Beyoncé Dangerously in Love

As the standout member of Destiny’s Child, it was only a matter of time before Beyoncé Knowles would break free from the trio and release her solo album. When she dropped "Work It Out” for the Goldmember soundtrack, it was apparent that Beyoncé was a funky sister that wasn’t exactly a run-of-the-mill R&B diva, opting to follow a path that’s more Tina Turner than Mariah Carey. This same desire to produce more funk-filled jams shines bright on the opening track and lead-off single, "Crazy in Love,” which is the easily the highlight, with its snapping hip-hop beat, that massive horn section and even Jay-Z grabbing the mic and not making you want to cringe. It’s also the catchiest cut by Beyoncé and her greatest achievement as far as songwriting this time around. Sadly, the rest of the album fails to live up to the expectations of that opening number, and slips into slow-jams, vocal gymnastics and duets with Sean Paul. There’s a couple more somewhat bright spots like her collaboration with Outkast’s Big Boi on the catchy "Hip-Hop Star,” and though not at exciting as it could have been, "Signs” with Missy Elliott is amusing as the two drop astrological queries for all the men of the world. "Be With You” and "Yes” are examples of how much soul Beyoncé truly has, even though she’s essentially creating Billboard placements. Seeing as this girl is a mere 21 years old, it’s amazing to think she’s even penning songs of this calibre as it is — who knows what she’ll be capable of ten years from now. (Columbia)