously in Love
Posted: July 1,
Beyoncé Knowles was born in 1981, the same year as Britney Spears and
nearly a full year after Christina Aguilera. And yet she seems
considerably more mature than either of those former Mouseketeers (one
stuck in perpetual "Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" mode, the other
apparently more interested in exhibitionism than an actual singing
career). Perhaps it has to do with spending time in Destiny's Child,
learning how to deal with success as part of something larger than
herself. Or maybe it's simply a matter of how Beyoncé carries herself:
confident without being arrogant, self-assured without appearing too
self-serious (are you Mouse girls listening?).
Whatever the reason, this 21-year-old stands poised to make the leap
from successful R&B girl group lead to a full-fledged superstar whose
wattage threatens to outshine any of her age-group contemporaries. On
Dangerously in Love, her solo debut, Beyoncé reveals a
heretofore-unseen range of depth and musical styles. And unlike other pop
or soul singers, it shows her confident enough in her ability that she
doesn't have to stretch notes like they were taffy to prove her chops.
Beyoncé lets the vibe dictate her approach, never once bowing to the
Mariah Carey-ish temptation to stamp her forceful personality all over the
proceedings. And that small difference makes for one of the most
refreshing modern R&B records from a diva-ascendant in a long time.
Unsurprisingly, Dangerously in Love is front-loaded with the
most commanding tracks. "Crazy In Love," featuring Jay-Z, is easily the
album's peak, its uplifting chorus seamlessly coupled with an inspiring
horn section as Knowles and Mr. Carter celebrate their passionate union.
The racy, up-tempo "Naughty Girl" trades on the familiar disco-era Donna
Summer hit "Love to Love You Baby" and the crack production skills of
Scott Storch (whose credits include tracks by Busta Rhymes, Dr. Dre and
Aguilera) to create an infectious mix of old-meets-new dance grooves.
"Baby Boy" sports the distinctive reggae rapping of Sean Paul -- a perfect
example of Knowles trusting her collaborators, not worrying about her
vocal contribution vanishing beneath the final mix. Finally, there's "Hip
Hop Star," highlighted by OutKast's Big Boi ("Everybody got a little Rick
James in they veins") and fellow Dungeon Family member Sleepy Brown's
This opening burst stacks the deck against the remainder of
Dangerously in Love. While that move doesn't prove crippling, it does
considerably lessen the album's overall impact. The main problem is too
many unimaginative R&B in love/out of love ballads: The slow burn of "Be
With You" handles itself well, especially contrasted with the wide variety
of styles exhibited during the first half. But the material sounds stale
by the time the too familiar "Yes" and "Speechless" roll around. "The
Closer I Get to You," Knowles' duet with recent chart-topper Luther
Vandross, doesn't improve on the 1978 version popularized by Roberta Flack
and Donny Hathaway, and indeed is more filler than thriller. The absolute
low point, however, is "Signs," featuring Missy Elliott, whose formidable
skills are frustratingly wasted on this trite, piano-backed run through
the horoscope in a shallow search for that perfect partner. The stars are
definitely not in alignment on this dud.
Despite fading down the stretch, however, Dangerously in Love
impressively covers a lot of ground without seeming too scattershot or
overblown. And though the album serves up more than its fair share of
misfires, the overall production values and savvy choice of guest stars
help to elevate it from innocuous remainder bin filler-candidate to a
substantial statement of purpose from its still astonishingly young, but
clearly wise-beyond-her-years, star.
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