Tomorrow marks Beyoncé’s 40th birthday, and subsequently the 15th anniversary of her beloved album B’Day. Released September 1st, 2006, three days before her 25th birthday, the album remains a fan favorite and was a pivotal chapter in paving the way for a career that will eventually earn her a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (a feat she will see in her 40s). B'Day was also Beyoncé’s first venture into the realm of comprehensive visual projects (something we would see much more of in the years to come) and was accompanied by hit singles and groundbreaking performances. Today we revisit the history of B’Day, and how it set the stage for her following projects.
How Beyoncé’s B'Day Changed The Game
On the Queen's 40th birthday, we reflect back on the historic album
It all started in the spring of 2006, where Beyoncé was supposed to be taking a break. The then 24-year-old was coming off a busy 2005 where she’d spent the majority of the year touring with bandmates/best friends Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams in what would be Destiny’s Child’s last world tour, while also spending the remaining few months of 2005 and early 2006 filming her role as Deena Jones for her upcoming movie Dreamgirls. Beyoncé’s schedule had been quite hectic during the course of the previous couple of years with not much downtime, so it was decided that there would be an extended break before working on the follow-up to her 2003 debut Dangerously In Love.
Except she didn’t listen.
Inspired by her experiences filming Dreamgirls, Beyoncé was itching to get back into the studio, recording the album behind her father’s (who was her manager at that time) back. During the course of two weeks, Beyonce alongside world-renowned producers such as The Neptunes, Sean Garrett, and Swizz Beats knocked out B'Day primarily at Sony Music Studios in New York City. The album expanded upon Dangerously In Love’ theme of funk-inspired songs with live instrumentation, along with elements of R&B, Pop, and Soul. The album wrapped, and the first single “Déjà Vu" featuring Jay-Z was released in June 2006. Around the same time, Beyoncé held auditions for an all-female band which she named The Suga Mamas. The 2006 BET Awards just happened to be three days away, and it was there that Beyonce performed the single for the first time.
After a legendary performance at BET (which many still regard as being one of her best), Beyoncé began embarking on the pre-promotional tour for the album. I say pre-promotional because long-time Beyonce fans know that back then Beyoncé would go on two tours to fully support her records. The first one would be a promotional campaign in which she would visit different parts of the world to perform singles from the album, give interviews, etc. The second one would be an official world tour which in this case was The Beyoncé Experience World Tour, her first extended tour as a solo artist.
“Ring The Alarm,” the second single, wasn’t officially released until September, but Beyoncé began promotion as early as late July/early August performing the song at the 2006 VMAs on August 31st, 2006. B’Day hit stores on September 4th, with Beyoncé performing a special show in Tokyo to celebrate. The following day the newly turned 25-year-old was back in the States making appearances on TRL and 106 & Park. The campaign continued in the following months coinciding with the upcoming release of Dreamgirls. In October 2006, Beyoncé dropped the single and music video for “Irreplaceable,” one of her most successful songs to date, and performed the track at the 2006 American Music Awards as well as various different shows.
In early December, Beyoncé released “Listen” as the first single from the Dreamgirls soundtrack, and the song would go on to become the defining ballad of the B’Day era in a way similar to the Dangerously In Love title track from her debut. Between Dreamgirls and the album, Beyoncé’s schedule was going to be jam-packed in the months leading up to the start of her tour, but she had her eyes set on an extensive project that would catapult her to yet another level.
Enter the B’Day Anthology Video Album —Beyoncé’s first dive into the world visual realm. Admitting that she was having a hard time figuring out which songs to shoot music videos for next, Beyoncé decided to solve that problem by filming videos for all of the remaining songs on the album. The Anthology Video Album was entirely self-funded (her record label wouldn’t give her the budget to make that many music videos), and due to the tight nature of her schedule, would have to be filmed in….two weeks.
During that two-week period, Beyoncé shot a total of nine (yes nine) music videos, working with various directors including Jake Nava, Melina Matsoukas, Anthony Mandler, and more. Though the video album wasn’t released until April, the videos had to be filmed in late January/early February in order for the mission to be accomplished. In addition to the nine videos they knocked out, Beyoncé also included the music videos for “Déjà Vu," “Ring The Alarm,” “Irreplaceable,” and “Listen.” The Anthology went on to be certified double platinum in late 2007.
After the video album was done, Beyoncé made an appearance at the 2007 Grammys where she was introduced by Prince (whom she had previously done a duet with at the 2004 Grammys ) to perform “Listen.” Two weeks later she performed a Dreamgirls medley at the Oscars with co-stars Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose. She would then go on to perform a mini-concert at the 2007 Houston Rodeo and kicked off The Beyoncé Experience tour the following month.
The tour itself had five legs and spanned almost seven months as Beyoncé traveled the globe to put on a show for her many different fans around the world. Later that summer, Beyoncé reunited with Kelly and Michelle at the 2007 BET awards joining together to perform the tracks “Get Me Bodied,” and Kelly’s lead single “Like This” featuring Eve from her album Ms. Kelly. The performance also included an appearance from Solange with all four dancing together at the end.
The Beyoncé Experience World Tour wrapped in 2007, and shortly after she began working on her third album I Am...Sasha Fierce.
In the years since we’ve seen Beyoncé expand the concepts that she first experimented with during the B’Day era. Her surprise 2013 self-titled album was a complete visual effort that was even bigger and better due to Beyoncé’s growth as an artist and the rise of the internet/social media. 2016’s Lemonade is classified as a short film, and her performance at Coachella in 2018 is an example of how she began taking the production of her shows to the next level with The Beyonce Experience.
B’Day was fearless. It was bold. And it will forever have a place in history.
Happy Birthday, Bey.