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Renaissance Is Beyoncé’s Rebirth Through Dance Club Culture

Bey’s first solo album since Lemonade is damn close to perfect

renaissance review
Beyoncé, photo courtesy of the artist
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    What a difference six years can make. Right? The last time Beyoncé dropped an album, her world was tilted. Lemonade detailed the messy emotions birthed from her husband breaking his marriage vows. After a bit of therapy, some bad words, and a lot of music, Black America’s royal couple finds their union in a much better place in 2022.

    The world itself? Not so much. As a result, Bey looks outward on Renaissance, projecting her hopeful feelings of love and empowerment onto a population desperately in need of both. Renaissance (out Friday, July 29th) is both a rebirth for Beyoncé, and a mission statement for marginalized people, as well as for anyone who wants to scream, let it all hang out, and simply exist as an act of protest.⁠

    Renaissance is of this era, but owes much of its flavor to twenty years of club culture. The album mixes Donna Summer, Diana Ross, Robin S., Queen, and a dash of The Bee Gees, because you just gotta have The Bee Gees. If that’s not clear through the first few tracks, by the time the record spins to the end and the title track begins, Beyoncé’s grand design is evident. “I’m That Girl” combines House, EDM, and Beyoncé’s throaty vocals for a rebellious anthem steeped in confidence. She repeats “I didn’t want this power” at one point in the song, flippantly remarking on women’s inherent ability regardless of their status.

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    Pick one: relationship status, social status, or commas in bank account status…? Bey says none of that matters when measured against the natural force she and women worldwide possess on principle. That ethos continues as one track seamlessly blends into the next using music cues or instruments. “Cozy” changes tempo and melody as it reaches its climax. That newly-established rhythm and those freshly minted drums segue into “Alien Superstar.” Renaissance is a puzzle, with each song a separate piece.

    Freak flags flew high during the Disco era, and Beyoncé happily obliges. “Church Girl” not only revels in “dropping it like a thottie” — her words, not mine — but reclaims the term as one of endearment. The uptempo song — which pairs perfectly with “Break My Soul” — celebrates the judgment-free dance floor and femininity without patriarchal constraints.

    Maybe it’s because she was cooped up for years just like the rest of us, but Bey wants — no, she beckons — her audience to embrace pleasure. No vice is off limits, hedonism isn’t a thing, and everything in this place is better than what’s outside. Lemonade lacked this joy for obvious reasons, so hearing Beyoncé do her best impression of a Siren from The Odyssey is heartwarming, if only because her happiness is contagious.

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