Welcome back to TGJ Replay!
Designed much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ features, ‘Replay’ is That Grape Juice‘s newest reflective segment to act as a written quest to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday. Unlike its TGJ retrospective predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase entire albums (and eras) from a library of pop and Urban pop music hits.
Now, as the world celebrates the 34th birthday of music icon Beyonce, there’s no better time to ode her with a salute in the form of a “replay” of her sophomore album ‘BDay.’
“This is the album women need to hear. It’s for all the women out there that need to hear something that will give them strength and empowerment. There’s a song for everyone on this album – women in love, women who need to get out of love, women who are vulnerable, and women in every aspect of a relationship.
A lot of the records [on the album] are not about my life, but are about my friends’ lives or women around me. I thought it was important that I didn’t do the same album about love once again, but I needed a variety of things everyone can relate to.” – Beyonce, 2006
Early 2006 found Beyonce Knowles at the most important crossroads of her career.
For after setting the world ablaze with her long-awaited debut album, 2003’s ‘Dangerously In Love,’ the pressure was ever mounting for the diva to follow up with another scorcher. But, instead of igniting studios and stages by her lonesome, Knowles took a very unexpected left and reunited with her former Destiny’s Child bandmates.
Delivering their fourth project ‘Destiny Fulfilled’ in 2004 (read TGJ Replay: ‘Destiny Fulfilled’), the trio would touch every corner of the globe the next year for a supporting tour of the same name. There, they announced their destiny had truly been fulfilled as the album would serve as their last.
With that safety net in her rearview, anticipation began to mount higher than ever for what the group’s lead singer was cooking up for her overdue sophomore album – a tease and taste of which was delivered with the #1 single ‘Check On It’ featuring Slim Thug (found on the ‘Pink Panther’ soundtrack).
Instead of sticking to the original plan of constructing a sophomore album full of leftover tracks from ‘Dangerously In Love’, Bey, teaming yet again with longtime collaborators Rodney Jerkins, The Neptunes, Sean Garrett, and more, took two weeks to secretly record the project while on vacation from filming ‘Dreamgirls’ (read TGJ Replay: ‘Dreamgirls’ soundtrack’).
Together, they crafted ‘B’Day’ – an ode to self released on the singer’s 25th birthday.
After the colossal success of her official debut solo single ‘Crazy In Love,’ featuring then-boyfriend Jay Z, the duo tried a redo for ‘B’Day’s first single – the aptly titled ‘Deja Vu.’ Much like ‘Crazy,’ ‘Deja Vu’ was a horn-heavy affair boasting a thumping bass line and energetic percussion to match. Unlike ‘Crazy,’ the song wasn’t exactly greeted with the greatest critical or commercial acclaim.
Indeed, despite a bevy of high octane live performances, the tune’s greatest promotional weapon – its accompanying music video – found disapproval in the most unlikely of places…her own fans. In fact, her devoted followers (later christened ‘the Beyhive’) started an online petition to request the racy video be reshot. And, while their wish wasn’t granted, the overall commercial response – in addition to a disappointing #4 peak on the Hot 100 – signaled to some that maybe Beyonce’s steam was cooling.
But, as time would reveal, they couldn’t have been more wrong.
While the Hot 100 wasn’t exactly hot on ‘Deja Vu,’ Billboard 200 would sing another tune for its parent album. Shifting a whopping 541,000 units its first week, the commercial performance of ‘B’Day’ nearly doubled that of her debut project’s opening week.
To reinforce the handsome showing, Bey & team quickly followed with the release of a second single ‘Ring the Alarm’ (unveiled via live performance at the 2006 MTV VMAs the week before ‘B’Day’s release):
A fiery anthem calling out disgust for her lover’s mistress, many fans and critics alike felt the song’s timely delivery was a direct jab at then up-and-comer Rihanna (who was rumored to be involved with Jay Z). With the rumor mill hard at work, in addition to her show-stopping performance at the VMAs, ‘Ring the Alarm’ was hoisted to the Hot 100’s top 20 upon its debut. Earning a #12 placement its first week, the song gave Bey her highest debut on the chart to date.
We would quickly see, however, the buck stop there.
With a #11 peak, ‘Alarm’ became Bey’s first song to miss the top 10 and lowest charting single of her career up to that point. And, while fans began to worry about the album’s buoyancy on the Billboard 200 given the so-so performance of its singles, the project’s third release – ‘Irreplaceable’ – quickly replaced that fear with felicity.
The most pop-leaning record performed in the singer’s solo career at the time, ‘Irreplaceable’ quickly won critic and fan favor. Shooting to #1 less than 2 months after its debut (thanks in great part to radio), the tune’s ascension to the top granted Bey her 2nd #1 hit of the year and 4th overall. In addition, it gave her a number of distinct honors including, but not limited to, the following:
- Best selling single of 2007
- Tying Diane Warren for 3rd place for the most number one singles by a female song-writer (surpassing Janet Jackson and Carole King)
- The second singer to have two songs clock over 200 million audience impressions in one year (‘Check On It’ & ‘Irreplaceable).
The first? Mariah Carey‘s ‘We Belong Together’ and ‘Shake It Off’ just a year prior.
Seated a whopping 10 weeks on the tally’s perch, the song’s success – her longest reign atop the Hot 100 – came as a sigh of relief for fans who were concerned the songstress was on her way to a sophomore slump.
The album’s final two singles, ‘Upgrade U’ ft. Jay Z (promotional) and ‘Get Me Bodied,’ jointly delivered career lows for the diva on the Hot 100. Peaking at #59 and #68 respectively, the songs’ failures to impact the chart’s top 20 came in great part to the overshadowing success of ‘Irreplaceable.’ This, in addition to the lack of promotion afforded them as, by the time they were released, Bey was in tour mode/full-on promotion for the ‘Dreamgirls’ film.
To fan’s delight, however, a number of re-releases and deluxe editions of the project kept it afloat on charts well into 2007. Featuring new tunes and videos for most of the songs, Bey would jet back to the top of Billboard Hot 100 with the release of ‘Beautiful Liar’ – a long-awaited collaboration with hip-winding diva Shakira.
Hopping from #94 to #3 in just one week, the emphatic reception of the tune etched it in history books for the largest leap on the Hot 100 (a record later broken by Britney Spears and, later, Kelly Clarkson).
When all was said and done, ‘B’Day’ shifted 8 million worldwide. On the industry recognition front, ‘B’Day’ secured six Grammy nods with one win in 2007 for the ‘Best Contemporary R&B Album’ category.
Let us tell it, ‘B’Day’ holds a very special place in Beyonce’s catalog. By no means her magnum opus, it still deserves commending for its artistic value and riskiness. Said risk was not only found in delivering a “concept album,” but also, considering it was her sophomore showing, in going so far left sonically from the offerings of her debut album and Destiny Child’s outings and in trying to balance a radio friendly album with tunes like ‘Deja Vu,’ ‘Green Light,’ and ‘Suga Mama’ – the likes of which were not found on the Billboard Hot 100’s upper rankings.
Lastly, via songs like ‘Resentment’ and ‘Ring the Alarm,’ it was the first time Bey attempted to show some level of depth in her recordings. Ironically, while delivering a dearth of ballads or slow grooves, ‘B’Day’ still rings as Beyonce’s most vocally impressive project as throaty growls, spirited melisma, soaring crescendoes, and the like line a number of the tunes found aboard the high octane tracklist.
All in all, ‘B’Day’ was a necessary step in Beyonce’s transition from pop star to pop icon. A step, as we press play on our jam ‘Get Me Bodied,’ we are far from mad at. But, as we drop down low and sweep the floor with it, you tell us: