BEYONCÉ – RENAISSANCE REVIEW

What can I say about Beyoncé that has not already been said? She is one of the most popular(if not the most popular) artists of the 20th century, and she is also one of the most prominent artists of all time. One of my favorite things about Beyoncé is how she has been able to constantly morph and evolve throughout her career. Nothing about her music has ever been stale or repetitive; she has always been able to stay ahead of the curve, often driving the sound of Pop and R&B music for the years immediately following her releases. Beyoncé’s latest album, Lemonade, came out in 2016. This album is considered groundbreaking, hailed for its very real and detailed concept(which covers her husband Jay Z’s infidelity and her feelings about it) as well as its genre-bending nature. Lemonade is considered by many critics to be the best album of the 2010s and one of the best albums of all time. Beyoncé has taken a 6-year break(not including the project Black Is King, which is a visual album she curated as a companion to the live-action Lion King movie) since she released Lemonade. Because it’s been so long, her new album, Renaissance was the most anticipated album of 2022. Beyoncé stated that the COVID 19 pandemic reinvigorated her creativity, making expectations for this record extremely high. The lead single from this record, ‘Break My Soul,’ has a super fun and modern sound and it is thought of as one of the best singles from 2022. With this level of hype going into the record, can Renaissance live up to its expectations(we all know the answer is yes because it’s Beyoncé)? With all of that being said, here is how I feel about Beyoncé’s Renaissance. Please comment how you feel about this record, and also comment what your favorite songs from it are.

This album gets off to a roaring start with ‘IM THAT GIRL.’ It is apparent from the first song that this record is going to be eclectic and unique. The track has a fast-paced Dancehall kind of beat that is put over a sample of Beyoncé repeating the phrase “Hey motherfuckers.” This sample also helps drive the beat. Even though her vocals are fairly low-key on this track, Beyoncé flexes her singing voice in it. Toward the end of the song, the instrumental shifts and takes on more of a gritty Trap sound. This track is such a huge and fun way to start the record. ‘I’M THAT GIRL’ has a lyrical theme that is very prevalent on this record, which is one of women empowerment and confidence. The next one, ‘COZY,’ is also very quick and makes the listener want to dance. It has an underground House beat that one would expect to hear in a warehouse club somewhere in NYC or a big European city. The drums have a visceral and primal feeling to them, making the song have an industrial element. Towards the middle of the song, some synths come into the instrumental that make me think of 2000 R&B. Similarly to ‘I’M THAT GIRL,’ Beyoncé’s vocals on this track are subtle and powerful. ‘COZY’ is another song about loving one’s self and being okay with who you are. One of the best things about this song is the transitions. It is easy to hear this record is meant to be listened to straight through(especially in a dance club or party setting). Towards the end of ‘COZY,’ the beat speeds up and some vocals can be heard in the background. These vocals are the same ones on the end of the hook of the next song, ‘ALIEN SUPERSTAR.’ This track has become a fan favorite; I personally honestly think it may be the song of the year. The beat for ‘ALIEN SUPERSTAR’ has the same pace as the finish to ‘COZY.’ The drum style is not the same, though, with ‘ALIEN SUPERSTAR’ having a beat with a higher tone than the song that precedes it. The song keeps this off-kilter House beat throughout the majority of the song; it makes anyone who hears it want to dance when they hear it. The hook on this song is just iconic. Whenever I think about it, it gets stuck in my head. Towards the end of the song, the beat fades away, and Beyoncé recites an empowering monologue. ‘ALIEN SUPERSTAR’ is a song about knowing you are the shit. It is so uplifting and fun. Everything about the song is excellent. Following this, we get ‘CUFF IT,’ which is another fan favorite(as well as one of my favorites). ‘CUFF IT’ is a bit more tame than the first three songs on the record. It is still as danceable and entertaining, though. ‘CUFF IT’ is a Funk joint that sounds like it’s straight from the 1970s. It has a groovy riff and bass line that remind me of Chic or Earth, Wind, and Fire. On this one, Beyoncé is singing about having a great night out with her man.

The transition from ‘CUFF IT’ to ‘ENERGY’ is just as good as the transition was from ‘COZY’ to ‘ALIEN SUPERSTAR.’ ‘ENERGY,’ which features Beam, has an almost identical beat and melody to the song that precedes it when it starts. It doesn’t stay that way for long; the beat quickly morphs into something larger and ultra-modern. The song has a weird underground House Beat with some industrial elements to it. Once again, it makes me think of an NYC warehouse rave. The end of the song has the same vocal sample the song that follows it also has, making this another seamless transition. ‘ENERGY’ is a song about partying the night away. The only single from this album, ‘BREAK MY SOUL,’ comes next. If it wasn’t for ‘ALIEN SUPERSTAR,’ this might be my top song of the year(crazy how two of the best songs of the year came on the same album. Speaks to the talent of Beyoncé).’BREAK MY SOUL’ has an instrumental that is reminiscent of Hi-NRG music from the 90s. It sounds like the kind of music that was played in the clubs during that era. Due to the assistance on the track from Big Freedia, the instrumental has elements of New Orleans Bounce music as well. This track has some typical Beyoncé vocals; she flexes her range on this track. ‘BREAK MY SOUL’ is about exactly what the title suggests; Beyoncé lets the world know that she is in control and no one can stop her. ‘CHURCH GIRL’ is a total switch up from the rest of the album to this point. This track has way more of a Hip Hop feeling than the songs that precede it. Parts of this song have a Gospel Trap sound, and parts have a 2000s R&B sound(the instrumental fluctuates back and forth). During sections of this song, Beyoncé shows off some excellent vocals, and in other sections, she raps. On ‘CHURCH GIRL,’ Beyoncé is talking about everything she has been through and how she is stronger because of her struggles. ‘PLASTIC ON THE SOFA’ provides a total change in pace and tone. This is the most low-key song on the record. It has a 2000s Contemporary R&B sound. The instrumental and vocals remind me of Corinne Bailey Rae. ‘PLASTIC ON THE SOFA’ is about the love Beyoncé and Jay Z have for each other through thick and thin.

‘VIRGO’S GROOVE’ brings back the party/dance club feeling the album has up until the last song. This is another track with an old-school Funk sound to it; similar to ‘CUFF IT,’ it makes me think of bands like CHIC or Kool and the Gang. The song also has elements of modern Synth Pop; sections of the song remind me of the high Pop artists of today. ‘VIRGO’S GROOVE’ has some of my favorite vocals from the album to this point; they are very sweet and pretty, and Beyoncé shows off her range. ‘VIRGO’S GROOVE’ is about inviting your partner over for a night of sexual intimacy. After the more tame nature of the last three tracks, we were bound for something more experimental again. ‘MOVE, which features Grace Jones and Tems, brings back that innovative nature. The best on this track is so interesting; it sounds like a combination of Afrobeat or Dancehall and New Orleans Bounce music. It is unlike anything I have heard in the best way. Like always, Beyoncé makes sure her vocals stand out grandly, ‘MOVE’ is a song about going out for the night and tearing it up with your crew. ‘HEATED’ continues the Afrobeat/Dancehall sound from the last song. Unlike the last song, this track has a sweet melody which gives the song a light feeling. After the intensity of ‘MOVE,’ the calmer nature of this song is nice. Despite its more moderate ‘HEATED’ is still super fun and makes me want to dance when I hear it. Once again. Beyoncé flexes her vocals on this song, showing how excellent a singer she is.‘HEATED’ is a braggadocious song where Beyoncé asserts she is the baddest around. Following this, we get ‘THIQUE,’ which is one of my personal top songs on the record. This instrumental combines two hard-hitting and distinct types of music: Dark Trap and Deep House. One normally wouldn’t think these two kinds of music would be combined in one song, but it works super well on ‘THIQUE.’ Beyoncé shows off another aspect of her vocal ability on this track, as she actually raps on it instead of sings. On ‘THIQUE,’ Beyoncé is flexing about how much money she has and how great her body is.

The heavy Hip Hop sound the last song continues on ‘ALL UP IN YOUR MIND.’ I would say it is one of the more “traditional” sounding songs on the record. It still has a lot about its sound that is outside of the box. The song has an ultra-modern element which is almost robotic and industrial sounding. Toward the end of the song, the beat picks up, giving the song more of. modern Dance Pop sound. I really love Beyoncé’s vocal performance on ‘ALL UP IN YOUR MIND.’ Her flow had an R&B Trap feeling that makes me think of artists like 6lack or Rod Wave. Like always, Beyoncé is proving she can do what anyone else can do better than they can do it. In ‘ALL UP IN YOUR MIND,’ Beyoncé is asserting that she knows she is the shit, and that her partner Jay Z should only be thinking about her. Similar to the song that precedes it, ‘AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM’ has a sound that is more typical and comparable to other music that is popular today. This one seems to be Beyoncé’s take on the retro Synth-Pop that has taken over the Pop industry today. The melody is super funky and fun, and like so many other songs on the album, it makes me want to dance when I hear it. The lyrical concept of this track is very cool and interesting. It has the same title as Kilo Ali’s 1990 song about cocaine. On this track, Beyoncé is comparing her to cocaine; basically, she is comparing herself to how addictive cocaine is. ‘PURE/HONEY’ brings back the interesting innovative and experimental nature that a lot of the album has had to this point. It has a weird kind of Techno instrumental that makes me think of 90s industrial clubs. I love the build-up at the beginning of the song, as it provides so much energy. Towards the end of the song, the instrumental shifts to a Funky House music sound. Beyoncé’s vocal performance on this song is very interesting and cool. In the first half, she talks on the beat. I wouldn’t exactly call this rapping, it’s more like spoken word. It reminds me of how people talk on Electronic songs meant for Vogue dancing. On the second half of the song, she shows off her awesome singing voice, hitting notes in the way only she can. ‘PURE/HONEY’ is about having fun out on the town and flaunting your stuff. The album closes out with ‘SUMMER RENAISSANCE.’ Like so many other songs on the album, it has quickly become super popular. It is easy to see why this is the case, as it is so catchy. ‘SUMMER RENAISSANCE’ is an interpolation of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love.’ This is a modern take on a Disco classic. It has such a bright and vibrant sound which is uplifting and fun. This song reminds me of early 90s Pop; specifically, it makes me think of Madonna. There is also something about the song that makes me think of Lady Gaga. This song is like a celebration; it is meant to bring joy to those who hear it. ‘SUMMER RENAISSANCE’ is a perfect way to end this album, as it reiterates the themes of having confidence and being yourself. 

Once in a while, a piece of music comes along that upon first listen most people know it’s going to have lasting power. Beyoncè’s Renaissance falls into this category. In other words, people are going to be talking about this record for a long time. Its cultural significance and impact are going to last far into the future. In my opinion, this album does not have one skip. Every song has massive replay value. I could see any one of these songs being a hit for many years to come. With Renaissance, Beyoncé proved that she is still at the cutting edge of the music industry. Not only can she do what everyone else is doing and do it better, she can push the bar and set trends as well as anyone. Renaissance is a not-so-gentle reminder that Beyoncé is still the Queen of the game. She proved once again that nobody can touch her because she is the best.

FAVORITE TRACKS: COZY, ALIEN SUPERSTAR, CUFF IT, ENERGY FEAT. BEAM, BREAK MY SOUL, MOVE FEAT. GRACE JONES AND TEMS, THIQUE, ALL UP IN YOUR KIND, AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM, PURE/HONEY, SUMMER RENAISSANCE

10/10

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