The seventh studio album by Beyoncé is finally here. Dedicating this record to her family, the LGBTQ+ community, the pioneers of culture, and the people who go unrecognized in life, Beyoncé was destined to give this her all. This is the first time I’m able to have the privilege to listen to a Beyoncé album on its release night, so I won’t take it for granted. Bring it on.
Before I talk more about the album, I wanted to mention that my first impressions of Beyoncé weren’t perfect. The first full album I heard from her is her critically acclaimed 2016 record “Lemonade.” That wasn’t a good start for me as I definitely prefer the more fun side of her music. The emotional cuts never resonated with me, and that’s just how it is. However, after hearing “RENAISSANCE,” “Lemonade” definitely deserves a second chance, and I’ll definitely have to dive into her discography and find the gems I missed out on.
Throughout her six year hiatus from dropping an album, she was able to stay active in the music industry. She released a live album called “HOMECOMING” which went along with a Netflix film. Both received high praise, as she is known to be one of the greatest treasures when it comes to performing. She also released a soundtrack for “The Lion King: The Gift” which wasn’t seen as anything special in her catalog, as she worked with Saint Jhn, Major Lazer, Wiz Kid, Pharrell, Childish Gambino, and her partner Shawn Carter aka Jay-Z. Despite the all star team that is, it wasn’t anything special because movie soundtracks go without saying. They’re barely ever special, and that continued here.
This really is the year of comebacks. Pusha T released “It’s Almost Dry” in April after a four year break, and I consider it to be his most complete project to date. “Daytona” is amazing ofcourse, but it’s seven songs, so I was left wanting more, and I got that on the new record. A few weeks pass, and Kendrick Lamar comes back after half a decade to release “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers.” My favorite Kendrick release changes all the time, but “Mr. Morale” has grown on me over a 2-3 month span to the point where it might be at the top of his discography for me. Now, we have Beyoncé, 6 years after Lemonade, and the world has turned upside down countless times since then.
Drake and Kanye West, who are among some of the most wealthy musicians in the world, both released questionable records this year. People questioned why they even made the records, especially because the quality doesn’t reflect the countless connections they have to improve. They could create an album that features an absolute army behind it, but they ended up being somewhat unfinished bodys of work that take a toll on their catalog(“Donda 2” and “Honestly, Nevermind”). However, Beyoncé worked with the people around her to the best of her ability. With help from Mike Dean, The-Dream, Jay-Z, Syd, Tems, Hit-Boy, Drake, and many more people, Beyoncé knew exactly what she was doing, and it worked out very well.
The announcement of “RENAISSANCE” wasn’t a trailer, or even a post, but Beyoncé wrote “act i RENAISSANCE 7.29” in her instagram bio and that’s all we had to work with. With no surprise, the internet exploded, and that’s all anyone was talking about at the time. Shortly after, the world was introduced to the lead single “BREAK MY SOUL.” This track actually surprised me. I wasn’t expecting Beyoncé to follow the house/dance-pop trend, but it worked very well. That’s actually something worth mentioning. Ever since The Weeknd released “Dawn FM,” some of the biggest artists in the world have been following the trend. Drake released “Honestly, Nevermind,” Beyoncé released “RENAISSANCE,” and rumors are sparking that the next Frank Ocean record will be full of house music, but Frank Ocean is unpredictable, so that may be a reach. Nonetheless, I’m living for this trend, and Beyoncé succeeds in every way.
The album begins with “I’M THAT GIRL” and ends with “SUMMER RENAISSANCE.” The intro left me confused at first as it had a sample of a woman saying “Please, mfers ain't stoppin' me.” It was sped up, and Beyoncé started to speak over it. She was singing about being “that girl” on the chorus, which means that her significance doesn’t come from her riches, her husband, or her posture, but from being the woman she is. I expected the track to stay the same throughout, because it’s an intro, but the buildup beat switch to verse is amazing. The track also continues to build her confidence which is an interesting aspect. The continuous mentions of her “Un-American life” leaves me questioning the meaning of that statement, but I guess that’s just the way she seems to feel about herself or how people see her. Regardless, it’s a very strong intro. The outro doesn’t seem like much of an outro, but it doesn’t need to be in order to be great. This seems like a track all about Jay-Z. The line “I'm gonna spouse you and make you tat your ring” is a straightforward reference to Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s matching tattoos on their ring fingers that say “IV.” They were both born on the 4th of the month, they got married on the 4th day of the 4th month, and they both have albums 4 in the title. The number solidifies the connection they have, and I’m surprised the outro isn’t called 4.
“CUFF IT” is one of my favorite tracks, as the house sound of the track lights up the mood of the record. The song is all about love, being in the mood to “f**k something up,” and most importantly having fun. That’s all this record needs to be, and it works. I’d love to see this become the next single, because the funky songs carry the radio nowadays. I thought the use of “black lights” and “blinding lights” was a smart way to switch phrases, and when the track’s consistent pace is the same as the next track(ENERGY), it’s pure ear candy.
The second I heard the high pitched vocal sample at the beginning of “CHURCH GIRL” I knew what we were in for. The 808s kick in, and she just has the time of her life. This is one of the rare occurrences where a song all about ass works this well. Beyoncé’s use of layered vocals is so impressive. A lot of strong vocalists do it nowadays, but Beyoncé makes it seem like a one woman choir. This track would go so hard on the radio, and I keep saying this, but to be honest there’s so many good choices for that role. By the time this track is over, you kind of get the understanding that this is an album all about being “that bitch.” Confident albums work when they’re honest and well said, and that’s exactly what this album is.
Another track worth mentioning is “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA.” I think she might’ve been inspired by her sister “Solange” on this track, as she tends to sing in a soft falsetto. The verse where she says “I know you had it rough growin’ up, but that’s okay, I like it rough” is hilarious. She goes from sympathy to sex within 2 lines, and it was such an unexpected moment that I’ll remember.
The weirdest song on the record is “ENERGY.” It’s not bad whatsoever, but there’s crazy lines that leave me wondering how on earth this song made the final cut. The line “I just entered the country with derringers, 'Cause them Karens just turned into terrorists.” Someone who contributed to Genius’ annotation feature considers this line to be a reference to the January 6th Capitol invasion, but the fact that she used the term “Karens” was so out of the blue.
The best song by a long shot is “VIRGO’S GROOVE.” Beyoncé made a pure dance anthem that is essential for any club. Regardless of the 6 minute runtime, this is nothing but fire. The verse where she says “Kiss me where you bruise me, taste me, that fleshy part, I scream so loud, I curse the stars” is a moment where she’s so confident that she lost her filter. It’s funny because she has 3 kids, and she probably plays her music a lot, so it’s hilarious how there’s many lines like that which come out of nowhere. Nonetheless, the track is ahead of its time, it's unique, and it's what I’d call a perfect song. This is one of the best songs of the year. I hope this track is remembered as one of the essential house songs for this new generation of the genre.
“RENAISSANCE” opened my eyes to the Beyoncé hype, and it’s such a fitting record for the time period we’re in. It’s the middle of the summer, everything is back open after the worst moments of the pandemic, and it’s just fun music that a lot of people need. And it’s new Beyoncé, so why wouldn’t this be exciting? Thinking about it now, did it live up to expectations? Maybe superfans of Lemonade will find this underwhelming, but I think it’s a huge step up, and I’m thankful for its existence. It’s also not worth comparing it to anything in her discography or other albums in the genre. Just enjoy it for what it is. This album might not be groundbreaking or anything, but it’s already breaking records for 2022, and I have no doubt that this will end up on a lot of people’s best album of the year lists. In 2022, there were a few releases that I got addicted to. Dawn FM, Who Cares?, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, Melt My Eyez See Your Future, Sick!, and more. There hasn’t been a record like that for me in a while, but “RENAISSANCE” is exactly what I needed. It’s an eye opener for an artist I was never big on, and it’s a highlight that adds to this incredible year for music that’s still going.
Beyoncé is back, she’s here to stay, and she sounds better than ever. She didn’t let the new generation of young stars get in the way of her legacy, and I’m loving it. She’s 40 and she gets better with age. There’s so many interesting moments on this album that blew my expectations out of the water. I had high expectations for this record, and I wasn’t disappointed. I hope this will age like wine, and I expect it to. This is only act 1, so who knows what else she has in store. Regardless, I’m excited for it.