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Random Jukebox: Beyoncé’s Crazy In Love

Time to bring back the random jukebox, and this time it’s picked the first fruits of a career away from Destiny’s Child: it’s Crazy In Love by Beyoncé Knowles.

One of the most anticipated pop events of 2003 and probably the defining song of its era, Beyoncé’s first solo single is a body-rocking dancefloor-destroying howitzer of a pop song with masses of hip-hop attitude. The simultaneously calculated and contemporary Crazy In Love made producer Rich Harrison the go-to boy for urban crossover success in the mid-noughties. 

Granted, it wouldn’t be half the song without that glorious signature blast of horns and nervy cowbell rhythms purloined from a ‘70s soul record by The Chi-Lites, but the whole shebang is still way greater than the sum of its parts. Harrison’s production is a work of old-school beatmaking, finding an infectious sample, lightly polishing and cutting it and then building the track on top of it.

Harrison had composed similar-sounding tracks for the likes of Jennifer Lopez and protégé Amerie but failed to match the across-the-board sensation that was Bey’s breakout solo smash. The helmsman had been nursing the beat for a while, aware of how it didn’t fit his genre’s prevailing trends. But saved for Crazy In Love it sounds bold and aggressive and its brass-heavy thrust asserts Beyoncé’s rightful connection with the history of R&B and soul music.

With queen of the wind machine Bey’s hip-grindingly fruity delivery riding the infectious R&B rhythm with grace and mid-range seduction, the funk-soul sister bagged herself the first stone cold classic of the millennium that still sounds absolutely timeless that it permanently branded “diva” to the singer’s, uh, résumé, forever positioning the curvy bottle blonde as an MTV-generation Tina Turner. Temporary insanity never tasted so sweet.

Crazy In Love is a song about the spontaneous madness of desire, so the assembled components include go-go-influenced breakbeats, a proud, bottom-heavy, hip-pop posterior overlaid with lyrics that describe a romantic obsession that causes the protagonist to act out of character and a show-stopping freestyle rap from hubby Jay-Z, so it’s all good. Very, very good in fact, spending eight weeks at the top in the US and topping the singles chart in the Britain as well.

”Stunning pop masterpiece”, ”instant addiction”, ”absolute classic” the critics raved. The white hot gold and platinum-certified track added two Grammy awards to Beyoncé’s shelves in Best R’n’B song and Best Rap / Vocal Collaboration, and Song of the Year at MTV Europe Music Awards. In total, Beyoncé received 19 awards between 2003 and 2004 just for Crazy In Love. This titanic number comes on top of the many awards received for her performances, tours and the album Dangerously in Love, from which the single is taken.

History in the making indeed.

Heralded as song of the decade in 2009 by Rolling Stone magazine, Crazy In Love really does feel like a historical landmark, which can make it difficult to recover as a living single. It’s difficult for Beyoncé too – on her 2019 Homecoming live album she crash-bang-wallop drops it at the start of her set, in a place of honour, and at first treats it with the warmth an old friend deserves. It’s a way to show how she’s grown as a singer – her voice on the first verse is richer, fuller of feeling, than it was on the original. But halfway through the song she turns away from it, first following the line of its beat into a funk jam then switching out from it entirely.

Unsurprisingly, Crazy In Love has been the subject of numerous cover versions. Among them, Emeli Sandé accompanied by the Bryan Ferry Orchestra on a sumptuous 1920s-style cocktail jazz rendition for Baz Luhrmann’s Gatsby, where Jay-Z himself served as an executive producer for both film and soundtrack.

Almost too marvellous for words, in fact.

Steve Pafford

Additional information: FreakyTrigger

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