They say we should not judge a book by its cover, but this album cover screams for it. I am talking about Beyonce’s cover artwork for her new album, “Renaissance,” set to be released on July 29. Riding a glass/silver horse that seems to glow in the dark, she looks like a divine apparition, almost naked, or wearing very little to cover her impressive body. The scene, shot by Carlijn Jacobs, is drawing comparisons to John Collier’s 1880/98 painting, “Lady Godiva,” an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who rode a horse naked to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation that her husband imposed on his tenants
Beyonce never mentioned Lady Godiva, but the posture is certainly majestic, while a shaggy garland entwines her stunning body and a snake-like shape weirdly holds her nipples.
“Creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world,” Beyonce wrote on her Instagram page. “It allowed me to feel free and adventurous in a time when little else was moving. My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, release, feel freedom. 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! And to feel as unique, strong, and sexy as you are.”
She sure looks sexy and free, but far from creating a safe place, and “a place without judgment,” she looks intimidating to me. Who honestly looks like that in real life? We are not too far from Grace Jones’s alien pose created by Jean-Paul Goude for her album “Island Life,” an unachievable position, all-powerful, but also physically impossible. Beyonce’s position is not impossible to achieve but it sure looks unreal.
Was this a dare? A provocation? Naked bodies on album covers are barely a novelty, but there’s no doubt that the photo has generated a lot of comments everywhere on social media, comments pointing to the horse of the apocalypse, the similar cover art by Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad’s guitarist), and even Megan thee Stallion for a good laugh. Has anyone forgotten about Stevie Nicks’s white horse? There is an entire mythology associated with white horses, they are found with any warrior heroes or God-like figures in scenes of triumph, from Greek heroes to Celtic goddesses, and by riding a shiny one, Beyonce wants to enter our mythology.
As for the music, the lead single “Break My Soul” is a hypnotic house-inspired dance track, which samples Big Freedia and Robin S.’ 1993 club staple “Show Me Love.” Nothing groundbreaking, but it comes from Queen/Goddess/Supreme Being Beyonce and since she is now part of our sacred pantheon, the single will obviously cause a furor in the charts.
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