Beyoncé is at a point in her career where anything she releases may cause hysteria, be it an Instagram post, a drop from her Ivy Park athletic wear line, or new music. Feeding this is her position as a high caliber act in an industry climate where the bar has substantially lowered since her arrival.
Over the last two decades, major labels have increasingly struggled to retain consumer dollars and attention. Piracy and social media are among the impactful forces. This has led to cutting corners of all sorts, including with talent scouting and development. Beyoncé rose to fame before the downward shift, and she’s one of the few of her contemporaries to consistently put out material. Thus, people will voraciously eat up whatever she tosses at them like vultures on a carcass, haha. Her latest project Renaissance would be swallowed twice as fast because it’s her first solo album after 2016’s Lemonade. It’s also her debut dive into the dance genre, which many have clamored for.
I was BeyHive before there was a designated BeyHive, so it’s nice to see my fave garner this much excitement and positive reception. It’s not without its aggravations though. The mass bandwagoning and superficial fandom surrounding Beyoncé is at a fever pitch. I could do a whole TED Talk on the influence of that and why it’s irksome to me as a stan, haha. For now, I’m focusing on the effect of this as a music nerd and reviewer. There’s not much room for constructive critical assessment when it comes to Beyoncé. Online, takes are filtered through the lens of “you’re either for or against her.”
I don’t wish to rain on the parade, give credit when it’s not due, or feed the fault-finding crowd. It’s always my target to have great analytical discussion. I’m curious if folks will share my opinions, or cause me to marinate on things I didn’t before. So, I opted to weigh in when the ground was conversation conducive, and I could examine Renaissance in totality with its visuals. A year later, and Beyoncé’s just telling us that we are the visuals, baby. Guess that means it's officially time to talk, haha. Are ya'll ready to objectively discuss Renaissance with me?
I’ve scored various areas on a scale of 1-10. For fun, I've titled them as if they were ballroom categories. If you don't know what I mean by that, you soon will, haha. They're named after artists I feel embody them.
The Category Is…"Dancing in Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ (Music/Production):" 7.5
The music and production of Renaissance is easily its strongest and most dominant facet. It’s kind of a problem that it’s the star of the show, but I’ll get to that shortly.
Dance albums can be stylistically one-dimensional, but Beyoncé offered a smorgasbord without compromising the identity of the core genre. On the list of those giving her a helping hand are Mike Dean, The Dream, Stuart White, and Nova Wav.
Despite the variation, patterns of hyper pop, funk, rap, EDM, vogue, R&B, afrobeats, and more seamlessly co-exist and collaborate. Some of my favorite melds involve gospel accents. They’re used as end-caps for the house music-based “Break My Soul” and the disco darling “Summer Renaissance.” Their positioning perfectly created a sense of deliverance, as one might feel leaving their cares on the club floor. Gospel is also the backdrop of the aptly titled “Church Girl,” seated on New Orleans bounce. It’s anyone’s guess if the union of what’s considered sacrosanct and debauchery is simply a delicious irony. Perhaps it’s a note to re-evaluate what we deem 'holy' and a source of inner peace. It could be commentary on how seemingly opposite worlds are more alike than believed. *Andre 3000 voice* Who knows where this flower grows?
The employment of templates, interpolations, and samples spanning the last 50 years makes Renaissance both comfortingly nostalgic and relevantly current. Simultaneously, it feels like the ushering in of a new era, as all is coated in a futuristic glaze. Cohesion is attained in part by each track swaying into the next.