By: Justin Pecisto
Beyoncé has returned from a two year music hiatus with her new album Renaissance, which she teased on her website out of the blue, which is always exciting because it’s Beyonce! She revealed that her new album would be released in three acts. As of July 29th, act 1 has been released. I was definitely excited for the album when it was rumored it would be disco and house inspired. On twitter a user had posted the song credits to each song, to my pleasure there were many artists I loved such as Grace Jones, Syd, and Honey Dijon. I knew it was going to be good.
As someone who clubs frequently in bushwick, where the sounds are mixes filled with techno and house, Renaissance resonated with me. I love the club, I love house, I love techno. Knowing this album was going to be centered around these genres felt like an event! It’s also a love letter to ballroom culture and the LGBTQ community (later she proved my theory by posting a letter to her fans). This album was also dedicated to her Uncle Johnny, who passed away from AIDS. Renaissance is more than just a dance album, it is paying respects to fallen ancestors, exploring aspects of music she has dabbled with in the past (such as Blow on her self-titled album) and uplifting music for trying times.
Renaissance starts off strong with “Im That Girl” and with what I call “Charge Up” music, music that helps build confidence, it takes anxieties away and prepares you for the night ahead. The intro repeats “These Motherfuckers Ain’t stopping me,” which becomes a mantra…no one can stop us.The song shines with her vocals and the soft house beat. “Im That Girl” seamlessly transitions into “Cozy” as the song comes harder with a forceful beat, this is where Renaissance shows it is as an album that needs to be listened to in full. This song has a funky bassline perfect for the club and the ballroom. It is obvious Beyoncé was enjoying herself in the studio. The lyrics and the instrumentals just scream fun, compared to her most recent projects,Lemonade and The Gift, which held a serious tone. In this album there’s no specific theme she’s adhering to other than Black joy.
“Alien Superstar” is one of my favorite tracks on the entire album. What is a house inspired album without some afro-futurism? What I love is that it samples “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred, a classic 90’s track. The production of this song really takes me to another world especially with synths reminiscent of a 70’s B-movie with alien sound effects in the background while she sings, “I’m Too Classy For This World”
“Cuff It” introduces the more disco elements of the album, with the drums, rhythm guitar and infectious bassline. It makes me feel like I’m at Studio 54 dancing with all the stars at 3:00am.
I have to review “Energy” and “Break My Soul” together because of the transition from one to the other (which gave me goosebumps by the way). Energy is a shorter song which makes it feel like the grand opening for the lead single “Break My Soul”. This song takes it back to the ballroom with Beam rapping and Big Freedia leading us into “Break My Soul”. On my first listen I had to replay the transition because it was just too good. Beam’s rapping transitions into adlibs Big Freedia, then you hear her “IM BOUT TO EXPLODE”, you know it’s time to get up and dance. Initially, I enjoyed “Break My Soul” casually, but in the context of the album I have new-found enjoyment of the song. When “Break My Soul” was initially released I thought it was a fun song, but it didn’t make too much of an impact on me. Listening to it in the context of this album with the transition from “Energy” to “Break My Soul’ added a new rhythmic dimension to the single.
“Church Girl” is more of a R&B track, a more soothing vibe, where it’s something you can dance to, but also relax to which gives her time to bring the church into the album. The New Orleans inspired track reminds me of her protege Chloe Halle’s “Treat Me”. Both have bounce influences which make for perfect dance music.
“Plastic Off The Sofa” seems to be the general least favorite track off the album (from what I’ve seen on Twitter). I love the song a lot myself, I always have time for a slower paced disco song.
“Virgo’s Groove” speeds up the slower disco pace from the previous song. This one of my favorites, because it’s six minutes long. It doesn’t feel dragged out,, it becomes a song that was meant to be danced to. Songs today you have to have on repeat so you can enjoy it longer, With “Virgo’s Groove” that problem doesn’t exist. In 2022 how many songs can you name that have a runtime over three minutes? “Virgo’s Groove” is REAL disco, a tribute to disco legends and disco lovers alike. If you put the song in a 70’s playlist, nothing about it would make me say, oh this doesn’t belong here. It feels true to the genre without being too gimmicky. It’s like she went back in time and worked alongside the top producers of that era.
“Move” features Grace Jones, who doesn’t love Grace Jones. It makes me happy that she was involved with Renaissance because if it wasn’t for her work in the 80’s this album more than likely wouldn’t exist. The beat is hot, what can I say?
“Heated” the 11th track was made with Drake who I think I can hear. It’s funny because this song is much better than anything on his album that just came out, but also that’s just my opinion (no hard feelings Drake).
“Thique” takes us back to the ballroom. It has a quick pumping rhythm intended to be paired with heels on a catwalk. This song I feel is more like an anthem, with lyrics that feel empowering. It’s not a song for Beyoncé, it feels like a song for the grown and sexy. I also enjoyed the synth at 2:20,which reminds me of ABBA. The little synth sample reminds me of how Madonna sampled ABBA in her song “Hung Up”, that long winding sound to be specific.
“All Up In Your Mind” felt like filler to me initially, but it picks up at the end. If i was at a listening party this would be the song where I rest my feet for a little bit until the last minute of the song. The song has its purpose though because it gives you build up before my absolute favorite song on the album.
“America Has A Problem” is the absolute hottest song on the album. I’ve already played this song in my car at least 15 times. I love the sound of 90’s Southern dance music artists such as 69 Boyz, 2 Live Crew and Ghost Town DJ’s and this is exactly what this song has.I immediately woke up. This song absolutely makes me want to get up and dance because of the 90’s hip-hop sample of “Cocaine” by Kilo Ali. It makes me feel like I’m on the later episodes of Soul Train in the early 90’s. This song is summer. It is dancing in the middle of Prospect Park at night with strangers, who later become friends. I love love love songs like this, it felt like she made this one for me.
“Pure/Honey” once again takes us to the ballroom, club and disco. This song is so versatile I feel like it’s a modern day “Bohemian Rhapsody” as the song blends different genres that are usually listened to in different places. Beyoncé definitely took time with this song because you can hear the finesse as it transitions to ballroom then to disco and back. The song doesn’t feel oversaturated with going back between the genres, each gets their time to shine and when it times to change, it does.
The album ends with “Summer Renaissance,” a powerful disco song with a pumping beat which turns her into a full fledged disco diva.
Renaissance, one of my top two Beyonce albums,solidified the idea that she is a jack of all trades, master of all. When she does a genre it never feels cheap. Back when she released the latin-pop album, Irreemplazable, I thought she was bilingual for a good chunk of my childhood. With this album it doesn’t feel like she’s playing a part when she’s singing these disco songs. If you told me this song came out in 1977 I would believe you! The samples, the beats, the production, the transitions, it is all top tier. She put a lot of care into this album and it’s clear by her collaboration with disco legends and members of the ballroom community to make sure this tribute to them was done correctly. This album was made with the community and made for the community, nothing feels cheap. She put her time and did her research for who she wanted to work with on the album and we appreciate Beyoncé for it.