July 07, 2003 12:00 PM

Beyoncé (Columbia)

Not since Diana Ross left the Supremes has the solo debut of a girl-group alum been so highly anticipated. And Destiny’s Child front woman Beyoncé (who, in true diva fashion, has dropped her last name, Knowles, for this disc) does not disappoint with the irresistible first single, “Crazy In Love,” which is destined to be this summer’s “Hot in Herre.” A bumping party starter with a contagious go-go beat and a swinging horn sample from the Chi-Lites’ 1970 hit “Are You My Woman? (Tell Me So),” it is one of two tracks featuring a guest rap by Beyoncé’s reported beau, Jay-Z. Unfortunately the CD doesn’t have more groovylicious cuts like “Crazy In Love.” Nine of 14 songs are slow jams, which makes the album feel, well, slow. Still, ’70s-ish soul ballads like the Missy Elliott-produced “Signs” give the independent woman a chance to show off her more mature, less showy vocals, including a sultry upper register that at times recalls Aaliyah. She also dabbles in rock, reggae, jazz, gospel, Latin and Middle Eastern sounds, while still playing it fairly safe.

BOTTOM LINE: Good but could have been better

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