'Renaissance' review: Beyonce lets loose but fails to grip old fans

However, the album is likely to inspire millions of dance videos on social media

Beyonce's long-awaited seventh studio album was released on Friday. Getty Images
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After addressing personal and social traumas in previous works such as Lemonade (2016) and her self-titled album in 2013, Beyonce’s new opus finds her burning away all the tension on the dance floor.

Renaissance, which was released on Friday, is designed to leave you in a sweaty heap with a bevy of tracks laced with basslines so thick and heavy it will test the sturdiest of sound systems.

But this is Beyonce we are talking about. Surely there is more to her new release than merely letting loose?

Apparently not.

Perhaps in an effort to tame expectation and critique from fans and media, Beyonce prefaced the release by stating it comes with no grand ambition other than to make people “release the wiggle".

“My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgement,” she said.

“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.”

Here are three things to know about Renaissance, Beyonce’s most euphoric release to date:

1. It is immaculately produced

Beyonce is not the first major pop star to take cues from dance music culture during the pandemic.

Dua Lipa brought the sounds of underground clubs to the masses with her blockbuster album Future Nostalgia in March 2020, followed up two months later by Lady Gaga’s weaker offering, Chromatica.

Drake also joined the action when releasing Honestly, Nevermind last month, a partly thrilling yet divisive release full of house and techno tracks.

Renaissance distinguishes itself in being serious about its sonic ambitions.

The production is so startlingly impressive, one hopes an instrumental version of the album is made available soon.

Featuring a varied list of producers, ranging from The Dream and EDM DJ Skrillex to hip-hop hit-makers Hit-Boy and Boi-1da, the 16 tracks veer and lurch from sunny to hedonistic stompers spiked with some of Beyonce's raunchiest lyrics to date.

When it comes to the radio-friendly tracks, you can’t go past Cuff It.

Featuring funky guitar riffs reminiscent of Get Lucky by Daft Punk and Nile Rodgers — indeed, the Chic frontman is listed as a co-writer — the track is destined to be a hit and a favourite of backyard barbecues with Beyonce cooing: “Have you ever had fun like this?”

Alien Superstar and Pure/Honey represent the more esoteric and experimental aspects of the album.

The former begins with a disorienting avalanche of rapid-fire beats before Beyonce arrives with a vocal performance mixing spoken word and the kind of electro-tinged crooning recalling the synthetic sounds of Swedish singer Tove Lo.

Pure/Honey rides on an almost tribal beat and darting synth and basslines before melting into a blissful disco-inspired chorus.

So much for being “free of perfectionism", Renaissance is meticulous in its craft and execution.

2. It will inspire millions of memes and dance videos

It is not surprising Beyonce joined TikTok earlier this month, while allowing her music to become available on the platform.

The slogan heavy lyrics and thrilling beat changes abounding Renaissance should inspire millions of dance videos and sonic memes on TikTok and Instagram.

With brilliant lead single Break My Soul already setting social media alight, expect the percolating sounds of Cozy to appear on your feed sometime soon as users intone Beyonce's sultry vocals when stating: "I'm comfortable in my skin, cosy with who I am.”

The strident Move is also a potential social media winner with a walloping chorus in which disco diva Grace Jones fiercely declares: "Move out the way, I'm with my girls and we all need space / When the queens come through, don't try like the rest say.”

And, if you are looking for blissful piece of electronic music to soundtrack videos of everything from evening walks to cats destroying furniture, the throbbing opening minute of Virgo’s Groove should do the trick.

3. It’s good, but no classic

Despite all the riches on offer, Renaissance is more gruelling than thrilling.

Just more than an hour in length, the album could have cut a few tracks, such as the overindulgent Thique and All Up in Your Mind, to elevate its potency to blistering levels.

Then again, these are minor gripes aimed at an artist so in command of her craft and quality control that even a mere "good" album from Beyonce is a cause for celebration.

Scroll through the gallery below to see Beyonce's style evolution over the years

Updated: July 29, 2022, 12:45 PM
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