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The 70 Greatest Beyoncé Songs

From hits that owned the radio to empowerment anthems that stopped the world, and much more

Photo illustration by Tracy Allison for Rolling Stone; Images used in illustration by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage; Theo Wargo/Getty Images for TIDAL; Kevin Winter/Getty Images; Sunyixun/Getty Images

For at least the past decade, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter has been the world’s greatest living entertainer. Who else can annihilate complex dance routines and maintain pristinely powerhouse vocals for packed stadiums the way she does? Who else can so thoroughly dominate news cycles with impeccable and innovative surprise albums? Who else has produced music films and video anthologies as compelling and imaginative? Her combination of showmanship, skill, creative vision, and influence is unmatched by her contemporary peers. 

And, of course, the foundation of Beyoncé’s incredible oeuvre is the music, and her uncanny ability to write, produce, curate, and perform it. Her songs are pop masterpieces, gorgeous and diverse, with several becoming cultural touchstones, from the unmistakable shimmy of “Crazy in Love” to the wiggling hand of “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” In honor of the impending arrival of her seventh studio album (out this Friday), we’ve compiled and ranked 70 of Beyoncé’s greatest tracks as a solo artist – including a few prominent features. Bow down. 

From Rolling Stone US


‘Schoolin’ Life’ (2011)

Even though this track is sometimes overlooked in the discussion of Beyoncé’s best dance records, it remains one of the clearest points of contact to her longtime love of disco. Mixed by DJ Swivel — who has declared it one of the favorites of his career — the song combines punctuating horn blasts, full-bodied guitars, and Bey’s dynamic belting for a powerful anthem of self-discovery. Beyoncé’s performance of “Schoolin’ Life” during her residency at Revel: Atlantic City also marked a critical point in her work as a live creative director. —C.B.


‘If I Were a Boy,’ (Maurice Joshua Mojo UK Remix – Main) (2009)

Originally featured as a ballad on 2008’s I Am … Sacha Fierce, “If I Were a Boy,” is one of the rare songs in Bey’s catalog without a writing credit by Queen Bey herself. She makes the song all her own with her raw and expansive vocals. Seven months after Sasha Fierce’s release, Beyoncé released a special album of videos and remixes, Above and Beyonce Dance Mixes, that included a version of the song that also came with an instantly recognizable black-and-white video where Beyonce cosplays as a member of the NYPD and a new remix. With the help of producer Maurice Joshua, Beyoncé reimagines this song again, changing it from a sad ballad to a dance anthem. —A.W.


‘Best Thing I Never Had’ (2011)

Five years after “Irreplaceable,” Beyoncé twisted the knife into an unworthy ex even harder with “Best Thing I Never Had,” a single and standout track from 4. “When I think that there was a time that I almost loved you,” she sings, “You showed your ass, and baby, yes, I saw the real you.” The list of songwriters behind the brash R&B ballad is long, but it includes Beyoncé, Patrick “J. Que” Smith, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, and Shea Taylor. “Best Thing I Never Had” eaked at Number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Diane Martel-directed video shows Beyoncé prepping for her wedding and looking back at an unhappy prom night with her ex. “I never went to my prom,” she said, “so now I get to have a prom, but my prom sucks.” —A.G.


‘Baby Boy’ feat. Sean Paul (2003)

For the follow-up to her breakthrough “Crazy in Love,” Beyoncé enlisted the hitmaker Sean Paul, who flew to Miami to record his vocals after Beyoncé sent him a demo track of the song’s reggae-raga rhythm. Knowles, Jay-Z, and Paul all received writing credits on the song, which interpolated “Here Comes the Hot Stepper,” by Jamaican reggae singer Ini Kamoze, and became Beyoncé’s second Number One. “It was a great experience to meet her, but I was very surprised she picked me,” Paul said later that year. “It shows dancehall music’s getting bigger.” —J.B.


‘Mine’ (2013)

On her alt-R&B track “Mine,” Beyoncé casts doubt over her marriage and explores her painful journey to motherhood. The lyrical honesty here is rare for a pre-Lemonade Bey song, foreshadowing the confessional ballads to come three years later. A meeting of two of the biggest Black artists of the time, “Mine” featured Drake, and brought in production heavy-hitters Noah “40” Shebib and Majid Jordan to push the boundaries of R&B. —E.E.


‘I Care (Homecoming Live)’ (2019)

The rendition of “I Care” performed during 2018’s “Beychella” shows the Queen at her most stripped-down — and arguably her best. Reminiscent of her 2015 Grammy tribute to Stevie Wonder with Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga, and Gary Clark Jr., this live performance showcases vocal runs only she could pull off while working harmoniously with other musicians to make onstage magic. Just as important as her vocals is the track’s placement in the set, after the Lemonade track “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” Introduced with a string quartet and a transitional monologue from Malcolm X, Bey flawlessly blends the angst of that Jack White collab into the emotional depth of her fan-favorite power ballad. In tandem, the two-track run signals that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. —E.E. 


‘Upgrade U’ (2006)

Here, Beyoncé and Jay-Z explore the idea of a power couple as they trade rhymes about a life of luxury and the perks of being with each other. They name-drop Cartier and Jacob the Jeweler over a Swizz Beatz-produced track that samples a 1969 song by soul singer Betty Wright. “I see your hustle with my hustle, I can keep you,” Bey offers. What shines brightest is their hard-hitting chemistry, with the duo offering a palpable sense of how they complement one another in real life. —R.M.


‘Hold Up’ (2016)

Only Bey could sample Andy Williams and interpolate Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Soulja Boy in a single song about jealousy and infidelity, while asking Father John Misty — who recently wrote an entire album about a happy marriage — to lend a hand with lyrics. (Misty would later recall his shock over his contribution making the cut: “I went crazy.”) “Hold Up” is just the second track off Lemonade, so Bey is only getting started on her rage. In the video, she takes a bat and smashes windows and fire hydrants in a stunning mustard-colored gown — savage and graceful all at once. —A.M.


‘Halo’ (2009)

Today, Beyoncé’s status as one of the world’s best balladeers is unquestionable, and this is in part thanks to “Halo.” The ballad, co-written by Ryan Tedder, sees Beyoncé exploring an almost wistful type of fondness she has for her lover while showing off significant vocal power — and, just as important, vocal restraint with melismatic runs that bring to mind Whitney Houston. All of these come together with the song’s icy synth and cascading piano notes to create one of the more intense and timeless power ballads of the 2000s and further establish Beyoncé’s position as a vocal powerhouse. —D.V.


‘Kitty Kat’ (2006)

“Kitty Kat” is more than a flirtatious warning to a lover, it’s also a preamble to versions of Beyoncé that reveal themselves over her next several albums. Bey’s hyper-feminine alter ego is situated in the music video directed by Melina Matsoukas, and within lyrics where she alludes to her “sweet little nookie,” a side of the singer exposed on her self-titled project, and that iconic bridge signaled the official start of her rap-singing résumé. The Neptunes-produced track sets itself in the early 2000s with the duos’ signature four-count start, and it, like that four-count, has come to transcend time. —E.E.


‘Run the World (Girls)’ (2011)

With a military drumbeat, “Run the World (Girls)” is a little bit punk — driven by its intensity and jagged structure. At its center is a rallying cry for female empowerment, but the song really showcases the breadth of Bey’s talent. Plus, it’s brimming with delicious hooks that make the song a dance-floor banger. While the messaging might not have been too deep ​​(“Girls!/We run this mutha/Girls!/Who run the world”), it’s impossible to deny how Bey’s boundary-pushing sonic exploration on this song has carried influence in her work over the years. —I.K.


‘XO’ (2013)

Sonically, “XO” is one of Beyoncé’s most gorgeous songs, all lush longing and stadium-size romance. But there’s more than meets the ear at first: The lyrics keep referencing an always-encroaching darkness, and “XO” kicks off by sampling a radio transmission from the 1986 Challenger space-shuttle disaster. That latter move, presumably meant to underscore the theme of love that can vanish at any moment, led to protests and charges of insensitivity from the widow of a Challenger astronaut and others. Beyoncé — no stranger to space imagery, as one writer pointed out — explained in a statement: “The song ‘XO’ was recorded with the sincerest intention to help heal those who have lost loved ones and to remind us that unexpected things happen, so love and appreciate every minute that you have with those who mean the most to you.” —C.H.


‘No Angel’ (2013)

“No Angel” is simple and sexy easy-listening from Beyoncé, which feels rare and special from a powerhouse vocalist like her. She quickly shows off that skill with some impressive ad-libs as the song winds down, but “No Angel” is composed of mostly calm and breathy singing about two lovers embracing their humanity. Caroline Polachek, who wrote the song’s original treatment, likened Bey’s approach to painting. “It sounds like the whole song melts,” said the singer-songwriter. “It’s amazing.” —M.C.


‘Flawless’ (2013)

“Flawless” began as a loosie SoundCloud track that drew inspiration from fellow Houston native DJ Screw’s eponymous production style, and turned into a masterpiece of confidence and dominance. Featuring a series of samples from “We Should All Be Feminists,” a speech delivered by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at a TEDxEuston event, as well as the Star Search episode in which Bey’s then-girl group Girl’s Tyme appeared and lost, the song uses her life experiences as a message: “The reality is, sometimes you lose. And you’re never too good to lose, you’re never too big to lose … and you have to embrace those things.” In this case, her loss even included an infamous fight between her husband and sister that Nicki Minaj referenced on this song’s remix. Beyoncé’s performance exceeds expectations. More than being “flawless,” it’s fearless. —K.T.


‘Party,’ feat. J. Cole and André 3000 (2011)

Beyoncé’s 4 is a testament to her attention to detail. “Party,” which she helped produce with Kanye West, showcases her ability to combine every part of what makes her music unique. The opening synth chords are unforgettable earworms. Beyoncé stacked her signature harmonies, and André 3000 was tapped to deliver a delightful verse full of double-entendres. J. Cole also phoned in a feature for a remix, but André’s performance is significantly better because of the dexterity in his rhymes, thus culminating in a luxurious ode to a good time. —M.M.


‘Dance for You’ (2011)

Turning church organs into a tool for carnal worship, “Dance for You” is one of Bey’s most successful musical marriages of sensuality and love. With more than six minutes of searing guitar, buzzy synths, and unmitigated adulation, Beyoncé spreads the gospel of her desire to her lover alone, but the spirit of her confidence and passion could empower anyone to give the object of their affection a show. This is one of the best songs in Beyoncé’s discography to mimic her sexiest moves to. —M.C.


‘Daddy Lessons,’ feat. the Chicks (2016)

When Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, native of Texas, released her swaggering tribute to country music on Lemonade, some critics slammed her effort as not being “country enough.” The Chicks, quite familiar with unhinged criticism from the country-music establishment — they were banned from the radio because of their criticism of then-President George W. Bush — quickly voiced their support for the superstar’s song, literally, by covering it during their comeback tour. But while the artists’ individual versions of “Daddy Lessons” are great, this collaboration at the Country Music Awards is absolutely scorching and joyfully defiant. —L.T.