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Compared to the melodrama of "Lemonade", this new project is a celebration of owning your femininity, finding one’s confidence and letting go of past inhibitions and self-doubts (Photo provided by @Beyonce via Twitter).

Album Review: ‘RENAISSANCE’ is an almost perfect celebration of house music

We haven’t truly heard from Beyonce herself since her iconic sixth studio album, "Lemonade," back in 2016. From creating a rap album with husband Jay-Z to recording a soundtrack for Disney’s reimagining of "The Lion King," the singer has kept herself busy, so no wonder it’s taken six years for a new solo project from the beloved activist, mother and performer.

In early July, Beyonce released the first single off her newest record, “BREAK MY SOUL,” a Vogue-inspired club anthem reminiscent of early 2000s electronic dance music. Surprising fans everywhere with this new sound, the singer also announced the name of the album, "RENAISSANCE."

Compared to the melodrama of "Lemonade," this new project is a celebration of owning your femininity, finding one’s confidence and letting go of past inhibitions and self-doubts. Beyonce sounds like she’s having fun, even as an A-list celebrity, and it’s evident throughout its 16 tracks.

RENAISSANCE opens with “I’M THAT GIRL,” which is the singer saying that her wealth and affluence, as well as her husband, do not own her or steer her away from being successful. It’s a song about knowing your self-worth, clearly obvious when Beyonce sings, “It’s not the diamonds / It’s not the pearls / I’m that girl.” 

Next comes “COZY” and “ALIEN SUPERSTAR,” two songs that thematically stay within the same realm as the opening track, emphasizing feeling comfortable with your uniqueness and your flaws. As a 40-year-old mother who went through a challenging pregnancy with twins, Beyonce knows that her body has changed, but not her energy nor her soul. 

In these two tracks, it feels like she’s finally let go of her critics’ perceptions of her beauty. “Comfortable in my skin / Cozy with who I am” and “Don’t even waste your time trying to compete with me (Don’t do it) / No one else in this world can think like me (True)” are lyrics that perfectly embody this new sense of self for the singer.

What makes this album so captivating is the inspiration it draws from important LGBTQIA+ icons such as singer Big Freedia and DJ Honey Dijon. Playing on the energy of house music, it’s clear that Beyonce wants listeners to release the built-up stress from the last two years of living in a pandemic. 

With this in mind, “CUFF IT” will get you up and moving, a song where we see Beyonce embrace her sexuality and femininity to their fullest. This moment in the album is one of its many peaks, reminiscent of her past songs such as “Crazy in Love (feat. Jay Z)” and “MY POWER.” 

Flawlessly transitioning into “ENERGY” and then “BREAK MY SOUL,” the singer has fully stepped into the world of house music, and her tone is the powerful voice all fans know Beyonce has. “You won’t break my soul” is a repetitive line throughout the track but acts as a reminder that the singer won’t let the state of the world bring her down as a successful black woman. 

Another high point in the album, “CHURCH GIRL,” is not what you would expect after reading the title track. Beyonce honestly just wants to party in this song, urging listeners to dance and find happiness in the little things. “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA” follows a song that acts as an homage to her husband. By far the most sensual song on the album, the singer doesn’t censor her inner longing, nor does she shy away from saying what she wants from her partner. Becoming a more common occurrence amongst female artists, it shows that Beyonce could care less what the world thinks of her relationship.

Definitely a standout, “VIRGO’S GROOVE” is the '70s-disco track we all needed this summer. Similar to songs such as “Get Lucky (feat. Pharell Williams & Nile Rodgers)” by Daft Punk and “Levitating” by Dua Lipa, Beyonce creates the imagery of dancing in a disco ball, begging to be alone with her lover for just a little bit. 

“MOVE” could’ve easily been mistaken for a song from Beyonce’s work with "The Lion King" remake, but it feels like you’re in the club on a lit-up dance floor with friends. Meanwhile, “HEATED” is the singer remembering her past, knowing that “only a real one” can stick with her. As a major force in Black music, and just pop culture in general, Beyonce straight up made a song that warns not to mess around with her, nor diminishes her success.

Beyonce growls at listeners on “THIQUE,” once again singing of the love she has for her body. This song is about loving yourself, not listening to what society wants from women’s bodies, making it essential to help signal the close of the album. Pulling potentially from the current state of women’s rights in the United States, the singer reminds female listeners of their best assets.

“ALL UP IN YOUR MIND” is the album’s last peak, an electronic number that feels like it’s part of a DJ set, but contains the high energy the previous tracks all exhibit. With this track, Beyonce just wants her partner to only be thinking of her, so who can blame her, don’t all women want that?

The last three tracks, “AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM,” “PURE/HONEY” and “SUMMER RENAISSANCE” don’t leave as lasting of a mark as their predecessors, but prove that Beyonce is experimenting with her sound, allowing her youthful and playful side to fully jump out.

Overall, "RENAISSANCE" has the potential to be Beyonce’s most ambitious, explicit project yet, even if there are only a few songs that are lacking. From embracing her body as she enters her early 40s, to calling out those who try to break her stride, the singer once again shouts at listeners to never underestimate the power she holds in the music industry. Basically, Beyonce can pretty much do anything, especially create club music that is full of heart and soul.

Rating: 4/5 

@grace_koe

gk011320@ohio.edu

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