Entering Beyoncé’s ‘RENAISSANCE’
A new musical renaissance has officially begun, thanks to Beyoncé.
The singer’s seventh solo studio album, titled RENAISSANCE, was leaked on July 27, a few days before its intended release. “Thank you for your unwavering support. Thank you for being patient,” she wrote on an Instagram post, addressing fans who opposed the leak. “We are going to take our time and enjoy the music. I will continue to give my all and do my best to bring you joy.”
Queen Bey’s fans have waited eagerly for her first solo studio album since Lemonade. It was a hard act to follow – the most acclaimed album of her career and the world’s best-selling album in 2016. Lemonade featured some of Beyoncé’s most experimental content at the time, especially for R&B in the mid-2010s.
But RENAISSANCE tackles the challenge effortlessly. A euphoric journey of Beyoncé’s self-proclaimed “disco trap,” the album blends genres and influences of hip-hop, R&B, disco, techno, ‘80s pop, and house music. Each track flows seamlessly into the next, like a DJ’s playlist in a nightclub.
Beyoncé’s voice soars on the nostalgic songs “CUFF IT,” “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA,” and “VIRGO’S GROOVE,” which are reminiscent of 1970s funk and disco styles. Nearly every song on the album contains some type of sample, but most notable is the album’s closer, “SUMMER RENAISSANCE,” which interpolates “I Feel Love” by disco legend Donna Summer. On her latest twerk jam, “CHURCH GIRL,” Beyoncé gives a nod to gospel music with a fuzzy sample of The Clark Sisters’ “Center Thy Will” that loops in the background of a heavy trap beat, rich harmonies, soulful vocals, and a sassy rap from Bey.
The album is also becoming an anthem for queer communities. Many tracks on RENAISSANCE like “I’M THAT GIRL,” “COZY,” “ALIEN SUPERSTAR,” “MOVE,” “HEATED,” and “PURE/HONEY” have lyrical elements and references to drag and ballroom culture, which was built around dance music. In the album’s liner notes is a dedication to Beyoncé’s late Uncle Johnny, who was gay. “He was my godmother and the first person to expose me to a lot of the music and culture that serve as inspiration for this album,” she wrote.
Commercially, RENAISSANCE is already taking Beyoncé to new heights. All 16 songs on the album have charted on the Billboard Hot 100, with the lead single “BREAK MY SOUL” topping the chart. RENAISSANCE debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, making Beyoncé the first female artist to debut her first seven studio albums at number one in America.
Though Beyoncé has managed to find success across four decades and various eras of popular music, she hardly sacrifices quality or individuality as she continually reinvents herself. Full of diversely impressive moments, RENAISSANCE is proof Beyoncé still knows how to showcase the versatility of her talents and lyrical depth.
RENAISSANCE was written during and partially inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is notated as “Act I” of a three-part project.