Beyoncé announces herself with “These mutha-fuckers ain’t stoppin’ me,” on the opening track I’m That Girl. This loops over and over into a tight trap beat as Beyoncé nonchalantly slays everyone in the room. I am a big proponent of a record’s opening track teaching the listener about how to experience the rest of the record and I’m That Girl is no exception. It taught me that this is going to be the most self-assured, raw, powerful and sexy record by Beyoncé yet…and it did not disappoint.
Renaissance is billed as Act I in what is rumoured to be a three act record movement. If so, this three act journey has kicked off with a bang. Renaissance showcases Beyoncé at her height and her most powerful. Within the past six years she has dropped the landmark Lemonade record, two Lion King records, the multi-media hit Homecoming, crushed Coachella and put out the incredible single Black Parade in the wake of the BLM protests. To say that Beyoncé has taken over pop music and culture is an understatement.
Beyoncé explores familiar themes of race, gender, sex and power throughout the record; however, this may be the most self – assured we have ever heard her on a studio record. Tracks like I’m That Girl, Cozy and Break My Soul document how she is confident and happy within her skin, which has a power behind it that really cuts through. Beyoncé has always been in control and the power player in all of her tracks, but it has never hit me emotionally as it has in this record. I think her voice is so up front in the mix against trap / house beats that her power stands out more than past records.
Beyoncé’s voice is not only powerful, but also extremely sexy on this record. Her disinterested sexy snarl turns tracks like Thique and Pure/Honey into erotic thrillers. The last three Beyoncé studio records have really dialed the sex up to 11 and Renaissance is no different. Her sex appeal on the record shows a different side to one of the most well known mothers on the planet, which also challenges gender roles / perceptions of motherhood.
Musically, this record explores genres that are closely associated to southern black hip hop, mainly the trap on this record, as well as disco / house, which has been connected with queer spaces. In fact, Beyoncé dedicates the record to her late uncle, Johnny, who identified as gay and was HIV positive. Moreover, she has dedicated the record to other “fallen angels” like her uncle. Much like how she celebrates black southern trap music, Beyoncé uses house and disco not as gimmicks, but as celebrations of queer spaces and LGBTIQA+ people. I think the reason her disco and house flourishes work so well is that they are from a place of love and not trying to cash in on some musical trend.
For me…an unapologetic Beyoncé fan / member of the hive…Renaissance has it all. You see Beyoncé stretch her hip hop style, raw sexuality and power, but you also get long stretches of her smooth R&B vocals to break up the action. Moreover, she takes traditional musical genres such as disco and house and gives them a modern Afro-futurist twist. Similar to Janelle Monáe’s ability to bring futuristic vibes to traditional musical structures, see The ArchAndroid, Beyoncé is able to breathe new life into the familiar. Renaissance is evidence that Queen B is at the peak of her powers and a long way from falling back to Earth.
Listen to Renaissance