6 takeaways from Beyoncé’s head-spinning “Renaissance”

Six years after her landmark LP Lemonade, Beyoncé has returned with the invigorating, starved album that two horrendous years had claimed.

The 16-track album Renaissance, which for weeks was considered Bey’s most obvious entry into club music, delivers on that promise down to the last detail. But it’s also a deep and uneasy conversation with the fear and chaos of recent life in America and the worries that are yet to come.

Here are six takeaways from the album’s first (official) hour in the world.

1. Yes, this leak annoyed her.
“Renaissance” was leaked two days before its official Thursday night release, potentially turning a meticulous introduction on its head. Beyoncé has a long history of experimenting with album drops that transformed the record business as a result.

In a note on social media, she wrote that she was humbled by fans waiting to experience it together.

“So the album leaked, and you all actually waited until the right release time so you can all enjoy it together,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. I cannot thank you all enough for your love and protection. I appreciate you calling everyone who tried to sneak into the club early.”

2. However, she wasn’t the only artist who was irritated.
R&B singer Kelis said she felt offended by Beyoncé with a sample of her 1999 song “Get Along With You” on “Energy.” Kelis said she was caught off guard by the news.

“The reality is it’s frustrating. I have a right to be frustrated,” she said on Instagram. “Why didn’t anyone have the human decency to call up and say, ‘Yo, hey, [we] would like to use your record’.”

3. Now This is the club record of the summer.
If Drake had hoped his house-tinged “Honestly, Nevermind” would be the floor filler of the season, it was simply wiped from the decks. “Renaissance” is breathtaking for the sheer volume of ideas – evasive, tumbling, crunching and immaculate – in the service of sexual chaos and spiritual redemption.

The record combines elements of 70’s disco, 80’s synth pop and freestyle, 90’s deep house and cutting edge electronic experiments from Skrillex and AG Cook. Established collaborators like the Neptunes, The-Dream and Mike Dean adapt well to the format of fiery club music, with sizzling beats and noise swirling around Beyoncé’s unerring vocal performances. Husband Jay-Z and Drake make honorable entrances, and rising stars 070 Shake and Labrinth also do justice to the occasion.

It’s amazing how much music is in each song. Alien Superstar alone has 22 recognized co-authors, including sample material. And Beyoncé has suggested there are more installments to come.


4. It’s the hottest history lesson of the year.
The album’s guest stars trace a path through the past and future of queer black club music.

There are cameos or high-quality samples from disco icons Grace Jones and Nile Rodgers, a loving adaptation of Donna Summers and Giorgio Moroder’s genre-defining “I Feel Love”, homages to New Orleans bounce high priestess Big Freedia and the house Goddess Robin S on the lead single “Break My Soul” and Chicago house legend Green Velvet and cutting edge transhouse producer Honey Dijon on the sweaty “Cozy”.

Beyoncé’s work has always been in deep dialogue with geography and music history. But with “Renaissance,” she’s paying the debt backwards and forwards, tracing a black and queer tradition of nightclub rebellion and exaltation that cuts across genres and eras.

5. It’s a body album in every way.
A DJ could believably loop “Renaissance” and watch a room of writhing bodies squirm. But Beyoncé’s lyrics tap into a complicated well of feelings about physical existence and the joys and dangers that come with it. “Dancing in the mirror, kiss my scars because I love what they made,” she sings on “Cozy,” referencing the wake of the birth of three children while remaining music’s most inventive sexual provocateur.

She continues with the hilarious but wild “Energy” where “those Karens have just been turned into terrorists” and are threatening the very existence of black people. On “Church Girl,” she sings, “I felt like I moved mountains/made friends who cried fountains…Once I get to the party, I’m going to let that body go.”

The intertwining of sacred and sultry, of violence and resilience, defines her writing. “I need more nudity and ecstasy,” she sings on Virgo’s Groove. “Kiss me where you hurt me.”

6. It was inspired by a gay family member.
Like Kendrick Lamar’s track “Auntie Diaries,” Beyoncé’s album is, in part, a loving tribute to an LGBTQ family member whose life has helped shape her art.

Beyoncé dedicated part of “Renaissance” to her late Uncle Johnny (“Uncle” is a term of endearment; he was actually Bey’s mother’s nephew). She described it in a note ahead of the album’s release as one of her entry into a tradition of black LGBTQ culture.

Johnny was “my godmother and the first person who introduced me to much of the music and culture that serves as inspiration for this album,” she wrote.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/music/story/2022-07-28/6-takeaways-beyonce-renaissance 6 takeaways from Beyoncé’s head-spinning “Renaissance”

Sarah Ridley

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