Beyoncé’s Renaissance is a Soulful Celebration of Self-Love
By: Gennifer Allen
Beyoncé’s seventh studio album, Renaissance, was released on July 29 to a roar of fans yearning to hear from Queen B after six years without a solo album.
Though we were graciously promised three parts, “Act I” felt like an engaging 16-part play with no intermission—just pure artistry, shit-talking, self-love, and drama from one of the greatest artists of our generation (do NOT debate me, debate your mother!)
Let’s explore exactly what makes Beyoncé’s Renaissance one-of-a-kind.
It’s a house album through and through
Beyoncé tributed this album to her husband, her children, the pioneers of house music (i.e. Black gay men in Chicago), and Uncle Johnny, her gay uncle who helped raise her.
Beyonce says in her tribute: “A big thank you to my Uncle Jonny. He was my godmother and the first person to expose me to a lot of the music and culture that serve as inspiration for this album,” she wrote. “Thank you to all of the pioneers who originate culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long. This is a celebration for you.”
One element that doesn’t go unnoticed is her inclusion of the queer icons she drew inspiration from and featured on the album. Big Freedia, a rapper known for her work in the popular New Orleans style of hip hop called bounce music, can be heard on Beyoncé’s single “Break My Soul.”
New York City nightlife and drag queen legend Kevin Aviance‘s vocals can be heard at the top of “Pure/Honey.” Supermodel and disco innovator Grace Jones is featured on “Move.” The sounds of Honey Dijon, the late 90’s drag legend Moi Renee, DJ MikeQ, TS Madison, and Syd can also be heard throughout the album.
This is the version of Beyoncé that talks her shit
I hadn’t even thought about it until a friend of mine pointed it out (thank you Michaeljon!). In the last couple of songs she’s released, Bey has been in her woke, “fight for your rights” bag. Think back to Black Parade, and what culture writer Hunter Harris funnily labels “the tennis song” aka “Be Alive” in her newsletter Hung Up.
Don’t get me wrong—we appreciate what Beyoncé gives us through those songs. But this Beyoncé that we hear on Renaissance is something different. This is MUTHA. This is vocals, layered beats, can’t-compare-where-you-can’t-compete, and showing the world that she’s that girl.
This emergence of a disco superstar has us all shook in the best way possible—and she has the lyrics to match. Some of my faves include:
“I been thuggin’ for my un-American life lights, in these D-Flawless skies (Yeah) Off the deep end (Yeah) Such a heathen (Yeah), why they let me outside?”“I’m That Girl,” Beyoncé
“Must be the cash ’cause it ain’t your face. It must be the cash ’cause it ain’t your face.”“Church Girl,” Beyoncé
Bey calling herself a heathen AND potentially getting cheeky about someone’s facial features all in the same album?! Absolutely here for it.
The transitions in this body of work are smoother than a baby’s bottom
The transitions on Renaissance are out of this world, almost making it feel like one track that owns different beats and sounds. There were moments I would get halfway through and hadn’t noticed that a song had changed. My favorite has to be the transition from “Cuff It” > “Energy” > “Break My Soul.” The only way to describe the album’s transitions is sensationally seamless.
Beyoncé’s obsession with horses continues
We all know (and love) the fact that Beyoncé is from the down souf’ of Texas, which probably spawned her love for horses. During the start of her career, she headlined the Houston Livestock Show and rode out on top of a horse.
In the video for her single “Run The World (Girls)” off her album 4, she can be seen riding a horse through the desert. Horses also appear in the video for “Daddy Lessons” from Lemonade and throughout the musical film, Black Is King. Bey also features horses in her Ivy park campaign and her editorial work in both Harper’s Bazaar and Essence.
So what does the sparkly, translucent horse on the album cover mean? Some are saying it’s a nod to the iconic photo of Bianca Jagger on a white horse inside Studio 54 – a former disco nightclub. She hasn’t spoken on it, but what we do know is she’s always intentional with her symbolism.
Act I could be the first in a three-part series
Queen B’s website and Instagram bio reads, Renaissance “Act I.” British Vogue announced there’s “a thrilling abundance” of new music that’s on the way. Beyoncé also said this album was made over three years during the pandemic, meaning there’s definitely room for more bops.
I know I’m not the only one who gives this album 10’s across the board. There’s something fresh and fulfilling about Renaissance—what it represents, and what it means for the future of music. Beyoncé has outdone herself, once again.