Top 20 Hot 100 Songwriters, 2000-Present
No. 17: Beyonce Knowles

Beyoncé: The Billboard Music Awards Q&A

The new album is called "4." Aside from this being your fourth solo album, what significance does that number hold?

We all have special numbers in our lives, and 4 is that for me. It's the day I was born. My mother's birthday, and a lot of my friends' birthdays, are on the fourth; April 4 is my wedding date.

How did the creative process begin with the new body of work?

I recorded more than 60 songs: everything I ever wanted to try, I just did it. I started off being inspired by [Afrobeat music pioneer] Fela Kuti. I actually worked with the band from "Fela!" [the hit Broadway musical based on his life] for a couple of days, just to get the feel for the soul and heart of his music; it's so sexy, and has a great groove you get lost in. I loved his drums, all the horns, how everything was on the one. What I learned most from Fela was artistic freedom: he just felt the spirit. I also found a lot of inspiration in '90s R&B, Earth, Wind & Fire, DeBarge, Lionel Richie, Teena Marie... I listened to a lot of Jackson 5 and New Edition, but also Adele, Florence + the Machine, and Prince. Add in my hip-hop influences, and you can hear how broad it is. I also gave myself more freedom to really belt out some songs, and bring soul singing back: I used a lot of the brassiness and grittiness in my voice that people hear in my live performances, but not necessarily on my records.

You're an icon of female empowerment. What does power mean to you?

Power means happiness, power means hard work and sacrifice. To me, it's about setting a good example, and not abusing your power! You still have to have humility: I've seen how you can lead by example, and not by fear. My visit to Egypt was a really big inspiration for me. Once the sun went down, I saw not one woman; it was shocking and fascinating to me, because it was so extreme. I saw thousands of men walking down the street, socializing in bars, praying in mosques - and no women. I felt really proud when I performed and saw the strength that the women were getting through the music. I remember being in Japan when Destiny's Child put out "Independent Women," and women there were saying how proud they were to have their own jobs, their own independent thinking, their own goals. It made me feel so good, and I realized that one of my responsibilities was to inspire women in a deeper way.