clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The New York Times on Beyonce in 2003: 'She's no Ashanti'

Getty Images Entertainment
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

Last night, Beyoncé proved all over again that she, in her husband's words, is the "greatest living entertainer" in the business. At Sunday's VMAs, Bey brought down the house in a 16-minute set that made the other performers look like opening acts. The VMAs more or less became a Beyoncé legacy concert.

It's hard to think of a time when Beyoncé wasn't dominating pop music. But there was indeed a time. In fact, it was 2003, when The New York Times, in a review of Bey's Dangerously in Love and Ashanti's Chapter II, thought Ashanti was the better bet.

Critic Kelefa Sanneh declared that Beyoncé was "no Ashanti." Sanneh was right — Beyoncé was not an Ashanti — but, in hindsight, not in the way he intended. Sanneh really believed in Ashanti.


"Maybe this album is merely a misstep, and maybe Beyoncé has yet to record the brilliant solo album that people expected. Or maybe it's proof that she isn't quite as versatile as she seemed," Sanneh wrote. "Each singer says her new album is a step forward, an evolution, a triumph — that's what singers always say. But only one of them is right," Sanneh added.

Sanneh, who now writes for The New Yorker, is a smart and astute writer. And all critics are put in a position where they have to ultimately share their personal opinions. Sometimes, as in Bey's case, history proves them wrong.

And perhaps Sanneh pushed Beyoncé to greatness and a mission to obliterate Ashanti. It's worth noting, that on the same day Beyoncé crushed the competition on one of music's biggest stages, Ashanti was 35 minutes late for her afternoon performance at the New York State Fair in Syracuse.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.