After six years, Beyoncé is back with her most danceable record yet
Act One: Renaissanceher first new solo album in six years follows the culture-defining one lemonade (2016). This record, with the accompanying visual essay, vented her anger at a cheating husband and reclaimed genres taken over by white artists, from rock ‘n’ roll to bluegrass and country. It was both a political and a musical statement.
Beyoncé’s recent work has explored social injustice, marital infidelity and the black experience. Now she’s ready to let go.
Renaissance, in contrast, is an unrelenting celebration of club culture, full of aphorisms that celebrate personal power and joy. It’s a distraction from the more serious, academic path she’s embarked on for the last decade: this return to good time hits suits her to the core.
Following the album on Instagram this week, Beyoncé wrote that she wanted to inspire us to “release the wobble.” I would like to challenge everyone not to have to move during this exciting hour of music.
With beats that pound and scurry through musical styles, looping and twirling from disco to house, it evokes the seedy days of Studio 54, the dank basements of Shoreditch, and everything in between. It’s a delightfully fun record – a release, a response to all the pain and agony of three years of the pandemic and the struggle that preceded them. It wants you to get out there and dance — to quote a previous Beyoncé track, it really wants you to feel yourself.
“Renaissance” is a title that suggests both a return and a new beginning (which we may see building on – she said this is a three-act project). This music is often inspired by queer black culture—the sound of the underground ball scene, evident in the hopping and flapping beats, the reverberating monotonous lists of designer labels, the clipped guitar, and the sheer disco of it all.
We’ve seen a number of artists embrace disco influence in recent years (including Kylie Minogue and Dua Lipa), but Beyoncé has expanded her sphere from the energetic, chic-style floor fillers to something dirtier and more intimate. It’s her most danceable record to date.
Unlike 2013 BEYONCE (marital bliss) and his successors lemonade (navigating through the aftermath of infidelity), Renaissance tells less of a story than the image of a woman who has complete control of herself and her emotions. She sings about the fragments that make up life, about sex, about love, about going out with friends and letting off steam, about understanding your story and living your truth.
Where Beyoncé once sang about the virtues of being “flawless,” here she is simply happy with who she is – on “Cozy” she sings, “Comfortable in my skin, cozy with who I am… I love yourself goddamn.” There is an air of desolation everywhere Renaissancea sense that there’s no time for perfectionism when you’re sweating and flailing on the dance floor without thinking who might be watching.
There are countless impressive collaborators on this record, from Nile Rodgers to Skrillex and Pharrell to Grace Jones and against all odds, Right Said Fred (you’ll find a very Beyoncé version of I’m Too Sexy in Alien Superstar). “). This mosaic approach to songwriting is one of Beyoncé’s gifts: her role is much more than just singer and entertainer; She is a master of musical curation and there is a lot of continue to hear Renaissanceeach track is overlaid with rippling samples, bubbling synth lines and harmonies.
Classic and familiar pop harmonies are stapled to white-label house beats, all with Beyoncé’s knack for expressing certain feelings (“I feel like I’m in love, I’m in the mood to fuck something up,” she sings on the fantastic “handcuffs”).
It’s a delight to hear Beyoncé unleash her vocals: not blaring choruses, but weaving beautiful harmonies into flourishes that are as much a part of the accompaniment as anything else. On the ridiculously sensual sex banger “Virgo’s Groove,” she spends nearly a full minute noodlering around the phrase “love of my life” in her upper register, reminding us of her expansive range.
It’s not perfect: we may wonder at the ample length of 62 minutes and the fragmented nature of the sequencing, which deviates from their more polished, concept-driven albums. But these don’t detract from this glitzy homage to the underground and underappreciated black cultures, this never-ending party with its exuberant reminder that you can have a good time.
Beyoncé has thrown herself into the euphoria of the dance floor. It feels and sounds right and it would be madness not to join her.
Songs to Stream: Cuff It, Virgo’s Groove, Summer Renaissance