Nancy Miller
December 26, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

Beyonce is one of our Entertainers of the Year

Girl, we didn’t know you could get down like that! Beyonce’s first solo venture could have played it safe, simply delivering her from Destiny’s Child-hood to maturity. But while living Dangerously in Love, she birthed contagious hip-hop dance tracks, ’70s-R&B-flavored jams, and garment-rending ballads. ”I didn’t think about trying to make it the most commercial record,” Beyonce says. ”Literally, some songs don’t even have a chorus.” In fact, it was an 11th-hour epiphany that brought boyfriend Jay-Z’s rhymes to ”Crazy in Love,” the first single. ”He came to the studio at 3 a.m. the night before I serviced it to radio,” recalls the 22-year-old. ”I just thought it was such a great mixture of old school and new school. And that uh-oh, you wanted to hear it over and over again.”

And then some: Released last May, ”Crazy in Love” became the summer’s everlasting gobstopper, helping to sell 2 million copies of Dangerously and earning Beyonce six Grammy nominations. But the reality of her world domination wasn’t limited to music: There was the movie (no, audiences weren’t crazy in love with The Fighting Temptations, but Beyonce helped save the $30 million grosser from box office damnation), the big-bucks Pepsi contract, and the adoration of OutKast’s Andre 3000 in ”Hey Ya!” (”I heard the lyrics and was like, ‘Does he say Beyonces and Lucy Lius?”’) ”It seems like every month something really huge happened,” she says.

Even with a schedule cinched tighter than her Versace corset, this diva next door hasn’t developed a reputation for meltdowns or high-maintenance demands. ”I love grapes and Diet Snapple,” she says of her dressing-room requests. ”That’s about it.” With a clothing line, a second solo project, and a third Destiny album in the works for 2004, she is staying focused on her master plan: ”Hopefully, I’ll be able to retire early and start a family, and enjoy all the fruits of my labor.”

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