So… how good is Renaissance? It isn’t Beyonce and it isn’t the magnificent Lemonade, and the problem is that it is a relentless dance album that doesn’t delve into melody and whose hooks are rhythmic in the extreme, which makes the songs blend together in one long dance party without being memorable. But it is a blast of energy, a summer album in a league with the new Lizzo as a thrill ride and much better than Bey’s last album of new material, the (I bet you forgot) Jay-Z collaboration Everything Is Love. And say what you will about Bey, her Lion King curation introduced us to Afrobeats giant Yemi Alade.
Renaissance, written during the pandemic, is looking forward but not too far forward, to a time when she is back on the dancefloor, when the world comes together. Bey might have less reason to complain about being imprisoned in her gilded cage during the summer of 2020-Winter of 2021, but she still went through it the same way and she responded by getting a cast of thousands together to record the songs, but the name you keep noticing is The Dream. The Dream, so important on 4, gets some form of credit on 14 songs, and co-write credit on ten of them, including 5 of the first 6. 4 is Bey’s third best solo album (after Lemonade and Beyonce) and “1 + 1” was so good it couldn’t been covered by Whitney Houston on My Love Is Your Love, and if the response is, well, this isn’t that sort of album the answer is there isn’t a “Run The World (Girls)”. For all “Break My Soul”‘s greatness, Lizzo’s “About Damn Time” and Latto’s “Big Energy” are better and bigger.
However, with all those caveats in place, you’re gonna love it. Album closers the bassline tightrope “Pure/Honey” and the “I Feel Love” interloped “Summer Renaissance” are magnificent, “Cozy”, about being comfortable in your own body, is an early winner and “Energy”, produced by Skrillex, is dancehall vibes, “Move” features Grace Jones, “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA” features two of The Internet (nope, not Steve Lacey but Syd and Patrick Paige II) for a rare soul take, and personal favorite “Church Girl” finds Bey rapping.
Really, it is all very good with flashes of greatness, but there isn’t the sort of song that stops you in your tracks and because of that Renaissance will end up remembered as a relatively good but not great Beyonce…
I was happier because I knew I was happy
a snapshot of big hits and high tides, mostly high tides.
There is just a lot to love
the sound seemed to erupt from every side of the room
still on top
“danceable music for the end of days”
contracts its world in Nashisms
let’s take what we are offered
It’s the music, stupid