She’s the closest thing America has to the Royal Baby.
3. “Part II (On the Run)” — 2013
“Part II (On the Run)” was one of the rare high points of Jay Z’s most recent album, Magna Carta Holy Grail. Beyoncé’s sensual vocals take center stage on this funky yet smooth R&B jam, which serves as an understated follow-up to “’03 Bonnie and Clyde” with its love-on-the-run theme. “A toast to clichés and dark pasts” and later, “I’ll hold your heart and your gun” Bey sings convincingly, despite Jayoncé’s posh lifestyle. “Part II (On the Run)” was released as a radio single just a couple months ago, but it’s clearly been overshadowed by the success of “Drunk in Love” — which is a real shame, because “On the Run” is nearly as strong despite a more understated nature.
4. “Drunk in Love” — 2013
When Bey and Jay sang “Crazy in Love,” fans didn’t know if it was a characterization of their then-private relationship, but it sure did make those rumors swirl. “Drunk in Love” is a clear snapshot of who Jayoncé is, ten years later: a self-aware married couple who still freak on the kitchen floor. Beyoncé’s vocal performance aims for ratchet more than glamor, and the effect is successful in positioning one of pop’s biggest stars in a different light. Despite one of the weakest verses of Jay’s career (“your breastesses are my breakfast” inspires visible cringing), “Drunk in Love” cannot be stopped, thanks in large part to its haunting, Mid-East chant of a sample. Also, SURFBORT.
5. “Upgrade U” — 2006
Probably not autobiographical, seeing as Bey sings of upgrading her man’s game with designer duds and uptown confidence (Hov don’t need no help on the latter). Beyoncé circa 2014, i.e. Feminist Bey, would likely cringe at some of the lyrics, which detail the way she ups his game in the boardroom by smiling pretty on his arm. Also, this: “I can do for you what Martin did for the people/ Ran by the men but women keep the temple.” Even so, it’s an infectious beat that still sounds like fire in the club.
6. “Lift Off” — 2011
Beyoncé stole the show on this minor urban radio single off Kanye and Jay’s Watch the Throne collaborative album. The fact that a song this strong, featuring one of the biggest pop stars in the world and co-written by another (Bruno Mars), never cracked the Hot 100 chart is criminal. Admittedly, Bey and ‘Ye could hold down the song with Jay’s weak verses, but he doesn’t bring it down (like he does in “Drunk in Love”). The NASA clips used in “Lift Off” may have given Bey the idea to use Challenger audio in her own “XO.”
7. “’03 Bonnie and Clyde” — 2003
“You don’t always treat the one that you loving with the same respect that you’re treating the one that you humping”: the most poignant poetry of the ’00s? Not quite. Bey got “Crazy in Love” for her 2003 album, and Jay got “’03 Bonnie and Clyde” for his; at the time, both were big hits. Though Jay and Kanye (among others) crafted a song built on a Tupac sample and borrowing lyrics from Prince, they should have thought twice about all the dated references (Sex and the City, Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown). The song captures a moment in time, not a timeless moment like “Crazy in Love.” I’d say Bey won this battle.
8. “Déjà Vu” — 2006
For her lead B’Day single, Bey tried to recreate the magic of “Crazy in Love,” down to the blazing horns and hi-hat. The message, of course, was totally opposite; this time, ‘Yoncé is haunted by a past lover instead of celebrating their wild ways on full blast. The concept seems off for such a celebratory song, but Bey and Jay each give solid vocal performances.
9. “Hollywood” / “Welcome to Hollywood” — 2006
This is an interesting case. For 2006’s Kingdom Come, Jay tapped his girl to anchor a funky track about the trappings of the silver screen, a timely choice given her lead role in Dreamgirls at the time. The soulful albeit clichéd song was a minor hit on various R&B/Hip-Hop charts. Despite this, “Hollywood” was reworked the following year into “Welcome to Hollywood” for Beyoncé’s deluxe edition of 2006’s B’Day, an album that already included two Jayoncé team-ups (“Upgrade U,” “Déjà Vu”). It wasn’t much better when Bey replaced most of Jay’s verses with her own parts.
10. “That’s How You Like It” — 2003
“Crazy in Love” gets all the glory, but there was another Jay-Bey duet on her Dangerously In Love album. “That’s How You Like It” is musically repetitive and features dated production, but Jay’s verse about Beyoncé putting her foot down is adorable, especially when he calls her a “baby thug.” Its redeeming qualities stem from the fact that it feels genuine to who they are as a couple, like another precursor to “Drunk in Love.”
11. “Tom Ford” — 2013
Beyoncé appears on the outro of Jay’s Magna Carta Holy Grail single “Tom Ford” under her alias Third Ward Thrill. Her back-up vocals are mostly sensual murmurs of “H-Town,” but on a song that finds Jay bragging over wearing Tom Ford, the hometown Houston shout-outs feel genuine at least.