Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’ Leads Us to the Dance Floor


“Renaissance” by Beyoncé.

By Megan Fisher, Arts Writer


Who run the world? After the release of her 2016 masterpiece “Lemonade” many would quickly answer “Beyoncé.” She has undoubtedly reached the peak of the mountain. Not only does Beyoncé set industry standards and lead the way for many other artists, she also is able to command any project she chooses, and is never far from the cultural conversation. How do you sustain that? How long can Beyoncé stay the queen?

Her seventh album, “Renaissance” answers these questions through simply not bothering with any expectations that have been placed on her. Frankly, the album is an overwhelming mess. This is surprising for an artist with such a reputation for control. However, through the mess, Beyoncé finds liberation and joy by freeing herself from external pressures and expectations.

As she wrote on her website about the album, “creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world. It allowed me to feel free and adventurous in a time when little else was moving. 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.” These are not just hollow words as Beyoncé does indeed invite the listener into this safe place — a dance floor.

Dance Dance Revolution

If listening to previous Beyoncé albums, such as  “Beyonce” and “Lemonade,” felt like being chauffeured through the night in a limousine, “Renaissance” feels like playing “Dance Dance Revolution.” Breathlessly jumping, moving and sweating, with neon lights flashing in your face. “Dance Dance Revolution,” just as “Renaissance,” is fun. It’s exciting. The songs have a texture to them, a pulse and sweat. From the opening chords of “I’m That Girl,” there’s a car-engine energy that propels one forward on a road of house, disco, bounce and afrobeats. This energy never lets up, not even for slow jams like the loungey “Plastic Off the Sofa.”

The catchy, ethereal disco-flavored “Cuff it,” is a personal favorite of mine. It recalls the smooth hedonism of Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” with its diamond-encrusted strings and uptempo groove. The debt to ballroom culture is evident in “Alien Superstar” and “Pure/Honey” with their stiletto-heel drum-lines and snake-like synthesizer beats. These bops are ready-made for voguing on the ballroom floor.

Another stand-out track on the album is “Virgo’s Groove,” which, as suggested, is truly a groove. It sparkles and twinkles across a disco floor, sounding something like a jam between Prince and Chic. There’s no rest, no point at which you recover your energy as the songs melt into one another. The medley structure is comparable to The Beatles“Abbey Road” for the Spotify era.

In comparison to the diaristic approach of “Lemonade,” “Renaissance” is quippy and flip, with lyrics such as “Monday, I’m overrated/ Tuesday, on my dick/ Flip-flop, flippy, flip-floppin’ ass bitch.” Speaking of the flip, there are also some unfortunate falls into kitsch, specifically during the rap segment of “Church Girl.” The line “She gon’ shake the ass and them tig ol’ bitties,” is one that no one, not even Beyoncé, could pull off. It is especially egregious coming from the woman who popularized the term “bootylicious.”

Archive of Black Music

“Renaissance” is filled to the brim with samples creating a tapestry of the Black music that came before Beyoncé. It is an act of homage, reclaiming gentrified music and celebrating not just legends, but those whose contributions have been overlooked. Samples and contributors include Grace Jones, Sheila E, Nile Rodgers, the Clark Sisters, Donna Summer, Trigger Man, Robin S. and ballroom artists such as MikeQ, Kevin Aviance and Moi Renee.

“Renaissance” is chaos and not the organized kind. It’s maximalist, overwhelming, dizzying and above all thrilling. Despite fleeting references to “Karen”s and “45” (Donald Trump), “Renaissance” is escapism. It’s going to the dance floor and forgetting the problems of the outside world.

While it may not be as good of an album as “Lemonade” or “Beyoncé,” that isn’t saying much. It’s like scoring 96 instead of 100 on a test. “Renaissance” is a complete, immersive vision. As she croons on “Alien Superstar,” “I’m one of one/ I’m number one/ I’m the only one.” This album could only have come from Beyoncé.


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