REVIEW: Beyonce – Renaissance

And, now, she triumphantly struts to the dance floor. It’s deserved.

My daughter said a couple of years ago to me, ‘Beyonce is overrated.’ Sweet kid; she will be missed.

Can someone be beyond properly rated?  Beyonce is hyper-properly rated. I type only “B” into my Spotify search function and she comes up. That makes her bigger than The Beatles, Beach Boys, Bel Biv Devoe, Ben Folds Five, Beatrice and the Aubergines. Your results may vary. I, for one, will not argue with my Swedish algorithm.

She is the biggest pop star in America with the most interesting recent career arc as her stormy relationship with Jay-Z played out in music. “Lemonade” was a scalding ‘fuck you,’ one of the best and most compelling albums of recent times.  When she explodes with “who the FUCK do you think I am!?” on the Jack White aided “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” I duck for cover and I didn’t do anything wrong, at least not to her. Imagine cheating on Beyonce.

Then there was the make-up period. Jay-Z put out his mea culpa album, “4:44.” It was more like Jay-zzzzzzzz. They did a joint album, also boring.

Meanwhile, Beyonce put together the Homecoming tour, a celebration of Historically Black Colleges, their bands, their drumlines. The tour culminated in legendary performances at Coachella. She had the foresight to document what is now one of the greatest concert films. Absolutely torching your cheating spouse musically is the most wonderfully diabolical revenge ever.

What do you do after all that? You go to the club and dance if you’re Beyonce. RENAISSANCE is a pure dance album. It incorporates some sounds you’ve heard a thousand times without even knowing it. It’s a celebration and a tribute. The big single “BREAK MY SOUL” I feel like I’ve heard periodically throughout my entire life. But, this time with Beyonce. Nothing wrong with that. It is indicative of Beyonce’s influence that Diane Warren, a very rich hack writer of terrible songs, questioned the number of credits on the album and was absolutely and deservedly dogpiled on Twitter. They’re called samples. Nobody would ever sample one of your songs. Don’t fuck with the queen.

The first track ‘I’M THAT GIRL’ starts off with a background, slightly distorted, constantly repeated “Please motherfuckers, ain’t stopping me.” Then Beyonce starts singing over it, and I’m sold. “You know all these songs sound good.” Indeed, they do. This whole album has a swagger.

It plays like an unbroken DJ set. I’m not going to break it down song by song. It’s not all good. If I went to clubs, I’d probably use the toilet and score some drugs in the middle section. I think that’s the intention. But, the beginning and end are terrific.

You don’t want to overthink this album, but I did anyway: she is not over the Jay-Z thing. This is a dance party with a lemonade punch bowl.

She is joyfully flaunting her own awesomeness (“I been thick, been fine, still a ten, still here, that’s all me” in ‘COZY’) while still skewering him. For example, ‘CHURCH GIRLS’, a highlight: “Church girls actin’ loose” is a genius level evocative four word lyric. There is an entire story there. And then she sings, “Must be the cash, ‘cause it ain’t your face.” And then repeats it.  Jay-Z has to wince at that. If not, I winced on his behalf.

In ‘ALIEN SUPERSTAR’, she sings, “Keep him addicted, lies on his lips, I lick it.” I’m hiding in my gigantic walk-in closet if I’m Jay-Z. In ‘SUMMER RENAISSANCE’: “I wanna house you and make you take my name; I’m going to spouse you and make you tat your ring.” The current spouse, Jay-Z: “??!!”

But, it is and should be all about Beyonce. This album is refreshingly dirty. Not just profane; Beyonce has never shied away from that. It’s not Cupcakke dirty, but “let’s paint the world pussy pink?” (COZY). O.K., that would be an improvement.

‘PURE’ takes back the word “cunt” in a positive way. (I know the English use that word in an entirely different way; I was at a Aston Villa/Leeds match where I heard that word quite a few times. In America, it is purely misogynistic.)

‘PURE/HONEY’ and then ‘SUMMER RENAISSANCE’ close the album with an explosion of Prince and Donna Summer call backs. Phenomenal stuff. You will be hearing this blasting in clubs for years. Or in my kitchen, when I’m alone.

The state of American popular music, with Beyonce and Kendrick, is in better health than the state itself.

Words by Rick Larson












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