The new Queen of the Dancefloor is here!
Beyoncé is back with Renaissance: Act 1, her seventh solo studio album and her first since 2016’s Lemonade. Her new record—the first of a three act project that she recorded during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic—is a joyful celebration of life amid undeniable chaos that is intended to get fans dancing again. “Creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world,” Beyoncé explained in Renaissance’s liner notes. “It allowed me to feel free and adventurous at a time when little else was moving.”
This is her first release since 2019. She released them both. The live album Homecoming And The Gift of the Lion KingNot more than three months apart, Beyoncé wanted to “create a safe place, a place without judgment. A place where you can be without perfectionists and excessive thinking. A place to scream, release, feel freedom,” she explained. “It was a beautiful journey of exploration.” It might be why British VogueI went as far to call Renaissance her “most ambitious musical project to date.” But Beyoncé has always been an innovator; her surprise drop of 2013’s Beyoncé Music publishing has been transformed in a major way. It is evident from her new album that even after almost 25 years in the music business, she still has a lot of tricks up her sleeves. These are the key takeaways: She has performed songs about her sensuality and honored queer artists. Renaissance.
Beyoncé wants us to meet her at the club
Renaissance offers a history lesson in dance music by paying homage to the genre’s many (many) forms. The album’s lead single “Break My Soul” celebrates vocal house music of the ‘90s with a sample of Robyn S.’s “Show Me Love,” as well as New Orleans bounce music with help from the Queen of Bounce herself, Big Freedia, who demands you to “release the wiggle.” The disco-inspired closer “Summer Renaissance” has Beyoncé hitting the high notes of Donna Summer’s Studio 54 classic, 1976’s “I Feel Love.” (Renaissance’s cover is a nod to the legendary story that, in 1977, Bianca Jagger rode a horse into Studio 54.)
Whether Bey is getting her rave on with help from Skrillex on the EDM-tinged “Energy” or channeling Megan Thee Stallion on the twerk anthem “Church Girl,” she wants you to let yourself go. Grab a large bag of glowsticks and continue the summer of house music.
Album art for Beyoncé’s Renaissance
Beyoncé, photo by Carlijn Jacobs
Renaissance is full of music superstars, but no one outshines Beyoncé
When putting together the list of collaborators for her latest album, Beyoncé really said legends only. Drake, Jay-Z, Pharrell, Raphael Saadiq, James Brown, the “Mother of Contemporary Gospel Music” Twinkie Clark, and the “Godfather of Disco” Giorgio Moroder are all credited on the album, as are big time producers including No I.D., Hit-Boy, Boi-1da, BloodPop, and frequent collaborator The-Dream. Beyoncé even got Grace Jones to show up on “Move” despite the icon’s previous comments that she would never collaborate with “middle of the road” artists like Beyoncé or Rihanna. Even with these big names, there is one thing certain: Renaissance is a Beyoncé album, full stop. This 16-track album is an adrenaline pumping rush. Queen Bey shines. Each song is just under an hour long and seamlessly transitions into the next, leaving fans no time to catch their breaths or get their bearings. Trying to keep up with Beyoncé is just part of the fun, though.
Beyoncé is feeling herself on her most sensual album to date
2013’s self-titled album had Beyoncé exploring her sexuality after having her first baby. Renaissance By being more specific, it builds self-confidence. On the soulful “Church Girl,” she urges everyone to “drop it like a thottie” and shake those “pretty tig ol’ bitties.” “Thique” is an ode to anyone who has a little more to work with: “She say she on a diet, girl, you better not lose that ass, though.” On the more demure “Plastic on the Sofa,” she proclaims she likes it rough, before making it clear she needs “more nudity and ecstasy” on the sex-positive “Virgo’s Groove.” Dr. Ruth would be very proud.
RenaissanceThis is a celebration for queer culture
Beyoncé dedicated her latest album to her uncle Johnny, who she refers to as her “godmother and first person to expose me to a lot of the music and culture that serve as inspiration for this album,” in Renaissance’s liner notes. It’s not the first time she has spoken of her mother Tina Knowles’ brother, who died from an HIV-related illness in the ‘90s. In an emotional speech at the 2019 GLAAD Media Awards, where she and Jay-Z won the Vanguard Award, she called her uncle the “most fabulous gay man I’d ever met.” She went on to say that Johnny helped raise her and her younger sister Solange and “lived his truth and he was brave and unapologetic during a time when this country wasn’t as accepting.”
On “Heated,” she honors the man who helped design her Destiny’s Child outfits with the line “Uncle Johnny made my dress/ That cheap Spandex, she looks a mess.” But throughout the album, she pays homage to many queer artists, “the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long,” she writes in the liner notes. “Thank you to all of the pioneers who originate culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long. This is a celebration for you.” The Black transgender DJ/producer Honey Dijon is credited on “Cozy” and “Alien Superstar,” while ‘90s drag legend Moi Renee’s 1992 track “Miss Honey” is heard in the outro of “Pure/Honey.” Queer alt-R&B artist Syd, who was previously a member of Odd Future with Tyler, the Creator, is a writer on the sultry “Plastic Off the Sofa.”
Beyoncé teamed up with Big Freedia again for Renaissance’s first single “Break My Soul,” which samples the Bounce legend’s 2014 song “Explode.” After the release of “Break My Soul,” Big Freedia, who previously appeared on Lemonade’s lead single “Formation,” tweeted that it felt “surreal to be on the track with the Queen Beyonce once again. I’m so honored to be a part of this special moment. I’m forever grateful.”
Beyoncé the rapper is back
In recent years, Beyoncé has shown that she’s an accomplished rapper, as well as being a singer. She spit bars on the “Savage Remix” with Megan Thee Stallion and was trading verses with her hubby Jay-Z on their joint album, 2018’s All that matters is love. Yet, it doesn’t end there Renaissance, Beyoncé raps nearly as much as she sings—and has never sounded more confident doing so on tracks like “Cozy” and “Church Girl.” The real highlight might be Beyoncé bringing a bit of Foxy Brown energy on “Heated.”
Any track RenaissanceCould be the summer song
Renaissance became a clear hit from the moment it dropped, but when it comes to the Beyhive’s favorite track, it’s hard to choose just one. Fans seem to have lost their minds over this song so far. twerktastic “Church Girl,” the out of this world “Alien Superstar,” opener “I’m That Girl,” and the sweet and sexy “Cozy.” The late Teena Marie-sampling “Cuff It” has also gotten a lot of love for sounding like classic BeyoncéBut with a twist. While there is no consensus on the song of the summer—one Twitter user suggested the whole album—Act 1 has made fans more excited for what’s to come next from Beyoncé’s pandemic project. “If this [is] what Beyoncé was doing in the house the whole quarantine,” a fan joked on Twitter. “LOCK US BACK UP!!!!!!”
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