Crafted during the grips of the pandemic, her seventh solo album is a celebration of freedom and complete immersion into house and dance that serves as the perfect sound bed for themes of liberation, release, self-assuredness and unfiltered confidence across its 16 tracks. RENAISSANCE is playful and energetic in a way that captures that Friday-night, just-got-paid, anything-can-happen feeling, underscored by reiterated appeals to unyoke yourself from the weight of others’ expectations and revel in the totality of who you are.
From the classic four-on-the-floor house moods of the Robin S.- and Big Freedia-sampling lead single “BREAK MY SOUL” to the Afro-tech of the Grace Jones- and Tems-assisted “MOVE” and the funky, rollerskating disco feeling of “CUFF IT” this is a massive yet elegantly composed buffet of sound, richly packed with anthemic morsels that pull you in.
There are soft moments here, too: “I know you can’t help but to be yourself around me” she coos on “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA”, the kind of warm, whispers-in-the-ear love song you’d expect to hear at a summer cookout-complete with an intricate interplay between vocals and guitar that gives Beyoncé a chance to showcase some incredible vocal dexterity. “CHURCH GIRL” fuses R&B, gospel and hip-hop to tell a survivor’s story: “I’m finally on the other side/l finally found the extra smiles/Swimming through the oceans of tears we cried.”
An explicit celebration of Blackness, “COZY” is the mantra of a woman who has nothing to prove to anyone-“Comfortable in my skin/Cozy with who lam,” ” Beyoncé muses on the chorus. And on “PURE/HONEY”, Beyoncé immerses herself in ballroom culture, incorporating drag performance chants and a Kevin Aviance sample on the first half that gives way to the disco-drenched second half, cementing the song as an immediate dance-floor favourite. It’s the perfect lead-in to the album closer to “SUMMER RENAISSANCE” which propels the dreamy escapist disco of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” even further into the future.