‘Renaissance’ Review: America Has a Problem and Beyoncé Doesn’t

It’s too much, it’s alive. Too heavy, too precarious, too chronically cataclysmic, too flamboyant, too unhealthy, with the potential to carry too much freight Feeling of error. The word of the past few years – in American activist and academic circles, anyway – has been “uncertainty.” Which meets the thoughts of peril, neglect, contingency, risk. basically: were worried. And: We are concerned that you are not worried enough, Like I said: it’s too much.

If I were a globally renowned musician whose every wink is inspected for meaning, it might be time to find out what it means to sound like something else, to sound lighter, to swim, For Bob, for appearances, for Wright and Peace, for Sasha-Shante. To find the “new salvation” in building your “foundation”.

Were I that musician, it might be time to call my freestyle jam “America’s Problem” And don’t say what the problem is because a) psyche! b) What am I saying you don’t already know? and c) the person actually doing this song knows that “that booty gon’ do what he wants.” Now is the time to work on your body instead of spoiling your mind. “America” ​​is one of the closing tracks on Beyoncé’s seventh solo studio album “Renaissance”, where she surveys the stakes and concludes they are too high. It’s time to remind myself – to “tell everyone”, as she sings on the first single, “break my soul” There is no discourse without disco.

What a great time it is. All 16 songs come from some kind of dance floor – nightclub, strip club, ballroom, basement, tatooine, Most of them are completely immersed in or driven by black queer bravado. And on almost every one, Beyoncé seems to be experiencing something new and personally glorious: constant ecstasy. It takes different forms: joy, obviously; But also a sexy rigor. The exercise of control is as entertaining on this album as the exorcism of tension.

As expensive as, production-wise, “Renaissance” sounds (a song credited to two dozen writers, including samples and interpolations), Beyoncé’s rendition surpasses any price tag here. The range of his voice is near the galactic; The power of imagination qualifies it as a cinema. She groans, she growls, she snores, she doubles and triples. The perfect ratio of butter, mustard, foie gras, icing to cupcakes.

About halfway through, something comes up called “Plastic Off the Sofa”. Now, a part of me cried because those are words she doesn’t even bother to sing. Plastic from the sofa? got you again! The rest of me cried because what she sings – in waves of fast-paced, long, Olympic-level emissions – seems to emanate from somewhere beyond a human throat: the ocean? Oven? But it is one of the few songs that are recorded with live instruments – guitar playing and some pitter-pat percussion. (The musical plastic emanates from the album’s couch.) The bass line continues to swell and twirl and bloom until it pops out of its flower bed, and so does Beyoncé’s voice. It swells. It smells of roses. “Renaissance” turns to the gospel here and there—on “Church Girl”, most brazenly. It’s the only one that looks like it was recorded in Eden.

It takes a minute for all the excitement over “Renaissance.” First comes a mission statement (“I’m That Girl”) in which Beyoncé warns that love is her medicine. Then it’s on to “Cozy,” an in-the-making anthem about luxury Black women in their skin. It is as heavy as a cast iron skillet and the boom on the Richter scale cannot be ignored. “Casual” is about comfort but sounds like an oncoming army. The first true exhalation is “Cuff It”, a roller-skate jam topped by Nile Rodgers’ signature guitar pulsing, while a raft of horns offer up the afterburn. Here, Beyoncé wants to go out and have a good time. And it’s so contagious that later, when I am simplicity.

Comedy is plentiful. Thanks to BigFreedia and TS Madison for sample contributions to this. “Dark skin, light skin, beige” – Madison draws on “comfortable” – “fluorescent Beige.” Thanks to the tabloid-TV keyboard blast on “America has a problem.” But Beyoncé herself has never been more fun than here. The harshness she applies to the word “no” over “America” ​​alone is enough But there is her impersonation of Grace Jones’ brutality on “Move”, some sharp-elbow dancehall refraction in which the two of them command to “run away like the Red Sea” when the Queen arrives. (Here I don’t touch it.) Who’s the queen in that scenario.) Pop music has been tattooed with Jones’ influence for over 45 years. It’s one of the few mainstream acknowledgments of her eclectic musical prowess. Beyoncé’s at the end of “Heated” There’s also the vamp, which she recites in the crevices of a hand-held fan. This is one of them round table freestyle Those who go down on some balls. An excerpt from it includes: “advancedKlee Johnny made my dress / That cheap spandex / She looks a mess.”

This is an album that has a big idea house. And its homey feeling is huge. This is mansion music. “Renaissance” is all around pop: flutter and beat. Its muscles are large, its limbs are flexible, its ego is secure. I don’t listen to market concerns. Its sense of adventure is off the map of the genre, yet very aware of every coherence. It’s a feat of synthesis that never feels dull or synthetic. These songs are testing this music, celebrating how capable it is, how resilient it is. Maybe that’s why I love “Break My Soul” so much. It’s track 6, but it feels like the thematic backbone of the album. There’s tenderness, resolve, and thought in it – Beyonce touts two different approaches to church.

On “Pure/Honey” Beyoncé breaks wall after wall until she reaches the room that houses all her cousins 2013 Sizzler “Blow.” It ends by bowing to his sample Artist Moi Rennie Drag Bolling, “Miss Honey? Miss Honey!” And it’s close to B-52K Could come in the form of a Beyoncé song anytime. (But Kate, Cindy, Fred, Keith: call her anyway!)

The album’s embrace of home and not, say, the trap clearly aligns Beyoncé with queer black people. On one hand, that means she’s an elite pop star with particularly enthusiastic endorsements. But “Renaissance” is much more than fan service. It is somewhat history oriented. The kinky symbiosis between cis women and gay men is one. The gates of impersonation and tribute rotate with centrifugal force.

With Beyoncé, her drag feels liberating rather than obfuscated. It’s not just these lesser-known gay and trans artists and personalities that their music has imbibed. These are other artists. On “Blow,” Beyoncé thought about how she felt for her partner when she loved him. Now the wonder is this: How does it feel for her to sometimes love – and art – as someone else? is the last song of the album “Summer Renaissance” And it opens with the thrum of “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer. This is not the first time he has quoted La Donna. But the gesture isn’t the only one where the context is clear. It’s in the rich middle of the album, which includes that sofa song and “Vergo’s Groove”, perhaps the most luscious track Beyoncé has ever recorded. That is to say, “Renaissance” is an album about performance—the past of other pop, but ultimately that of Beyoncé, a star now 40, an age when the real risk lies in acting like you have no chance to lose. There is nothing for

There’s another history right in the album’s title: 100 years ago, when things were too much for black Americans — lynchings across the country, “race riots” — and the flight from south to north sounding like a sound substitute for murder. Had, Up in Harlem, Ellen Locke and Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes and Aaron Douglas and Jesse Fawcett, to choose from five figures, were at the center of an explosion of art that could be as frivolous, party-hearty and vulgar as anything on it. could. album. Its cast was gay and straight and whatever was in between. The thing is that they are also called Renaissance. It maintained and provided delight and excitement in spite of the adversity around it, it gave people looking for a home something that was closer to home. New salvation, old base.

Beyoncé
“Renaissance”
(Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia)

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