Argfuably the most popular female vocalist of her generation, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles (born September 4, 1981), commonly known as Beyoncé, has been a virtual tour de force as a singer, dancer and actress.

    The Houston native first came to the public's attention as the teenage lead singer of the R&B group Destiny's Child.  The group became the biggest female act of the late 90s and early 00s, with a series of #1 hits such as "Say My Name," "Independent Woman" and the infamous "Bootylicious." And despite multiple member changes during the group's tenure, the most important constant was Beyonce.

    In June 2003, Beyonce released her debut solo album, Dangerously In Love, and it became one of the year's biggest discs, fueled by the #1 hit "Crazy in Love." Two years later, Destiny's Child was formally history and Beyonce's career moved to the next level with B'day and that year's biggest single, "Irreplaceable."

    While she was riding high on the music charts, Beyonce was also attempting an acting career.  Her initial roles in the third Austin Powers movie and Steve Martin's The Pink Panther were both lightweight, but she showed her acting chops in her role as Deena (a thinly veiled reference to Diana Ross) in 2006's Dreamgirls.  She also silenced her musical critics, as she gave the performance of her career on the movie's big new ballad, "Listen."

    Following her marriage to longtime boyfriend Jay-Z in 2008, she released the two disc I Am...Sasha Fierce, a theme album that failed to match the critical success of her earlier discs, but which continued her commercial winning streak with hits like "Single Ladies" and "If I Were A Boy."  The video for the former song was thrust into the spotlight when rapper Kanye West jumped on the stage at the VMAs to criticize Beyonce's loss to Taylor Swift for Video of the Year.  It became an embarrassment to West, but Beyonce's gracious treatment of Swift won even more fans for her.

    In late 2009, Knowles released the CD/DVD combination I Am Yours.., which captured her live performance at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas.

    Through her time with Destiny's Child and as a solo singer, Beyonce Knowles has shown herself to be a fine singer and dancer with a keen sense of musical and style trends and a knack for marketing that gives her the appearance of being everywhere while also maintaining a level of secrecy.  It has been an interesting balancing act, but has led her to her current position as perhaps the most popular musical artist in the world.

    By Chris Rizik