Happy 10th B’Day: Celebrating Beyoncé’s first visual album

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9.4.06.

Ten years ago, Beyoncé still had a lot to prove. Hot off the heels of her debut solo album, Dangerously In Love, the pressure was on for Beyoncé to deliver yet another album of its caliber both in quality and success. It may sound hard to believe now, but just ten years ago, Beyoncé was viewed sort of as a new artist. However, with 2006’s B’Day, she began to cement her status as a force to be reckoned with – both creatively and commercially.

Lead by the Darkchild-produced “Déjà Vu,” B’Day was, according to Beyoncé, recorded in just a few weeks after she finished filming “the film of [her] life,” Dreamgirls. “I was saying all the things I wish she would’ve said in the film.” In case you missed it, Dreamgirls is the story of Deena Jones who, like Beyoncé, was the lead singer of a girl group. The difference is that Deena’s manager turns out to be her controlling-husband (not her father), who also ends up cheating on her. So, Beyoncé gave us B’Day, an anthemic album of mostly uptempos, filled with passionate emotions and dance anthems.

However, she ended up giving us way more than that. In many ways, B’Day was the precursor for Lemonade. For starters, B’Day’s album art photoshoots and the “Déjà Vu” video were both shot and inspired by New Orleans and Beyoncé’s Creole heritage. Lemonade is too. Not only that, but the topic of infidelity appears on both albums, in many forms – Intuition, denial, and anger (“Ring the Alarm,” “Lost Yo Mind”), apathy (“Kitty Kat”), and a song about donning something fierce from her closet (“6 Inch” vs “Freakum Dress”). However, where they differ is that B’Day implies she kicks his ass to the curb with the one-two punch of “Irreplaceable” and “Resentment.”

Not only that, but B’Day was also Beyoncé’s first foray into creating a visual for every song. For the re-release of the album, the Queen B decided to film a music video for every song on the original release (except “Resentment” – for legal reasons, apparently) and for several of the new songs she recorded for the new version. While unlike Lemonade or even Self-Titled, the B’Day videos don’t really connect or tell a story, they laid the blueprint for Beyoncé uniting her albums with visuals – not just the singles. With B’Day, though, the videos were more in the vein of your traditional music video – they were not artsy, or particularly unique or visually striking. Still, they are an enjoyable collection that without we may have never gotten to the point of her releasing Lemonade, a united, art film.

Visuals aside, B’Day was a fantastic album musically and a certain improvement from her debut. It featured a variety of sounds, from the Jazzy horns on the lead single, bonus tracks “Creole” and “Back Up,” and Neptunes-produced “Green Light,” to the ferocious fire of Swizz Beatz helmed Hip-Hop bangers like “Ring the Alarm,” “Upgrade U” and dance anthem “Get Me Bodied,” the strut-ready Rich Harrison productions “Freakum Dress” and “Suga Mama,” or the poppy guitar of “Irreplaceable” and “Resentment,” B’Day was a fearless exploration of sound, and Beyoncé’s personality.

Not only was it fearless musically, but vocally, too. B’Day‘s vocals are rawunfiltered, and gritty. Of course, while it lends to the content of some of the songs perfectly, B’Day found Beyoncé shedding the confines of the sweet, refined, polished sound of Dangerously In Love. With B’Day, she challenged herself musically and vocally. While sadness and vulnerability may not be her forte, ferocity certainly is. Her powerful voice reigned unrestrained throughout the albumbut not in a messy, un-trained, nonmusical way (a la Christina Aguilera ad-libs) – Beyoncé is a trained, skilled vocalist. It’s just that on B’Day, she was not afraid to make you feel a little scared of the sheer force of her powerful vocal wrath. If “Listen” doesn’t send chills down your spine, then it might be because Beyoncé had already disintegrated it over the course of the first 10 tracks.

With B’Day, Beyoncé changed as an artist – commercially and artistically. Gone were the days where Beyoncé really gave a damn about having a hit single – though, she still did. “Irreplaceable” perched at #1 for 11 weeks, but the rest of the singles did not do much individually. Though, collectively, they became essential parts of pop culture: “Get Me Bodied” is, among her core audience anyway, now cemented as one of those songs that gets played by a DJ to get the crowd dancing at a wedding, ala the Electric or Cha-Cha Slides.

“Upgrade U” was a hit at Urban radio, and Beyoncé dressed up as Jay in the video was an unforgettable moment. “Ring the Alarm” sparked rumors abound of Jay cheating on her, with Rihanna with the Forehead. “Déjà Vu” had an unforgettable performance at the 2006 BET Awards where Beyoncé lost her damn mind, and “Listen” is now a staple for contestants on singing competition shows like American Idol and The Voice. And, while admittedly the song was a bit lackluster, who can forget seeing Beyoncé and Shakira twin it up in the video for “Beautiful Liar”? How about Beyoncé cutely falling off the mechanical bull in “Suga Mama”? If that’s not enough proof for you, well, just go to a gay club and wait for “Freakum Dress” to come on…

Finally, B’Day also gave us The Beyoncé Experience World Tour. It was her first worldwide headlining tour as a solo artist, and here she completed the transformation that began with Dangerously In Love, and was perfected during the Destiny Fulfilled tour. With The Beyoncé Experience, Beyoncé officially became the tour de force on the stage that we know today. She took over every stage at all 96 tour dates, across all 6 inhabited continents, and commemorated it with a DVD. If you don’t own it, please direct yourself to Amazon.com or your local retailer and do yourself the favor of purchasing it. On Bluray, because why would you want to watch and listen to Beyoncé at anything less than the highest quality available? Anyway, one of the best moments of The Beyoncé Experience was her performance of “Flaws and All,” which she dedicates to her fans. One of the best songs to come from the album, for its lyrics and vocals in particular, was made all the more great with this phenomenal performance. “I don’t know why you love me, and that’s why I love you… You catch me when I fall, accept me flaws and all, and that’s why love you.”

Not sure of the flaws she speaks of, to be honest, but ten years later, we still celebrate the milestone of your most glorious B’Day, Beyoncé. Happy birthday, and Happy B’Day.

 

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