renaisance album cover

Beyoncé Brings Her Own ‘RENAISSANCE’ Into 2022

Queen Bey delivers her seventh studio album filled to the brim with empowerment, immaculate energy and groove.
August 18, 2022
14 mins read

How does one define a renaissance?

According to Merriam-Webster, a renaissance is “a movement or period of vigorous artistic and intellectual activity,” also referring to the 14th-century time period in European history marked by a “revival of classical influence expressed in a flowering of the arts and literature.”

So, what would a musical renaissance sound like if it was headed by one of the most acclaimed artists of all time, Beyoncé?

It would sound something like the musical journey that is Beyoncé’s seventh studio album, “RENAISSANCE.” Spanning 16 tracks and clocking in at just over an hour, Beyoncé blends sounds of the past with futuristic production elements, and proves herself once again to be music’s reigning queen. Six years after her last solo studio album, “Lemonade,” Beyoncé encourages her fans, the “Beyhive,” to “release the wiggle” with help from her new album.

Beyoncé graced the cover of British Vogue for the publication’s July issue, beginning the rollout for what would turn into “RENAISSANCE.” In the article published on June 16, Edward Enninful wrote, “New music is coming – a thrilling abundance of it.” The piece marks the true start of this new and exciting era in Beyoncé’s career.

On June 21, Beyoncé released “BREAK MY SOUL,” an empowering dance track featuring Big Freedia and sampling Robin S.’ 1992 “Show Me Love.” The song clocks in at almost five minutes, bringing the listener through a set of infectious choruses and an exquisitely rapped verse. Big Freedia’s ad-libs stack on top of Beyoncé’s layered vocals, creating an immaculate confection. It’s a great pop song at its core, blended with clean and crisp elements of hip-hop and house music. If there’s anything Beyoncé’s gotten great at in recent years, it’s going beyond just singing. She’s always had a knack for incorporating both singing and rapping into one song — Destiny’s Child’s “Bug-A-Boo” is a perfect older example — as recently evidenced in her 2018 collaborative mini-album with JAY-Z, “EVERYTHING IS LOVE.”

With “BREAK MY SOUL” keeping the Beyhive abuzz, on June 30, Beyoncé revealed that her seventh studio album, “RENAISSANCE” would be released on July 29. In an Instagram post, she writes of the album, “It was a beautiful journey of exploration. I hope you find joy in this music. I hope it inspires you to release the wiggle. Ha!” The album cover shows Beyoncé atop a horse covered in deconstructed parts of disco balls. She shows off her figure in barely-there, spike-encrusted lingerie as her blonde-ish caramel-colored hair falls past her waist in waves. The cover is simple but conveys that the contents of the record will glitter just like the horse she sits on.

After a month of anticipation, the release day for “RENAISSANCE” was here. In another Instagram post, Beyoncé penned a handwritten note to fans the night before the album’s release, thanking them for their patience and insistence on not listening to leaks of the album before its official release. It has been revealed through the album’s CD booklet that “RENAISSANCE” is only “act i” of a three-album project. Beyoncé dedicates this album to her Uncle Jonny, who she previously honored in her acceptance speech for the GLAAD Vanguard Award in 2019. She also shares in the CD liner notes that this record was inspired by the culture that originated in the LGBTQ+ community in the late 20th century.

Now to get to the music itself. “RENAISSANCE” opens with the assertive and confident “I’M THAT GIRL.” The song’s message directly aligns with the title; it’s Beyoncé returning to the world of pop music, reminding everyone she’s in a league of her own as she spits, “It’s not the diamonds, it’s not the pearls / I’m that girl.”

Track two, “COZY” opens with the line “This a reminder” before leading into a love letter to herself and other Black women, telling listeners that she’s, “Comfortable in my skin / Feet up above your sins / I love myself, goddamn (cozy, cozy).” A popular video by television and internet personality TS Madison is sampled after the first chorus as an audio clip of her glides over the song’s beat. “I’m dark brown, dark skin, light skin, beige / Fluorescent beige, b—- I’m black,” TS Madison asserts. Beyoncé also subliminally lists off the colors in the LGBTQ+ pride flag, further recognizing the community for inspiration.

Things are kicked up into the highest gear as track three, “ALIEN SUPERSTAR,” begins. This track stands out on the album for being completely single-worthy. “ALIEN SUPERSTAR” builds on the themes of self-confidence and empowerment, but does it in an elevated way that doesn’t become redundant. Interpolating Right Said Fred’s 1992 hit, “I’m Too Sexy,” the chorus is fitting for a night immersed in a crowd with a disco ball illuminating the room.

“ALIEN SUPERSTAR” glides into “CUFF IT” and “ENERGY” seamlessly before reaching the lead single, “BREAK MY SOUL.” “CHURCH GIRL” mixes R&B, hip-hop, and gospel into a dizzying twerk-worthy hit. The verses tell stories of struggle and overcoming pain, while the chorus finds resolution through Beyoncé’s instructions to let loose and “drop it like a thotty, drop it like a thotty.”

Although “RENAISSANCE” is filled to the brim with fast-paced dance tracks and booming bass and synth, “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA” meets the listener at the halfway point in the record and takes a step back from the grandiose production. “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA” is the only true “ballad” on the album and is a simple love song that showcases her incredible vocal capabilities in a lengthy vocal run at the end of the song. One of the greatest transitions between songs on the album comes at the end of “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA,” leading into “VIRGO’S GROOVE.”

The transitions between songs are in a league of their own. Upon first listen, it’s easy to think you’re still on “ALIEN SUPERSTAR” when you’re actually halfway through the record. These seamless transitions make for a non-stop mix of some of Beyoncé’s greatest work, and do not come across as so overly cohesive that it’s hard to focus.

“VIRGO’S GROOVE” can only be described as a “funkadelic” song that deserves to be played at a disco roller-skating rink. Glittering and using stacked background vocals calling out key phrases Beyoncé sings, something about this song feels nostalgic, almost as if it could be the soundtrack to Beyoncé’s early days in Houston with her fellow Destiny’s Child members.

HEATED” is four and a half minutes of Beyoncé letting go of all restraints, rapping away all haters and naysayers that consistently attempt to undermine her talents. “Drinking my water, minding my biz / Monday, I’m overrated, Tuesday, on my d—,” she spits.

The final five tracks on “RENAISSANCE” are really where things become even more incredible than before. Beyoncé barely sings above a whisper on “THIQUE” before bringing the energy up midway through the song, playing with vocal effects that alter her voice. “ALL UP IN YOUR MIND” leans into the electronic sound she’s played with up until this point, as she collaborates with frequent Charli XCX producer and hyperpop visionary, A.G. Cook. “AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM” is Beyoncé at her greatest as she gives her husband, JAY-Z, a run for his money as she maneuvers through a fast-paced trap beat.

Track 15, “PURE/HONEY,” most obviously takes inspiration from the queer culture she was exposed to through her Uncle Jonny. Beyoncé seductively speaks over a thick bass before seamlessly transitioning into the latter half of the song, in which she opts for a “B’day”-esque number with beautifully layered vocals. “PURE/HONEY” is destined to be vogued to in a “ball.” “RENAISSANCE” comes to a perfect close with “SUMMER RENAISSANCE,” which samples Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love.” This song encapsulates the album wholly by demonstrating Beyoncé’s ability to combine the past with the present. “SUMMER RENAISSANCE” sounds exactly like the title implies, a soundtrack to hot summer nights dancing till your feet hurt.

Much of this album is a combination of Beyoncé’s signature singing voice, as well as her more recently developed talent for rapping. Both genres work together to make the album’s contents stronger, neither fighting for the spotlight. She brings forth a “renaissance” not only through her combination of rap and singing, but also through the musical samples she uses throughout. Some have criticized her for releasing an “unoriginal” album, but that’s not the case at all. Beyoncé has clearly picked through an expansive set of sounds and decided to “reinvent” them in a way. Not to mention, much of popular music today features samples despite many not realizing it. Beyoncé builds upon the music created by her predecessors and elevates that sound by bringing in A-list producers like Mike Dean, A.G. Cook and Terius “The Dream” Gesteelde-Diamant.

“RENAISSANCE” finds Beyoncé proving herself once more, not because she has to, but because she has the ability to do so. Even with no music video, “BREAK MY SOUL” has now earned the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100, earning Beyoncé her eighth No. 1 solo song on the chart. “RENAISSANCE” debuts atop the Billboard 200 Album chart this week as well, and Beyoncé expresses her thanks in a post on her website.

If the listener will take anything away from “RENAISSANCE,” it’s to “release the stress / release the love, forget the rest.

Avery Heeringa, Columbia College Chicago

Contributing Writer

Avery Heeringa

Columbia College Chicago

Communication, Minor in Journalism

"Avery Heeringa is a senior at Columbia College Chicago studying Communication and Journalism. He’s passionate about all things music and pop culture related, and enjoys frequenting local record stores when not writing."

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