When She Was on That Elevator
At first look, Beyoncé was just a passive player in the events of that now-infamous Met Gala after party. On May 12, TMZ published published video footage showing her husband, Jay Z, and her younger sister, Solange, getting into a physical fight in the elevator of the Standard Hotel. A man who looked like a bodyguard tried to restrain Solange; Jay Z tried to protect himself from her punches and kicks; and Beyoncé, well — she just stood there, for the most part.
What makes Elevatorgate such a defining moment of Beyoncé’s year, though, was the way it poked a hole in her otherwise pristine public imagine — an image she tries so hard to maintain through guarded interviews and a PR team that cracks down on anything deemed unflattering. Beyoncé initially tried to address the incident with her own spin machine — her Instagram account — which was suddenly inundated with happy pictures of her and Solange. But when the speculation wouldn’t down die down, she addressed it in a rare public statement and, later, in song. Thanks to the “Flawless” remix, Beyoncé got the last word and the last laugh, but the elevator footage forced fans and detractors alike to reflect on why we just can’t look away from celebrities in their moments of personal turmoil.
When She Dropped the “Flawless” Remix
Just a few months after dropping her surprise album, Beyoncé disrupted fans’ evening plans with another surprise — a remix of her song “Flawless” (this time, without the asterisks) that featured rapper Nicki Minaj. The update was even more aggressive than the original: in addition to trading Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s monologue about feminism for a show-stopping verse from Minaj, it went on the offensive about her personal life — “Of course sometimes sh-t go down when there’s a billion dollars on an elevator” — to remind haters that while everyone may wake up “flawless,” they’ve still got nothing on her.
When She Embarked on the “On the Run” Tour
How do you cement your status as music’s top power couple? Answer: You hit the road on a co-headlining stadium summer tour. The “On the Run” tour paid tribute to their very first collaboration, “‘03 Bonnie & Clyde,” and it also recruited Don Cheadle, Sean Penn, Rashida Jones, Jake Gyllenhaal and other stars to appear in a fake movie trailer promoting the tour. Clearly, this is a couple that spares no expense when it comes to indulging their artistic vision. The tour instantly become the summer’s hottest ticket, but fans who couldn’t get a chance to see the proud parents of Blue Ivy in action got a second chance with the couple’s HBO concert special.
When She Covered the TIME 100 Issue
When Beyoncé wants something, she makes it happen. “Shooting for TIME was definitely one of the goals in my life,” she said of covering our TIME 100 issue in April. “It’s something important for me as an artist because it’s not about fashion or beauty or music, it’s about the influence I’ve had on culture.” But the cover, which came out around the time People magazine named Lupita Nyong’o “The World’s Most Beautiful Person of 2014,” was an important moment for black women especially, according to TIME’s Maya Rhodan. “It would be easy to dismiss the covers as revering of the fickle world of celebrity,” she wrote. “It’s much harder to ignore the importance of this moment for little brown and black girls who will see these covers on supermarket shelves and think for a second, “Hey, she looks just like me.”
When She Closed Out the MTV Video Music Awards
Jay Z called Beyoncé “the greatest living entertainer” when he presented her with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 2014 VMAs, but lest you think the rapper was just paying a nice compliment to his wife, Beyoncé’s roughly 16-minute medley of nearly all of her last album offered convincing evidence otherwise. Dressed only in a sequined leotard — no costume changes here — Beyoncé opted for simplicity and minimal theatrics as she blew through songs like “Partition” and “XO” to show you don’t need stunts to still stun.
When She Sang in the Fifty Shades of Grey Trailer
Fifty Shades of Grey is likely to attract plenty of eyeballs when the adaptation of E. L. James’ bestselling erotic novel hits theaters on Valentine’s Day in 2015. But the franchise got a boost of credibility when Beyoncé unexpectedly re-recorded her 2003 hit “Crazy in Love” for the film’s record-breaking trailer. “With everything she’s been doing recently, the surprise factor has been a big part of it,” recording artist and violinist Margot, who arranged the strings on the trailer’s sultry remix, told TIME about the project.
When She Opened the Grammy Awards
Monogamy never had a hipper endorsement than when Beyoncé and Jay Z opened the 56th Grammy Awards with their first-ever live rendition of “Drunk in Love.” The performance whet fans’ appetite for a then-unannounced joint summer tour, but it was also notable for featuring a double-helping of surfboard, a word that “Drunk in Love” transformed into its own Internet meme thanks to Beyoncé’s exaggerated pronunciation. (Maya Rudolph would even parody it on Saturday Night Live.) Spellings of “serfbort” differ, but the incident illustrates the scope of Beyoncé’s influence: More than a decade after she taught us the meaning of “Bootylicious,” Beyoncé doesn’t just infiltrate iTunes, she infiltrates our language.
When She Renewed Her Vows with Jay Z
Divorce rumors only flared up a few times in Beyoncé’s 2014, but when they did, they burned hot. Beyoncé and Jay Z’s marital health was the subject of several theories about what went down during the infamous elevator incident with Beyoncé’s sister, Solange. Gossip publications reported that emergency meetings between the two stars and their lawyers were the only thing keeping the “On the Run” tour from self-destructing. Divorce rumors from one publication with an apparent track record of calling splits led even Beyoncé to try and subtly assure her Instagram followers that everything was just fine in paradise. Beyoncé found several ways to silence the chatter (like appearing with Jay Z and daughter Blue Ivy Carter on stage after her MTV Video Music Awards performance) but nothing put the rumors to bed — at least for 2014 — quite like renewing her vows with Jay Z in October.
When She Announced a New Brand with Topshop
Beyoncé wins awards for her music, but she gets museum exhibits dedicated to her style. This summer the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland debuted an exhibit featuring the singer’s most iconic looks, from her “Single Ladies” leotard to her Super Bowl halftime show outfit. So it’s no wonder her impressive fashion sense translates into impressive business acumen as well: in October, retailer Topshop announced a 50-50 partnership with Beyoncé for a new brand of athletic wear called Parkwood Topshop Athletic Ltd. “This is not a collaboration,” Topshop’s owner said in his announcement. “This is about building a brand and building a business.”
When She Announced Her Beyoncé Victory Lap
Until Taylor Swift came along, the music industry spent most of 2014 living in the shadow of Beyoncé. Experts wondered who would engineer a surprise release next — Mariah? Azealia? — and whether her unconventional distribution was a game-changing new paradigm. What didn’t cross their minds was that she might do it again, when a “leaked” track list in early November suggested she was re-releasing Beyoncé with another album’s worth of new songs. The rumor turned out to be false (a four-disc “platinum edition” did arrive with a few new songs, including “7/11”), but the hype was a reminder to sleep with one eye open at night — you never know when another Beyoncé surprise could strike.