Beyoncé released her seventh studio album titled Renaissance, the first instalment or “Act I” of the trilogy on July 29, 2022. The album surpassed all projections to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 within the first week, which is also the first time this year an album by a woman has the top spot. Beyoncé is now the first female artist to have all her solo studio albums (seven to be exact) debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
She collaborated with her husband, Jay-Z, on their joint album Everything Is Love in 2018 and released music via The Lion King soundtrack in 2019. However, Beyoncé’s last solo album (Lemonade) came out in 2016, making this new release highly anticipated after a six year semi-hiatus.
I have to address my bias before I dive into the album.
I am a huge Beyoncé fan and in my eyes, she can do no wrong. I have tried my best to remain objective, but my love runs deep and I am so relieved to say that the Queen did not disappoint one bit.
Renaissance has gained a lot of praise for being completely different from what we’re used to hearing from Beyoncé in terms of genre, lyrics, and style. It is eclectic but flows together so smoothly that it is difficult to distinguish when one song ends and a new song begins.
"Renaissance is Beyoncé at her loca-motion best. The kinetic album seems to rarely let up or stop, or take a break. It's bursting over with musical and sonic and lyrical details and ideas,” Jason King wrote for NPR.
The artwork for the album was released via Beyoncé’s Instagram on June 30th, accompanied with a caption in which she states, “My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgement. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, release, feel freedom. It was a beautiful journey of exploration. I hope you find joy in this music. I hope it inspires you to release the wiggle. Ha! And to feel as unique, strong, and sexy as you are.”
This album does exactly as promised, and it will make you want to dance while feeling yourself to the utmost degree. Period.
There was also some controversy amid all the praise. Many disability activists pointed out the use of a derogatory term in the song, “Heated” for people with spastic cerebral palsy. R&B singer Kelis also claimed that one of her songs was sampled without permission for “Energy”.
Beyoncé and her team worked quickly to clear up the controversies, and correct their mistakes so that all the fans could focus on enjoying the album.
It is a difficult feat to pick just one favourite song from the 16 songs on the album. I personally feel that my favourite song changes daily based on what resonated with me the most that day.
The first three songs on the album – “I’m That Girl” “Cozy”, and “Alien Superstar” have replaced my daily morning affirmations. These three songs are all the affirmation I need to start my day right and truly be that girl.
The eight song, “Plastic Off The Sofa,” is a strong contender for my favourite song because it’s a love song written for men by a strong, independent and fierce woman. It’s not something you come across every day. It is soft and cute while being cool and sexy at the same time.
I, like many others in the BeyHive, were hoping for yet another visual album like Lemonade (2016) and the self-titled album, Beyoncé (2013). However, there is no visual component of this album other than lyric videos and visualizers (yet—fingers crossed).
One of the biggest reasons as to why Beyoncé’s music resonates so deeply with me is because somehow her entire discography runs parallel to my life and its phases/eras. It’s almost eerie. Her albums always come out right when I need them to – whenever there is a big shift in my life externally and/or internally.
“I Am … Sasha Fierce” came out as I was going through puberty and it made me think about the kind of woman I wanted to become. “4” came out with all its songs about love when I was just beginning to explore love and understand what it is. Then, “Beyoncé” released a visual album focused on the power behind a woman’s sexuality, right when I was trying to discover my sexuality, and what it meant to be a woman who is comfortable being a woman.
After that, the most important, and my favourite Beyoncé album released – Lemonade. I cannot even describe the impact this album had on me. It single handedly made me get over a breakup that felt devastating at the time. It solidified a lot of my identity. It was released the week of my birthday, as if Queen B was giving me a present in the form of my favourite album of all time, ever.
Now, “Renaissance” is ushering in a new era for me. It is a strong contender for my second most favourite Beyoncé album. I am still discovering exactly what this new era entails but I felt the shift and change within me a few months ago. I feel like it is the soundtrack to my own personal renaissance.
I warned you, my love for Queen Bey runs deep, but it feels completely justified because she always delivers with her art. She has received widespread acclaim for making such an intricate piece of art that fuses “six decades of Black and queer dance music, from disco and funk, to Chicago house and Afro-beats, Jamaican dancehall and Detroit techno, via New York's ballroom scene.” That is no easy task to achieve.
Renaissance is far from the ordinary and Beyoncé is the quintessential example of a true artist. You’ll have to listen for yourself.
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