Beyoncé Proves That House Music Belongs in Modern-Day Pop With ‘Renaissance’
Move out the way, Beyoncé’s here and she needs space.
Grammy-award-winning singer Beyoncé dropped her seventh studio album Renaissance last year. It has been a minute, and the album has probably been on replay if you’re part of her fanbase, the Beyhive, but this is an appreciation post because Beyoncé proved once again that she is deserving of the title Queen B.
From the 16-track LP, we see the powerhouse drifting away from her signature R&B and pop stylings and delving into bouncier, swagger-infused house sounds that are oh-so pleasing to the ears. She boisterously smack-talks swears and gives no f-s as she declares that the only artiste in this decade that has the audacity to stand toe to toe with her is her.
She took a calculated risk with the reinvention of her sound because a lot of recording artists don’t like to leave their comfort zone. They fear that they may lose their already established fanbase or strain the good rapport they have with their labels. When Taylor Swift switched from country to pop with 1989 in 2014, the talk of the town was whether she would be taken seriously as a pop star. She fought tooth and nail to be accepted in the pop realm and her hard work paid off because she is now recognized as one of the most prolific singer-songwriters of the 2010s. The reception for Swift’s transition was no different from that of Beyoncé as fans and critics alike equally celebrated this album as being one of her career-defining moments.
Even though every artiste will tell you that charts don’t matter, they never lie. When Beyoncé dropped the first promotional single “Break My Soul” a month after the release of the album, it debuted at No.15 on the Billboard Hot 100 after just three days of tracking and after a full week, it climbed to No.7. The song eventually went on to rule the Billboard charts, topping the Hot 100, the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs, the Hot R&B Songs, and the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts. These chart achievements are partly due to the various remixes the song was blessed with, including a surprising “THE QUEENS REMIX” from Madame X, Madonna.
Her prowess on the charts is highly noteworthy because Beyoncé has been in the game for over two decades. She was in the successful girl group Destiny’s Child before forging her own path as a solo artist. A lot of her peers, even her ex-bandmates, have lost the appeal they once had in their heydays. Many don’t even release music anymore for one reason or the other, but Beyoncé has remained consistent. Consistency is one of her strongest qualities because album cycle or not, she is always “causing all this conversation” − whether it’s headlining “Beychella”, lending her voice to Disney’s The Lion King, executive producing albums, or storming the fashion industry. Never a participator in music industry politics, she dances to the beat of her own drum and lets her talent speak for itself even in the face of backlash and criticism.
Before Renaissance dropped, it was leaked by eager fans in France. When the album finally debuted, American singer, Kelis, accused Beyoncé of not crediting her after the interpolation of her hit single “Milkshake” was used in the track “Energy.” The interpolation is so subtle that it’s like a whisper in the wind, yet it was made a big deal by the singer who went on a tirade on Instagram about how she didn’t get the respect she deserved. Beyoncé always gives credit when credit is due, however, does Kelis really deserve credit because “Milkshake” was interpolated and not sampled? That question is still up for debate. Disability advocates forced Beyoncé to remove the word spaz from the song “Heated” because it is allegedly an offensive and derogatory term. Despite all these, Queen B bounced back by teasing fans with the possibility of other albums being in the works. Renaissance is just Act 1 in what appears to be a three-part project and nothing less than the Beyoncé standard is expected from the upcoming albums.
Speaking on Renaissance via her website, she said that the album is a “safe place, a place without judgement…a place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking.” There’s no better place to be free from judgement and overthinking than in the mixture of heat and sweaty bodies in a neon-lighted club. The illuminating tribute to club culture and house music, which was invented and popularized by the black and queer people of New York and Chicago, was evident in the guest features of LGBTQ+ icons Big Freedia (“Break My Soul”), Grace Jones (“Move”), Ts Madison (“Cozy”), and Honey Dijon (“Cozy” and “Alien Superstar”). Their production and vocals blended with Beyoncé’s powerful tonations so well that one could tell that a lot of thought was put into highlighting a genre that has been overlooked for a long time.
A lot of artistes have tried to incorporate house music in their sounds, but it’s often overshadowed by the baselines of catchy hooks and addictive choruses. The genre has fought for years for an opportunity to be on equal playing field with the greats−Hip-Hop, R&B, and Pop−but it never had a fighting chance until now. Renaissance is giving house music a voice that was lost since the ’70s and showing that indeed, it belongs in the modern-day pop era.
Unlike the revenge-filled Lemonade, this dance record is pure energy and good vibes. If you’re filled with negativity and bad omens, Beyoncé’s advice is to “move out the way” because there is no room for such. Her other advice on the controversial gospel track “Church Girl” is to shake what your mama gave you and “drop it like a thotty” with no inhibitions whatsoever. Leave your job, if you can afford to, dye your hair if you want to, and fall in love if you want to. Bust it down, be raunchy, be classy, be comfortable in your skin, be heated, and be whatever you want to be because Renaissance gives you that power. Through harmonies, chants, and falsettos, Beyoncé showed that the only one stopping you from being the best and most daring version of yourself is you.
The veteran singer’s R&B roots weren’t completely shed. She still stayed true to the Beyoncé most people grew up loving with the charming “Plastic Off the Sofa.” A fan-voted favorite (and Grammy-winning song), we see the Queen tapping into her dreamy side as she sultrily appreciates her lover (most likely her husband Jay-Z) and emphasizes his worth. Even through the ups and downs (He famously cheated on her with “Becky with the good hair” and that was the subject matter of Lemonade), their relationship has remained solid. The ballad highlighted the things Beyoncé cherishes the most, the little things like “just you and me and our family” and the “way you wear your emotions on both of your sleeves.” She poured her heart out into the lyrics and it was received warmly by the Beyhive who described it as a needed breather from the other dance-heavy tracks.
There’s something for everyone on this album. Along with the house sounds, she incorporated other familiar genres of music. If you like disco, listen to “Alien Superstar”; if you like pop listen to “Cozy”; if you like gospel, listen to “Church Girl”; if you like hip-hop, listen to “Thique” and if you like afrobeat, listen to “Heated.” No one is left out in Beyoncé’s house of music; her ability to take into consideration a wide variety of listeners is one of the many reasons why she is a commercial success.
Renaissance is no doubt one of the best music projects of 2022. It should’ve won Album of the Year at the recently concluded 65th Annual Grammy Awards (sorry not sorry). Despite being the most decorated artist at the award show with 32 wins, Beyoncé is yet to receive an Album of the Year win despite being nominated severally. The Recording Academy should do better!