The singer’s latest makeover celebrates the elusive clubbing scene, crossing genres and checking out floor-filling names that have dominated nightclubs and department stores for decades.
Beyoncé’s new album is an event. Whether surprises or releases announced weeks in advance, his releases are shaking the pop world in a seismic way. For all its axis-turning power, the singer-son’s music is also deeply personal, drawing listeners into the space he inhabits artistically and emotionally, returning along both paths.
Renaissance, Beyoncé’s seventh solo studio album and first proper solo work in six years, illustrates this duality in both form and function. With over 16 songs jumping from generation to generation, the disco celebrates the club’s entertaining nature and tours the genres and names that have dominated clubs, warehouses and impromptu dance retreats for decades. He also hints at what might have led Beyoncé to find solace in those places, aside from veiled lyrics about wanting love and feeling undervalued by others, and bravado alongside Big Freedia and Atlanta MC Kilo Ali.
The whole thing sounds great, the heady mix of styles (rattling Miami bass, trough-like space funk, harmonic gospel, dirty Detroit techno, and sun-kissed psychedelic soul, to name a few) merging. instinctively in surprising ways. Some cuts contain multiple rhythms and movements that feel like a mega mix in their own right. The exceptional “Pure/Honey” – a crash course in ball culture with samples from New Jersey DJ MikeQ, fashion pioneer Kevin Aviance and the late drag pioneer Moi Renee – swings and sashays before blending into a glittering dance club clip.
Beyoncé said she had conceptualized and recorded Renaissance over the past two or more years “to find an escape route in a scary time in the world…it allowed me to feel free and adventurous at a time when there were few otherwise moving”. Basing a ‘pandemic album’ on a club environment may seem strange at first, but it makes perfect sense when you think of the ad hoc community on the dance floor; there bodies rub against each other with the same pounding rhythm, but each dancer’s mind can be in a different place because the music touches the brain in a very personal way.
Renaissance allows listeners, wherever and whenever, to immerse themselves in its ever-changing, seamless songs for 62 minutes. (Beyoncé hasn’t released videos for every song this time around, a decision that implicitly suggests we turn a blind eye as she gets completely lost in a groove.) Her heavy percussion invites us to let go of tension or at times embrace, as in, let’s say, “Cozy,” a tempestuous self-affirmation in which Beyoncé declares her release in front of a mirror and kisses their scars “because I love what they do.” Reflections on everyday conflicts and “the oceans of tears we cry” are on record, but their constant movement calms them down.
Starting with 2002’s “Work It Out,” her Austin Powers-smashing funk solo debut single for Gold member (on which she also played), Bey has also taught listeners the history of black music, broken through the lens of the demands of today’s pop music. scene. Renaissance doesn’t start with her own voice, but with Memphis hip-hop legend Princess Loko who is the mastermind in full kick-the-stings mode, setting the table for Beyoncé to beat anyone she thinks stands in her way. While only a few employees earn top marks—dancehall rapper-producer Beam, R&B crooner and Afrobeat Tems, and nightclub titan Grace Jones—Renaissance has an endless list of credits featuring old favorites like The-Dream. and the Neptunes, more recent faces such as up-and-coming funk singer-producer Syd and EDM boss Skrillex, as well as works by artists such as soul-rock dynamo Teena Marie and house-pop diva Robin S.
A catalog of Renaissance milestones, samples and cameos could serve as a master class curriculum on the evolution of dance music as it evolved during Beyoncé’s lifetime, and in this age of readily available YouTube clips and streaming discographies, it should, is a salute to the luminary of the Donna Summer disco (whose 1977). the fantasy synth “I Feel Love” serves as the centerpiece of an overwhelming anthem) reinforces this idea in an overwhelming way. It may be August, but the school is in session.