There are few musical forces in the world as influential, as widespread, and as unrelenting as Beyoncé. Her career is full of simultaneous Billboard hits, Grammy nominations and MTV Video Music Awards. She is often lauded as one of the most significant cultural figures of her generation because of her music, image, and lifestyle. And her contributions to music, fashion, and pop culture has influenced generations of other artists and women in general.
Beyoncé is a fearless queen when it comes to taking risks in her career, and her courage translated into massive record sales and sold out stadium tours. She even sparked a conversation-changing approach to feminism, and intersectionality.
Time magazine even heralded her as one of the 100 women who defined the last century in 2020. Here are the ways Beyoncé changed the face of pop music and pop culture:
Her music is dominated the past decade.
“Beyoncé is the most important and compelling popular musician of the twenty-first century,” according The New Yorker. Entertainment Weekly named her as the defining pop star of the 2010s decade, noting that “no one dominated music in the 2010s like Queen Bey.”
Ask any person to name a Beyoncé song, surely he or she can name one. Her music has become a part of the popular culture, with her danceable tunes, empowering song lyrics, and record-setting albums. Her songs are not just worldwide hits – they are rife with slogans that simultaneously reflect and direct contemporary culture.
She invented the staccato rap-singing style.
Beyoncé is credited with inventing the staccato rap-singing style. Beyoncé’s use of the style on Destiny’s Child’s 1999 album The Writings on the Wall invented a new form of R&B. Her new style of rap changed the nature of music and revolutionized urban music. Beyoncé’s style encouraged singing and rap to collide in new ways that redefined the sound of pop.
Beyoncé, as a primary pioneer of the rapping style that dominates today’s music, influenced a lot of rappers. She has become the godmother of mumble rappers, who use staccato rap-singing cadence.
She kept on evolving as her music transcended genres.
Beyoncé has so far spanned three decades and her star has continued to shine. Since her days in Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé has been fabulous and her ginormous talent has been visible. The band was refreshing and it presented the world a fabulous R&B all-female line-up. Destiny’s Child has been a whiff of fresh air in the midst of the shallow bubblegum pop of the ‘90s.
Though Beyoncé has always been categorized under pop, her music blends genres and encompasses hip hop, R&B, rock, country and blues. From the swag of “Diva” to her cadence vocals on “Partition,” you can see that Beyoncé has the range.
Her blending of genre makes her music hard to confine to individual genres. It also encouraged other artists to refuse to be confined with genre boundaries.
She has the Beyoncé effect.
The “Beyoncé effect” is a term used by cultural critics and fans to describe her influence over market trends after featuring brands in her work. She makes something cool or worth buying by putting a stamp of approval on it. The work that Beyoncé put throughout her career made it seem like she can do no wrong, so when she does things, she’s the model of perfection.
Beyoncé isn’t much of a trendsetter but a trend synthesizer. She may not invent or originate new trends, but she brilliantly reinterprets and popularizes them, making it all look new, cool, easy, and fun. Case in point: the choreography for “Single Ladies” was inspired by an obscure Bob Fosse work performed by Gwen Verdon on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1969. Beyoncé, an accomplished dancer, picks the right moves – the hand gestures, the hip popping, and the downward punch strut – making them ripe for a translation to a new decade. Her choreography is an enduring favorite at dance fitness studios for women.
On top of her masterful singing and blending, she has the power to turn her lyrics into inescapable catch phrases. From “I woke up like this” to “put a ring on it,” her command over the language and ability to influence the public vernacular is almost mind-boggling. Her catchphrases and plays on her name are loved by bloggers and street-style stars.
She also boosted the popularity of the Louvre after filming the “Apeshit” music video in the museum. If she wears an outfit, the sales of the designer who made it spikes.
She mainstreamed the concept of visual albums and kept the art of music videos alive.
Beyoncé kept the art of music video alive, reviving it as an art form. She has been at the forefront of the music video since 2003, and has restored its relevance in the early 2010s. She made music videos artful, exhilarating and immaculate, as her visual albums Beyoncé and Lemonade became blockbuster releases equivalent to nearly any feature film released in either year.
Beyoncé started the trend of implementing a dance craze along with a music video with her hit song “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” The video has also set the precedent for music videos as memes, which is later adapted for songs like Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” and Drake’s “Hotline Bling.”
Queen Bey is also credited with starting the trend of visual albums. She mainstreamed the concept of visual albums where each and every song comes with a non-linear short film. These videos are high-concept, mini-movies that add artistic heft to projects.
Artists were also inspired by Beyoncé in creating unconventional album releases, with them seeking success by releasing songs without traditional promotion, like Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next (2019). Beyoncé further transformed the way music is created, promoted, and distributed.
She invented the surprise album.
In 2013, Beyoncé released her eponymous fifth album without warning. There were no promotional singles or videos, no previously announced release dates, and even no reports that Beyoncé was even possibly working on an album. In addition to that, every song on the Beyoncé album was accompanied by a video, making it her first visual album. It easily became the fastest-selling record in the history of iTunes until it was overtaken by Adele’s 25.
Beyoncé reinvented how to release an album with her surprise album – and artists who made this move too has been told as “pulling a Beyoncé.” Beyoncé’s surprise album raised the bar for what consumers expect from artists. It incited the trend of artists dropping projects out of the blue, as imitated by Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (2015) and Taylor Swift’s Folklore and Evermore (2020). Years after the arrival of Beyoncé, its ripple effect across the industry is undeniable.
She made concerts worth seeing again.
If you’ve been to a Beyoncé concert, there’s one thing you would see: perfection. It is clear – from her Lemonade mini-concert at the VMAs alone – that her onstage presence is more than great. She’s truly legendary. She has been an undisputed cornerstone of show-stopping entertainers, with very move deliberate and strategic. In an era where little flaws are understandable, she brought the artistry and precision back to live performances.
Her 2011 Billboard Music Awards performance of “Run The World” displayed that perfectionism can be achieved in a live show – from the lighting to the stage, to the costumes to choreography, to the timing, and her singing. She also showed fearlessness when she performed Formation at the 2016 Super Bowl halftime show, despite releasing the song the day before. Though she shared the bill with other big artists like Coldplay and Bruno Mars, they looked like an afterthought when Queen Bey was finished.
She’s the most influential feminist of this generation.
Beyoncé is often credited with popularizing the feminist movement and making intersectional feminism mainstream. She was described as one of the most influential feminist in America, as her brand of feminism encompasses representation, self-reliance, sexual confidence, and economic empowerment – which resonates with a lot of young women in this generation. She has been an advocate for civil rights, self-expression and feminism, proving that it’s possible to be politically engaged and still hold an extremely successful career in mainstream music industry.
“Run the World” (2011) is undeniably a female empowerment anthem by Beyoncé, with the song becoming an anthem for women competing in sports. But before she released this hit, Beyoncé has always been a feminist.
She embraced feminism most notably during the 2014 Mrs. Carter World Tour where she performed “Flawless.” The word, which was defined in the song through an iconic quote from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, served as a large flashing backdrop, and has become a term that she was very vocal about suing. As a black woman, Beyoncé refused to bow down to stereotypes and uses her albums as a tool for both reinvention and evolution. The song ushered a new wave of feminism that embraces sexuality and motherhood, and introduced feminist literature to the mainstream.
She boldly forays into social and political issues.
Beyoncé isn’t afraid to foray into social and political issues. In 2016, she released “Formation,” a song in which the singer explicitly acknowledged and celebrated blackness. The song’s video, which won a Grammy, also made a reference to the Ferguson protests and Hurricane Katrina. She performed the song at the Super Bowl halftime show the day after its release, backed by dancers with Black Panther berets and afros, clearly in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Beyoncé is also credited for mobilizing the black vote in the 2008 presidential election, contributing to the victory of Barack Obama. She acted as a public face for black women, who voted at a higher rate than any other group and were key to Obama’s success.
She’s a fashion icon.
Beyoncé did not just revolutionize mainstream music. She’s also a style icon that made a significant impact on the fashion industry. Whatever Beyoncé wears, the world notices, putting designers and trends on the map. Whether it’s what she wore on an award show, concert stage, music video, red carpet, or when seen on the streets – nothing goes unnoticed when it comes to her star power.
Beyoncé takes a fashion idea and makes it more feminine, sexy, but also accessible. She borrows from fashion, and then fashion borrows from her. She democratizes fashion trends, like the nautical look, to be accessible by the public. She also made bronzed eyes, flash tattoos, naked dresses and curly bobs on trend.
Because of her star power, Beyoncé also managed to put black designers at the forefront of fashion. She played an altruistic role as she raised the visibility of small-time black designers who do not have the money to secure mainstream endorsements.
She gives back and empowers others.
Not all of Beyoncé’s money or that of her husband Jay-Z simply idles in their bank accounts. Beyoncé has often opened her purse during the wake of crises and disasters. She has used her star power to support a good cause, from education to clean water. Beyoncé has also donated around $6 million to mental health services during the pandemic.
The pop star also established a charity in her name: the BeyGOOD initiative, which has done a lot in philanthropic giving in the recent years. It provided university scholarships; clean water to remote places in the world; helped sick children, homeless people, and those affected by storms and extreme weather events in Haiti and Texas; and coronavirus testing and relief. In recognition of this effort, Beyoncé was awarded the BET Humanitarian Award 2020.