Album: Beyoncé (2013)
Producer: Ryan Tedder, The-Dream, Beyoncé

In no way would anyone ever request a moment of softness from Beyoncé—on her self-titled record, a fearless and flawless venture into experimental pop territory, Bey didn’t have to search far for bravery. She founded it immediately, confronting all limitations. “XO” stands as part of that growth, but also in opposition to it: it’s impossibly catchy and hooky, as is Beyoncé’s calling card up until this point, and does so lovingly—it’s a heartwarming respite on the album, one that reminds us no one loves as good as the Queen. Perhaps best is the move from her soft speak-sing at the beginning of the song that unravels into a hoarse repetition of “baby love me lights out.” It’s a bedroom voice, an early morning sweetness. —Maria Sherman