When "'03 Bonnie & Clyde" was released as a single in late 2002, critics and the public had speculated that Beyoncé and Jay-Z were having a mutual affair. Despite widespread rumors, they remained silent about their relationship. According to critics, the title itself of the album sounded "more intriguing" with Beyoncé singing personal songs. Though love is the theme Beyoncé had incorporated in the album, "most the material is vague enough to be about any relationship"; however, there are songs that suggested affirmation of their relationship. In the song "Signs", Beyoncé sings about being in love with a Sagittarius, which coincidentally is Jay-Z's zodiac sign. In response to the persistent rumors about them, Beyoncé stated, "People can come to whatever conclusion they like... That's the beauty of music... I'm a singer, I'll talk about writing songs all you want. But when it comes to certain personal things any normal person wouldn't tell people they don't know, I just feel like I don't have to [talk about it]."
Dangerously in Love received generally positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 63, based on 17 reviews. Anthony DeCurtis of Rolling Stone viewed that it presents Beyoncé in two styles, one "far more flattering" than the other, and found the ballad-oriented songs on the album least flattering, commenting that Beyoncé has "plenty of time" to develop the style maturely that would "[make] sense for her". Entertainment Weekly's Neil Drumming commented that the album validates Beyoncé's "taste in innovation". He also viewed that Beyoncé's collaboration with various record producers explores new directions in contemporary music, doing more reinventing than revisiting. Like DeCurtis' review, however, Drumming pointed out that "most of the disc's missteps" are in its latter part. Slant Magazine's Sal Cinquemani wrote that "[Beyoncé] is allowed more room to experiment vocally as a solo artist, exploring softer registers and lathering on the coquettish persona that was only hinted at on Destiny's Child tracks like 'Bootylicious.'". Steve Jones of USA Today stated, "Beyoncé succeeds by showing greater depth as a songwriter and broader range as a singer". Blender's Ben Ratliff complimented Beyoncé's performance and stated, "She's playing the cool-hunter but covering the bases with seraphic arrangements of multiple voices. Her reach is remarkable". Mark Anthony Neal of PopMatters called it an "artistic leap" and wrote that it "finds Ms. B in the midst of a fully flowering womanhood and doing the best singing of her career". 2b1af7f3a8