"Crazy In Love," Beyonce's Coronation Anthem, Turns 10 Years Old
The blasting horns sampled from The Chi-Lites' "Are You My Woman (Tell Me So)" ring out, the sound of a jangling cymbal being taken for a walk sizzles under the infectiously catchy purr of "uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh- oh no no." The 808 laced drums crack and pop as if they're frying under the hot Texas summer sun. The first few measures of "Crazy in Love" are as distinct and recognizable as they are evocative of a decade of total pop culture dominance for Beyonce -- the woman, the artist, the empire. Though her time in Destiny's Child put her on the map, this was the defining moment of arrival that led to her takeover. Ten years ago, "Crazy in Love" was released, and for the budding superstar, nothing would ever be the same.
2013 has been a hell of a year for Beyonce Knowles. Between her Super Bowl halftime show, her Mrs. Carter Show world tour, things have really come full circle for Queen Bey. In the last decade alone she's acquired 14 grammys, seven starring film roles, five Forbes list placements, a fashion line, a fragrance collection, a production company and a cosmetology school. With Jay-Z, she turned a hyper-private seven year courtship into the pop culture archetype for the modern American marriage. Whether you love or hate Beyonce, you can't help but marvel at her.
In 2003, after a seemingly revolving door of Destiny's Child lineup changes, the media was content to pit the longtime friends and collaborators against each other to compete for solo success. Or in Beyonce's case, peg her as the spoiled daddy's girl who was responsible for tensions in the group. This scrutiny would cause a two year bout of depression in the young starlet. In preparation for her first solo effort, she was fielding more questions from the press about her under-wraps relationship with Jay-Z than about her music. After the success of Kelly Rowland's duet with Nelly, the Patti Labelle sampling "Dilemma" the release of Beyonce's first solo album was delayed. It was a frustrating and uncertain time in her career.
Out of the 48 recorded tracks in consideration for Dangerously In Love, the standout first single was created in the now-closed Sony Studios facility in Hells Kitchen, Manhattan. Producer Rich Harrison, who was receiving lots of looks and praise for his work on Amerie's debut album, was late to meet Bey for the session. On top of that, he was battling a hangover he'd never forget. He'd been out celebrating the night before, because he had a beat in the chamber he was sure would blow Beyonce's mind. When he played the instrumental for her, however, she wasn't as over-the-moon as Harrison had expected.
The booming horns and heavy funk & soul influence was by no means an obvious hit. After the turn of the century, was the heyday of poppy Murder Inc duets & the neuvo futuristic style of Missy Elliot's Under Construction . It was a year after the release of Izzo (H.O.V.A), and the soul sample explosion of the mid-2000s had yet to kick into full swing. The go-go vibe and old school swing to the beat of what would become Crazy In Love, left Beyonce hesitant. After a couple of good listens, she advised Harrison that though she wasn't 100% sold, she was willing to give it a shot. She instructed him to write the song, and that she would return in two hours to hear the resulting product. Leaving her room to write the bridge, Harrison crafted the verses and chorus, no doubt with the assistance of sunglasses and Advil.
In the now classic video for the single, Beyonce galvanized popular music, seducing the world in a pair of daisy dukes & red pumps. It was a coming-out party of sorts, announcing the stark transformation from a girl to a woman. With it, her signature dance move, the Uh-Oh, would become a worldwide emblem of sex appeal. She would go on to teach Oprah Winfrey how to do it on national television.
The single would go on to be one of the most revered songs of the 2000's, and Beyonce would win five Grammys for Dangerously In Love. Her signature danced spawned from the Crazy in Love would go on to end up on countless Best Of lists, taking #4 on Pitchfork's list, while NME would call it the best of the decade. The crowd at Super Bowl XLVII would roar and scream when she chose it as the first song to perform at her halftime show this year.
With a featured verse from her now husband, Jay-Z, "Crazy in Love" began a narrative of an iconic love affair between America's sweethearts. Though they notoriously kept the private moments and details of their relationship from the public eye, both artists have been known to drop hints of insight on their love into their music. In the 2011 book, Decoded, Jay-Z alluded to reference to his wife in songs like "Public Service Announcement" and "Lost One" (the latter at a time when the future of their relationship seemed uncertain). Belting grandiose vocal runs of love, lust, and obsession, Beyonce let the world know her heart stands with her man on "Crazy In Love." Now, the two are arguably the most powerful and influential couple in entertainment.
Crazy In Love captured a moment in time that will never be forgotten, that we're reminded of every time those horns sound within earshot. A decade later, it's astounding to look back on how much it's changed the landscape of mainstream music- setting a standard of risk-taking and innovation for artists that wasn't there before. Dangerously in Love is a symbol of progression and reinvention in Beyonce's career, a bar that she raises higher and higher with each album she releases. Here's to the queen, her magnum opus, and another decade of world domination.
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