H-Town’s own superstar is back! Beyoncé has returned with her first studio album in six years, offering listeners her gayest effort yet: 16 tracks full of ‘80s and ‘90s club-music beats.
The album, produced by Beyoncé, Nova Wav, The-Dream, Symbolyc One, Honey Dijon, Beam, Tricky Stewart, Bloodpop, Skrillex, Hit-Boy, No I.D., P2J, and various others, marks the beginning of a three-act project. Renaissance is an optimistic, upbeat record that is primarily rooted in dance, hip-hop, and R&B genres, with heavy inspiration from disco and house.
The record may not be the star’s strongest effort (that honor still goes to 2016’s Lemonade), but it is refreshing to see such an established singer experiment and play with a new sound. While Beyoncé is no stranger to pop music, the 40-year-old has never played around with an electronic dance sound this seriously before. Reminiscent of dance music from the clubs of decades past, Renaissance is a refreshing listen, even if not every track connects.
For example, as fantastic as Donna’s Summer “I Feel Love” is, Beyoncé’s sample of the song on “Summer Renaissance” feels like an afterthought, with just a portion of the 1977 classic being used. It’s almost a waste of the song being sampled. However, these low points are few and fleeting from an album that is connected by seamless transitions, successfully evoking the feeling of being in a club.
Perhaps that’s the reason why “Break My Soul” works better here in the context of the album. While I admittedly was not a huge fan of the track when it was released earlier this summer, “Break My Soul” grows on you because of its fantastic house beat and rousing background vocals from Big Freedia.
Speaking of Freedia, the album is easily Bey’s most gay-friendly record. With its sound and classic samples, it’s no surprise that the singer dedicated the album to her Uncle Jonny, her late cousin who was gay and battled HIV. The singer said he was “the first person to expose [her] to a lot of the music and culture that serve as inspiration for this album.”
The former Destiny’s Child singer is just the latest artist to go back to the ‘90s for inspiration. Drake recently released a house album with Honestly, Nevermind. Plus, Lady Gaga dropped the house- and dance-pop album Chromatica in 2020 that featured the 90s-inspired “Rain on Me” single featuring Ariana Grande.
In fact, Chromatica producer Bloodpop is featured on several tracks here. His work on “Pure/Honey” is fantastic, with the funky track having a disco-heaven mood to it. I can only hope that tracks off the next two parts of Renaissance emulate this standout song. It’s a high point in the album and will surely delight listeners.
Overall, Renaissance isn’t the best we’ve seen from Beyoncé, but it’s proof that this icon is having a lot of fun experimenting with new sounds and ideas. At the very least, the album is a refreshing change of pace after the R&B sounds of Lemonade. It will be interesting to see what Beyoncé has planned next for the other two acts of this new music era.
“Break My Soul”
“All Up In Your Mind”