Revolutionary Fun: Why Beyonc’s “Renaissance” is all the rage


Beyonc’s seventh full-length solo album, Renaissance, mines a freewheeling history of dance music, from disco that sampled Donna Summer to contemporary Chicago house. hidden caption Carlijn Jacobs/Parkwood Entertainment

switch to caption via Parkwood Entertainment, Carlijn Jacobs

Beyonc’s seventh full-length solo album, Renaissance, mines a freewheeling history of dance music, from disco that sampled Donna Summer to contemporary Chicago house.

via Parkwood Entertainment, Carlijn Jacobs Beyonc’s seventh full-length album, Renaissance, was released on Friday in a way that almost felt conventional after nearly a decade of shaking up the music business with surprise drops and captivating visual albums. The impact of an album that necessitates a thorough decoding hasn’t been weakened by the retro-leaning familiarity of Beyonc’s approach, even if there was a lead single, a fully advertised release date, and even a well publicized leak. There is much to delve into on the overwhelming, energizing, and well-studied Renaissance, which is dense with references to dance music from the past and present as well as the Black artists who helped create the genre.

Can Queen Bey control the hordes of listeners that follow her back to those humid, social, utopian places that span decades of history and memory? Ann Powers, Jason King, and LaTesha Harris were brought together by NPR Music to discuss Renaissance’s development and release and gauge the depth of the dance floor pleasure.

Jeremy King Beyonc’s highly anticipated eighth solo album Renaissance immediately stands out to me since it’s the first full-length release I’ve listened to rather than viewed since 2011’s 4. Every other Beyoncé event over the past nine years, including the surprise visual album Beyoncé released in 2013, the HBO musical film Lemonade from 2016, the Netflix-supported Homecoming from 2019, and the Disney-affiliated Black is King from 2020, has been a feast for the eyes as much as, if not more than, the ears. Without an official narrative feature music video this time around, Renaissance’s retro-’90s lead single “Break My Soul” ascended the pop charts. Beyoncé is no fool; she used a high-end fashion piece in British Vogue as well as enticing, expertly rendered album art and photography to promote Renaissance. She appears to want us to hear her largely before anything else, which strikes me as odd.

Renaissance is a 16-track maximalist masterpiece that summons six decades of invention from the vast post-1970s Black dance music cosmos. It’s Beyonc, so of course it’s well thought out: Nile Rodgers’ iconic 1970s disco guitar can be heard on “Cuff It,” Green Velvet’s groundbreaking Chicago house can be heard on “Cozy” (along with house music DJ Honey Dijon, who also contributes to “Alien Superstar”), No I.D. and The-wild Dream’s hip-hop banger “Church Girl,” which features a Twinkie Clark gospel sample, as well as West African Afrobeats, South African gqom

Songs often begin one way and change into something else: “Pure/Honey” starts off as breezy Prince-like ’80s boogie before switching to underground New York voguing music from the 1990s (due to a sample of Kevin Aviance’s “Cunty”). Beyonc’s wide, borderline-chaotic musical Cuisinart is full of funk music interpolations and samples that pay homage to icons like Teena Marie and James Brown. Renaissance is such a barrage of innovative musical, auditory, and lyrical ideas that the labor of dissecting and making sense of everything is essential to the album’s hidden force, even in the absence of Beyonc’s normal immersive visuals. It’s worth considering whether the outcomes successfully cohere and inspire transcendence and escapist fun in these dark times, as Beyonc appears to think they will.

LaTesha Harris: A disco ball is a place of limitless possibilities since it has so many mirrors that light can reflect off of. Every look offers a different angle and a different universe to disappear into. I predicted that Beyoncé will turn to disco for her eagerly anticipated seventh studio album as a solo artist in late 2020 based only on the fact that her Instagram posts contained more power struggles. Beyonc’s sonorous new release is a power struggle, as the hints suggested. Ambitious and experimental, erratic components combine in tracks that begin in one era and end in another.

Renaissance, the first of what she has referred to as a three-part project, uses disco’s limitless ability to present the sound Black diaspora. This is how Jason described it. Every time the light reflects, a new genre is transformed and projected onto the dance floor with the express intent of moving listeners from their minds to their bodies. It’s really moving what you mentioned about this being the first Beyoncé album in almost a decade that we could just listen to the beginning. Beyonc is the house mother fussing on the balcony, the queen serving face on the floor, the spectator snapping in time, and the all-knowing judge all at once if the subject of the ball is the Renaissance. We should go out and start the Renaissance rather than just observe it.

By Ann Powers I appreciate you both raising the query that has been nagging at me since since Beyonc started the Renaissance rollout with the obscenely joyful “Break My Soul” and a picture of her atop a glass horse, personifying disco decadence: Can Beyonc genuinely have fun? Is that the main goal of this project? In “Cuff It,” a jovial ode to Chic that ranks among the album’s most instantly recognizable songs, she emphasizes that word. Have you ever enjoyed yourself this much? The next sentence, the song’s lyrical hook, is lit up by the gentleness with which she sings. We’re going to ruin the evening. The night becomes messed up with fun, which turns the established order on its head.

Here, I’m separating “fun” from “pleasure” as well as from the effort (it, female) involved in making other people laugh. Even the physical fulfillment pleasure brings is illogical and aimless fun: According to academic Ben Walters , in gay places, people are brought together by the sparkling dust because “queer fun produces queer worlds.” Beyonc has long been a master of sexual pleasure and an ardent proponent of it, yet even at her most sensuous, like in the song “Rocket,” where she sings, “I do it like it’s my profession,” she is more concerned with business than with having joy. Another byproduct of her perfectionism is her command of the erotic, and if she experiences mind-blowing orgasms as a result, that’s her right.

I had my doubts about Fun when she hinted in her earlier release that this project would be her stepping stone into the kind of perfectionism she lived by. This former child star who is now a mother-mogul has demonstrated many characteristics during her career. Beyoncé is the formidable leader of an ever-more aspirational pop world thanks to her impeccable work ethic, skill at striking an admirable work-life balance, claims to power paired with a steadfast dedication to mentorship and creating Black-centered communities, and visionary abilities rooted in a dedication to craft. Beyonc has rarely come across as buoyantly free in her songs, despite the joy and catharsis she has given her listeners. She labors so we can appreciate her. In light of the fact that she did experience the kind of freedom she describes while creating this song, I must inquire as to what purpose her fun serves.

Renaissance was designed as an immersive club experience, and despite the fact that it leaked two days before its scheduled release, it still commanded fans undivided attention when it hit streaming services.

Mason Poole/Parkwood Entertainment Mason Poole/Parkwood Entertainment/

Renaissance was designed as an immersive club experience, and despite the fact that it leaked two days before its scheduled release, it still commanded fans undivided attention when it hit streaming services.

Jeremy King At first listen, Renaissance appears to avoid confessionalism that is emotionally charged. Despite the weighty title of the album cut “America Has a Problem,” there isn’t a thorough exploration of protest politics. By any standard, that represents a dramatic left turn for an artist whose 2016 work Lemonade rose to prominence as one of the most socially engaged and politically provocative pieces of art to emerge in a decade dominated by #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo issues. Renaissance might, however, be an activist in another sense: I wanted desperately to hear these songs on a packed dance floor with other dancers in real life because of the album’s intense emphasis on rhythm. I went out on Saturday night to a few gay bars and clubs in New York to listen to DJs spin certain album tracks (and in one club, the DJ just played the entire album in sequence). The energizing sounds and grooves accomplished their intended purpose by calling me to the nearby clubs and forcing me to leave the isolation and solitude I had grown accustomed to during the previous few years of pandemic Hell. Is Renaissance’s goal of bringing people together on the dance floor and fostering social interaction timely? Or, given that we’re still struggling through the grueling third summer of a global pandemic (with newly developing viral outbreaks like monkeypox), and despite how much some of us would like to believe otherwise, we’re still not out of it, is it too early to attempt to engineer the Roaring 2020s?

Renaissance, from whatever angle, is Beyonc’s Funkadelic moment. It is her Clintonian invitation to dance your way out of your restrictions and to liberate your ass so that your mind can be inspired by music to let out your wiggle. The fact that Renaissance ends with “Summer Renaissance,” a key-shifting, deconstructed interpolation of Donna Summer’s seminal 1977 classic “I Feel Love,” which helped launch contemporary electronica and the current neo-disco mania, is instructive. A powerful reminder that Black women like Summer and Beyonc have always been at the center, rather than on the periphery, of the previous 50 years of electronic and dance music creation, it’s a daring mic drop moment.

Beyoncé is kind to the girls who destroyed the dance floor before her, according to LaTesha Harris. The album’s lead hit, “Break My Soul,” pays tribute to Robin S. and Big Freedia, a New Orleans rapper whose music displays a clear transition from disco to hip-hop to bounce. On the Tems-assisted “Move,” she scored a guest appearance from Studio-54 stalwart Grace Jones. She also doesn’t shy away from the lyrical elements of house, replatforming the genre while keeping it grounded in its Black roots. Beyoncé’s sampling of Moi Renee, the epicenter of New York’s underground ball culture in the 1990s, is the most significant stop on her extended tour de roses. The numerous layers “Before returning to the ball with Renee’s “Miss Honey,” frequently regarded as the first bitch tune, Pure/Honey is a masterclass, a tribute to Mr. Fingers, and even includes a shoutout to Janet Jackson’s 1986 funk hit, “Nasty.” The inclusion and replatforming of the drag legend on Renaissance marks the album Beyonc’s most overt acknowledgment of the support she has received from her devoted queer fanbase. Beyonc wrote a message on her website just before the album’s release, honoring her Uncle Jonny, who passed away in the early 1990s due to issues related to HIV: “He introduced me to a lot of the music and culture that served as the inspiration for this album; he was also my Godmother. I’d like to express my gratitude to all of the cultural pioneers and fallen angels, whose achievements have been undervalued for far too long. This is a time to celebrate you.”

Renaissance is not just Beyonc’s first solo rap record, but also her first electronic dance record. “I’m That Girl,” the album’s first tune and possibly one of its more personal ones, pays homage to Princess Loko, a 1990s underground pioneer of Southern gangster rap. She has altered her approach to sound by going back to her roots as an adolescent music enthusiast who was raised on Southern hip-hop. Bey mixes synth beats reminiscent of the bitch tracks that gay underground ballroom scenes’ drag queens danced to in the 1990s with trap components, including her trademark rap-sing cadence as she delivers jaw-dropping bars. On “Heated,” a pop-trap classic that showcases the Queen at her most conceited, she brags, “True to my desire to honor hip-tradition hop’s within the context of disco, she brags, “I’m hot, hot, hot; fan me off. Lock me up in jail like stolen Chanel. On my MPC, my fingers tap, tap, tap while creating disco trap.”

Rap mode for Ann Powers Even if she can compete with any rival for wit and agility, Beyonce has long been her most fun embodiment. That is especially true of Renaissance. I adore LaTesha’s performance of “Pure/Honey,” not only because it pays homage to former queens, but also because the sharp, frenetic energy of Moi Renee is evoked by her bratty, snappy delivery. Beyonce creates a safe space for herself by elevating voices like Renee’s and Big Freedia’s that have been silenced inside a hip-hop pantheon based on stereotypically male concepts of virtuosity and strength. Beyonce is now over 40 in a pop sector that rarely tolerates women, and in this area she finds sustenance and affirmation. Like Madonna, who has gone back to her dance floor beginnings many times times to relax and renew,

Sincere to say, I thought her voice was a little lost in the swirling blare of “Break My Soul” at first, but now I understand that’s the idea. I disagree with the online rumors that the fabled Great Resignation included Big Freedia’s order to “loose your wiggle” and Beyonce’s girlish echo, “I just resigned my job and fell in love.” This is about finding complete freedom in the present, in the fictitious utopia that a club may offer, and about reviving yourself so that you can work and battle another day. It’s interesting to think back to Beyonce’s previous collaboration with Freedia, “Formation,” which created one of her most explicitly political statements due to its Katrina-themed music video. “Formation” featured a Freedia line that reaffirmed the message: “I come to slay, bitch.” It was a call to action and to higher consciousness. We are approaching ten years of LGBTQ and BIPOC action in the face of numerous terrible challenges. Resilience calls for both fierceness and flexibility, as the ACT-UP and Queer Nation activists who partied at night and protested during the day were well aware. Influencers of today refer to it as self-care. Days after its release, after Roe v. Wade was overruled and fresh dangers to LGBTQIA rights loomed, “Break My Soul” had a different impact. It caused people to wiggle, which was a soul adjustment needed to withstand the beating.

On Renaissance, Beyonc does let loose, or at least lets looser, in ways that are very different from the liberating confessions she made on Lemonade or the highly calculated displays of pride and empowerment that made Homecoming great and Black Is King and Everything Is Love more than just a soundtrack and a side project suggest. In some of the album’s more upbeat tunes, she truly lets her vocals shine. On “Plastic Off the Sofa,” she chooses sensuality over her typical big-swing balladry, and on “Summer Renaissance,” she melds her wild soprano with Summer’s genre-defying groans. The phrase “It’s so good” is the most sparkling statement the older diva makes in that song. It is a moment of euphoric self-possession that is also open to another’s touch. It is crucial that the Summer sample that jumps out of this grand conclusion focus on this phrase. In this setting, I enjoy Beyonc. It is satisfying.

Jeremy King Renaissance is a latecomer to the Top 40 disco and deep dance revival party, especially for an album that is so heavily reliant on timing and rhythm. Beyonc’s declared goal of providing us with “a space to dream and to find escape during a scary moment for the planet” isn’t all that dissimilar from the terminology used just a few years ago by artists like Jessie Ware and Dua Lipa to discuss their lockdown era retro-disco albums. Just two weeks after Lizzo’s Special, Renaissance makes her pop music debut with “About Damn Time,” her fast-paced tribute to the disco era. Renaissance’s dance music strategy also appears to be playing catch-up given Beyoncé’s glaring absence from the Top 10 over the previous six years. Renaissance stands out from the crowd, though, because it seems committed to disco (and the following forms it gave rise to) as politics, not just as music. Although black musicians like Doja Cat, Victoria Monet, Drake, and The Weeknd have produced disco and house-inspired songs, a large portion of the contemporary disco and deep house revival has been dominated by white people. In the midst of the club music renaissance, Renaissance finds Beyonc boldly acknowledging and claiming Blackness and racial identity.

Ann points out that Renaissance feels invested in the politics of fun and gay pleasure. Beyonc is romanticizing LGBTQ worldbuilding and the notion of the club as an all-encompassing utopia of strength and opportunity. She blends hip-hop and her brand of new-age self-sufficiency with club music’s claims to inspirational optimism on songs like “Break My Soul” and “I’m That Girl,” drawing on the disco classic “Ain” No Stoppin’ Us Now” or the lyrics to ’80s deep house hit “Can You Feel It” by Mr. Fingers. Beyonc admits, “I didn’t want this power,” but she’s using her famous status (and money) to her advantage. It matters that she is doing this at a contentious political period when homophobic U.S. lawmakers are pushing “don’t say gay” legislation and focusing their efforts on stopping drag queen story-time events at public libraries.

Beyonc is portraying herself as a student of LGBTQ history and culture, as LaTesha pointed out. Renaissance, who supplies dap to a wide range of club music creators and pioneers, is the result of that educational crash course. Although some people would cynically refer to Beyoncé’s Renaissance virtue-signaling as opportunism, she is intelligently keeping up her support of vulnerable and underprivileged populations in a way that can only strengthen those communities. I believe that the Renaissance could have only occurred in the burn down your closet kind of pop music environment that Lil Nas X helped create.

By Ann Powers Jason, What does it mean to release music that inspires people to congregate, dance, and breathe all over one another while the world is still mired in not one, but two viral health crises, one of which is disproportionately affecting (and unfairly stigmatizing ) LGBTQIA communities? is the question you posed at the beginning of this conversation. Not good, is it? Except maybe not, since Renaissance is a dance record that can be appreciated alone, much like you said about Dua Lipa’s breakthrough album in 2020. Or, more precisely, in the peculiar communal loneliness that has become widespread as a result of the pandemic and social media.

Beyoncé reached the supergiant phase of her career by breaking conventional industry standards with the historic surprise release of her self-titled album in 2013, but these bold maneuvers cost her in one important way: sales. She has discovered numerous more ways to make money while simultaneously maintaining her status as a brilliant “one of one,” as she raps in the cyborg “Alien Superstar,” as reported in a full New York Times piece on the Renaissance release. But as her reputation as a ground-breaking musician has grown, her chart positions have declined. It is obvious that she wants to rule the traditional chart with the release of this album.

THE DOCUMENT Renaissance leaked on Wednesday afternoon, which could have thwarted this plan, but the Beyhive’s commitment or possibly a lack of access to stolen content kept followers waiting to listen to the album together when it was supposed to be released. With your favorite DJ on the decks, midnight EST seemed like two in the morning, and social media sites lit up like Saturday Night Fever ‘s dance floor as fans allowed the record, which functions as one continuous DJ set, wash over them. The album’s pleasing sequencing and imaginative transitions between songs, the reverence of LGBTQIA inventors and icons through sampling, and the complex layering of sounds within each track—which critic Jenna Wortham labeled a “sensory abundance tank”—all received particularly glowing reviews.

Several of my favorite tweets, most of which were written by other authors: Gerrick Kennedy heard the song “ echoes ” and remembered his younger days of looking for a club-kid culture in New Orleans; Wynter Mitchell described the album as “impressively horny , as a 40 woman really reflective of sexuality over 40;” and Akilah Hughes. Ben Walters 0, “The bass in All Up In Your Mind is the Afrofuturism I dream of,” Ben Walters 1, and Ben Walters 2, jokes about cocaine. (In case anyone has forgotten, white powder was a favorite in vintage club culture.) The platform had transformed into a throbbing, 1978-era Brooklyn roller disco. Ben Walters 3, a dancer and photographer, wrote, “If this is what Beyonc was doing up in the home all quarantine, LOCK US BACK UP!!”

When a musician with a sizable, devoted fan following releases a new project, a love avalanche like that might be anticipated. When Harry Styles’ Harry’s House was originally leaked and then officially released back in May, it led to a similar Ben Walters 4. However, Renaissance’s immediate acceptance seemed more like a turning point, a genuine blending of the real and the virtual. It was comparable to an incident that occurred last month at the Newport Folk Festival, just days before legendary singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell made her long-awaited comeback to the stage. The throng assembled in Rhode Island to hear Mitchell perform that unexpected concert, which revealed Mitchell to be stronger in voice and spirit than many had assumed a 78-year-old still recovering from a 2015 aneurysm could be, was unquestionably bucket-list material. But the footage of her singing and playing guitar that her supporters and festival organizers shared immediately struck a chord with a global audience. As they watched these films, countless fans shared reports of crying, and their emotional outbursts were as moving as any from the Fort Adams field itself. Mitchell’s return to the stage demonstrated how important virtual experiences have become in popular culture, despite the fact that the event was not intended to be a hybrid one. The Renaissance achieved the same thing, except more deliberately.

Mason Poole/Parkwood Entertainment, image 4, Mason Poole/Parkwood Entertainment, image 5, Jeremy King I once had dinner with the late, great cultural critic Greg Tate, and he made a joke about how Beyoncé is more of a curatorial genius than an original genius because she can bring together collaborators and other people’s intellectual property to create a singular artistic vision that is frequently greater than the sum of its parts. The artistic variety and sheer volume of contributors to Renaissance can be partially attributed to Beyonc’s curatorial brilliance (just reading through the credit list is a task unto itself). She is skilled at getting the best performance out of her team members: Because of this, her Drake collaboration “Heated” on Renaissance sounds better than the majority of what ended up on. The year’s weakest attempt by Drake to stay relevant in club music is called Nevermind. Renaissance should be compared to other significant, carefully chosen dance music albums, such as the brilliant 1997 Nuyorican Soul CD, which was created by Masters at Work. In the same vein as Quincy Jones’ Grammy-winning 1989 album Back on the Block, I’m even willing to conceive of Renaissance as a research document on historical black music.

Some people may object to Beyonc’s mercenary attitude to curating. Randamp;B singer Kelis expressed her outrage last week after learning that Beyonc allegedly interpolated “Milkshake,” one of her 2003 hits with writing fully credited to The Neptunes, a song for which she claims she never received credit or compensation, on the track “Energy” without notifying her beforehand or getting her consent. Even though Kelis compared the sample to “stealing,” I believe Beyonc did nothing illegal within the letter of the law because Kelis doesn’t seem to be the owner of the composition’s or the master recording’s copyright. There is no requirement to notify the performer that their work is being exploited if the usage was legally authorized and all copyright owners were notified and paid. However, because of the still disturbing dynamics of the music industry and the extractive nature of recording contracts, sampling and interpolating continue to raise ethical issues regarding who gets to shine and who is left out of the party.

There is much to appreciate in seeing Beyonc use her curatorial ability to honor OG dance music pioneers like Green Velvet and Kevin Aviance, who are frequently forgotten, as well as in her selection of queer, non-binary, and trans artists like Honey Dijon. What about other daring and unconventional black musicians from the recent past who have been acting as the default stewards of the same left-curve disco, house, techno, and electronica that Beyonc is presently putting forth? Not only Kelis, but also indie artists like Ultra Nat, Aluna, Jayda G, Dawn Richard, and Azealia Banks come to mind. None of these artists receive any credit for creating the melodic and sonic Randamp;D from which the club music renaissance mainstream is today pulling its strength. Beyonc’s obligation to incorporate any of those artists into her concept of her own renaissance is categorically nonexistent. But with great power comes tremendous responsibility, and sometimes we unintentionally obscure what is in front of us by using our power to brighten and bring the distant past into the disco ball’s boundless brightness.

It’s LaTesha Harris. I think Beyoncé would never become famous in a different, less fortunate universe. The first crack in that universe was when, at the 2015 Grammy Awards, her self-titled visual album, which changed the music industry and rocked the world, lost album of the year to Beck. Later, her landmark Lemonade lost the same honor to Adele. The Recording Academy has a racism issue, that much is clear. The fact that Beyoncé and Lemonade are bodies of work unparalleled in their cultural and political influence, aural brilliance, and capacity to innovate the music industry is also unanimously acknowledged. What is left to do in a musical career when a Black woman produces and distributes two of the best albums ever produced and the highest court in the land rejects her contributions?

Let’s start with “I’m That Girl,” the album’s first song. Beyonc declares in a low range that is almost blasé, “It’s not the diamonds, it’s not the pearls, it’s not my boyfriend, it’s not my position, it’s simply that I’m that lady,” after reminding listeners of her exceptional ability to create audio magic. In this passage, Beyonc talks about her innate brilliance and how she is confident in herself without external embellishments. Her complicated line appears to continue her criticism of affluence. I’m breaking down the wall and knocking Basquiats off it all. The phrase “clear me of my sins” follows, possibly implying that Beyonc is at least thinking back on her lifelong fixation with money and consumerism. She also claims that she has never wanted the authority that she has amassed over the previous 25 years, as Jason indicated. “In “I’m That Girl,” B rejects the notoriety that the public has given her and in which she has become mythologized. It’s self-assurance in the knowledge that she is still that girl in spite of the fame and attention.

All of this is to suggest that I believe Beyonc changed things up after suffering two of the most terrible rejections back to back. Nobody could ever guarantee her flowers, no matter how carefully she crafted her image, how thorough she was with her work ethic, or how much blood, sweat, and tears she expended. In my opinion, Beyonce changed from Beyonc the careerist to Beyonce the executive producer and aural curator with the release of Homecoming (she did, in fact, “leave her job,” as she claimed on “Break My Soul”). The live show, studio record, and documentary three-punch combo gave her the title of best living performer in the world. She talked about the stress she put her body through during a challenging pregnancy with her twins in the 2019 Netflix documentary. She said, “I will never never push myself that far again,” after returning to the stage, noting that she had pushed herself further than she had anticipated. She rose to the position of executive producer, an experimental position, having made that pledge to herself. And now that she’s given us a maximalist dance-electronic record, Beyonc the music lover has taken it upon herself to make a pastiche of Black contributions using samples from Chicago house, Jamaican dancehall, riddim, vintage ’70s disco, EDM, ’80s synth-pop, and linked Detroit techno. Even better, Beyonc not only shows respect but also reaches out to work with a variety of Black voices, many of whom are gay. It’s a total breakdown of Beyoncé as we’ve come to know her; a release from expectations of perfection and conformity ushers in a revitalizing new phase for her already incredibly fascinating career.

Renaissance finds Beyonc explicitly naming and claiming Blackness and racial identity in the context of the club music revival.

via Parkwood Entertainment, Carlijn Jacobs

Renaissance finds Beyonc explicitly naming and claiming Blackness and racial identity in the context of the club music revival.

via Parkwood Entertainment, Carlijn Jacobs By Ann Powers LaTesha, your envisioned post-Grammy trajectory snubs our tenaciously self-created sovereign intrigues. But I don’t see any proof that Beyonce has turned away from her former persona. If anything, she has intensified several clichés that are getting a little stale by this point. “I woke up like this” from “Flawless” is essentially “I should have spent a billion to look this gorgeous, but she makes it easy like she got it” from “Pure/Honey,” and “comfortable in my skin” from “Cozy” has her once more “feelin’ myself.” She wouldn’t have released a single solo album, much less three, and definitely not one that was drenched in references to her insatiable need for wealth and luxury if she had truly wished to quit her profession. She benefits from diversifying her portfolio as a seasoned artist who can’t always rely on the support of the young people who have historically made hit singles extremely popular; the artwork for Renaissance demonstrates that she’s also prepared to work extremely hard to maintain her youthful shape. She is now a mother, both in the real world and, as you say, in the pop imagination. She is the mother of the dream Ben Walters 5 that this record creates. But the strength she exudes is still rooted in concepts of sexuality and music games, which call for top-notch preparation and an athlete’s physique to begin with.

That body is expensive. The most contentious discussions I’m witnessing now that Beyonce is a part of the Renaissance are around her relationship to capitalism: Does she have the right to support underground cultures when her family’s wealth is firmly rooted in the one percent? This inquiry is similar to one in the Ben Walters 6 on the outrageous ticket costs for the current tour of working-class hero Bruce Springsteen. Pop stars will continue to be pop stars, in my opinion. They never truly resemble us. With their significant book and streaming network deals, the Carters are more like the post-presidency Obamas than Springsteen, and like all wealthy people, they have been elevated and molded by a system that invariably impacts whatever progressive principles they had prior to the game. The dichotomy between slavish adulation of these individuals and straw-person denials of them, in my opinion, limits our comprehension of both them and the cultures they contribute to.

Jeremy King I keep going back to Beyonc’s mission statement, where she claims that she created this album when the pandemic was happening and that it serves as a refuge “free of overthinking and perfectionism. a location where one can yell, let off steam, and experience liberation.” Regarding Beyoncé’s creative process for the record, I am unable to comment. However, I hear no instances of error, failure, imperfection, or anything even failure-related. The reverse is true: Renaissance sounds audacious, assured, precise, and impeccable. It kills!

I understand that Beyonc’s renewed creative freedom manifests itself in the album’s emphasis on physical liberation and transcendent release on a dance floor. I’m just not certain that I understand the freedom from perfection the way you two may. The highly original, deliberate sequencing used in Renaissance is a prime illustration of Beyonc’s perfection. She wants us to listen to the album in a linear fashion, and the song order has been expertly designed/engineered to do that. One of the greatest inventions of disco, seamless sequencing and beatmatching, was created so that dancers would never have an excuse to stop moving.

Beyoncé is at her most dynamic in Renaissance: The kinetic record doesn’t seem to stop, slow down, or take breaks too often. It’s overflowing with melodic, aural, and lyrical elements and concepts. (The album’s palette cleanser “Plastic on the Sofa” comes closest to dulcet Quiet Storm feelings, despite the bass line’s bustle and the outro vamp’s trade-off of tranquility for ostentatious melismatic runs.) The one thing Renaissance may lack on subsequent listens, and after hearing it this weekend screaming out of nightclub speakers, is attention to diverse musical dynamics (most of the album is pitched at a type of persistent fortissimo, but not all of it is). Even while Renaissance makes references to vintage disco and house, it doesn’t really utilise their tried-and-true toolkits: There aren’t any four on the floor breakdowns, suspense-inducing instrumental stretches, or exhale-inducing pianissimo colors or diminuendo moments on this album. (I’m not oblivious to the metaphor of Beyonc’s refusal to have a breakdown when recording her Pandemic album.)

Renaissance is not an album that breathes all that much, despite its magnificent enveloping power. Lack of negative space in music creation, in my opinion, is sometimes an indication of worry and perfectionism rather than a means of easing it. One of my favorite performers, Teena Marie, is interpolated not once, but twice on Renaissance. She created some of the most iconic disco and R