The dread that filled me as I brought myself to write this review is almost as powerful as the hold this album has on me. The soundtrack to my life this past summer has been Beyoncé’s seventh studio album, ‘RENAISSANCE‘, which is also ironically enough, the first proper album that I’ve listened to from her discography. While I remember liking it quite a bit the first time, there was an eventual addictiveness that encompassed this album and transported me to a completely different place where freedom, love and energy reigned supreme. How could I put into words what this album did for me these past few months? To not get tired of listening to this sixteen-track masterpiece over and over again and still get all the strong emotions out of it as if I’m listening to it for the first time. That is what this certified bible of self-empowerment is capable of. The reason it is so addicting is not only because of the rich and empowering lyricism but more so because this is an album only Beyoncé could sing whose divine authoritativeness translates into powerful (and catchy) mantras that have been feeding my soul and have yet to lose their power. This is what ‘RENAISSANCE‘ is all about.
To track my inability to formulate a proper critique towards this album, I would have to mention the fact that I don’t think of ‘RENAISSANCE‘ as an album. It is all I could think about and it was definitely all I played all Summer long but I didn’t process it like an album. Sure I spent weeks getting lyrics and melodies stuck in my head but I never dissected them. To put it as simply and as cheesy of a way to say it, ‘RENAISSANCE‘ is a way of life, if you will. I put it on to feel confident, to have a good time, getting ready to go out, it was the soundtrack to my Summer. Over the past few months it’s been out, I would appreciate certain tracks more after multiple listens and I would get a new favourite every couple of weeks. Truth be told, I still don’t know what my favourite track is. This ranking will be a whole mess, that’s for sure. That being said, even if I have spent literal weeks not being to literally formulate a proper thought about this album other than ‘RENAISSANCE GOOD!”, I just have to talk about this masterpiece even if it’s in a noncoherent fashion.
First off, this is an album by Beyoncé, for Beyoncé and no one else but Beyoncé. No other singer could take this project on and dominate it the way Bey did because while you can get the technicalities of the vocal performance down, you still won’t get the attitude, charisma and elegance that comes with Beyoncé. The opening track ‘I’M THAT GIRL’ establishes the self-empowerment messages quite strongly but once again, lyrics don’t matter unless you truly believe what you are singing. Once she enters the song, her presence is undeniable. She really is the Queen because she carries herself with such dignity, elegance and power and it’s incredibly infectious. This continues in several tracks namely ‘COZY’, ‘ALIEN SUPERSTAR’, ‘MOVE’ and ‘HEATED‘. It’s also important to note just how transformative her voice is on this record. In that last song, she delivers what is almost a monologue and it is one of the best things I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. It acts as an LGBTQIA+ manifesto in many ways and ‘HEATED‘ is truly the anthem! Her voice is arguably as transformative as the sound it emulates. Her vocal delivery in the latter half of ‘THIQUE‘, the spoken verses in the opening of ‘ALIEN SUPERSTAR‘, the insane riffs at the end of ‘PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA‘ or the rapping on ‘AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM‘. Her performance, because it is a performance, is unparalleled. She put her entire being into this album and the results are cosmically beautiful. Someone on Twitter said it best, she is her own feature.
Considering the ambition this record has, to emulate multiple eras of dance and house music into one cohesive record, ‘RENAISSANCE‘ does it quite flawlessly. It is a perfect record in every way. Not one track is inconsequential, every single one brings something unique to the table, they’re all the appropriate length but most important of all, they all fit together. The transitions in this album… I still can’t get over them. ‘CUFF IT‘ into ‘ENERGY‘ into ‘BREAK MY SOUL‘ is what dreams are made of. It is one of the most satisfying records I’ve ever heard. True magic is listening to ‘PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA‘ transition into ‘VIRGO’S GROOVE‘. It is just insane how many relistens this record elicits. If the entire thing isn’t on my Spotify Wrapped at the end of the year then I have failed my duty as a homosexual in this world. Outside of the fact that most of the songs seamlessly flow into each other, it also helps that the album is non-stop energy. It is an hour-long party and you would think it would get tiring but it never does because not every track is a huge moment. In total, the album has a few crowning jewels, ‘BREAK MY SOUL‘ being the first which sounds even better within the album coming hot off the ending of ‘ENERGY‘. It is the anthem of the album and a great lead single. The second big moment is ‘VIRGO’S GROOVE‘ which is an epic, six-minute groove track showcasing the insane production and Beyonce’s insane vocal range. The production and instrumentation throughout the entire thing is so meticulously planned, they were not just making another record, they were making magic. The last huge moment on the album is as mentioned, the ‘HEATED‘ outro which encapsulates what makes this album so special, it’s energetic, it has tons of personality and the production matches it perfectly.
It is also worth noting how ‘RENAISSANCE‘ acts as a celebration of those that inspired it. This album was dedicated to Beyoncé’s Uncle Jonny who was gay and unfortunately passed away due to complications related to HIV. This album is a true celebration of black culture, queer culture and most importantly, black queer culture. As a project described as being the return of house music to the black community, Beyonce’s choice of sampling on this album was truly inspired. Some of my favourite samples were Big Freedia’s ‘Explode‘ which was used perfectly in ‘BREAK MY SOUL‘, it made the song what it is, ‘Miss Honey‘ by Moi Renee in ‘PURE/HONEY‘ and the fitting tribute to Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love‘ in the closing track ‘SUMMER RENAISSANCE‘. It’s one of the many reasons people can’t stop listening to it, because it just makes you feel good about who you are, it’s a sixteen-track, celebratory dance record and every track is a hit.
Overall, considering ‘RENAISSANCE‘ is my first Beyoncé album, I can safely say that I fully get it now. I am now part of the Bey Hive. I cannot wait to explore more of her discography after this. This is easily my favourite album of the year, I don’t see anyone topping it any time soon. I apologize if this review was all over the place, this has been the most daunting review I’ve ever had to write but I just had to talk about it. It took me literal weeks to write this which is funny because I know the album like I know the back of my hand but for some reason, I couldn’t put into words why, I hope this review makes some sense as to why that is. All I know is that I still have yet to get tired of listening to it. I hope my song ranking isn’t too bad! Would love to know yours too!
1. ALIEN SUPERSTAR
3. ENERGY (feat. Beam)
4. VIRGO’S GROOVE
6. CUFF IT
7. I’M THAT GIRL
8. AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM
9. BREAK MY SOUL
10. PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA
11. MOVE (feat. Grace Jones & Tems)
12. CHURCH GIRL
13. SUMMER RENAISSANCE
16. ALL UP IN YOUR MIND
Beyoncé’s ‘RENAISSANCE‘ is now available to stream.