Beyoncé’s latest album, “Renaissance,” includes work by two St. Louis natives.
Ferguson’s Keyon Harrold played the trumpet on “Pure/Honey,” while Cor.ece (known as Corece Smith) had songwriting credits on “Cozy.” Both artists live in Los Angeles.
The dance-focused album was released on July 29 and is expected to hit number one on the Billboard 200. Its lead single was “Break My Soul”.
Harrold is a sought-after musician who serves as a creative advisor to Jazz St. Louis, and has worked with artists such as Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, Maxwell, Erykah Badu and Rihanna. He played the horn on the deluxe version of Beyoncé’s 2006 album “B’Day”.
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“I’m always excited about Beyoncé’s new music, whether I’m involved or not,” he said. “It’s good for the culture.”
Harrold knew that Beyoncé could work with any writer or producer she wanted, so she chose him.
“Working on that project was special,” Harold said. “Everything about how it came about is special.”
Harrold and Kirk Whalum played trumpet with D’Angelo at the Hollywood Bowl this year as part of Dave Chappelle’s performance. Producer, songwriter and singer Raphael Saadiq was also on hand, and Harrold and Whalum were invited to the studio the next day to play a song he was writing.
“We went in there and started working on it,” Harold said. “I was delighted to be working with Raphael for the first time and was delighted to find out that the artist he was working with was Beyoncé. It’s well known who it was for. It was no surprise when we went in.”
Beyoncé wasn’t in the room, but she was on the phone.
“The trust I have now as a musician, composer and arranger, when I’m called into the studio, I don’t have the same freedom that I had in the past,” Harrold said. “I’ve been in this industry long enough that people know about my work in some form or way. They know I’m going to tear it down.”
While “Pure/Honey” pays homage to black gay dance culture, Harold describes it as “retro-nostalgic”.
“It has an ‘Off the Wall’ Michael Jackson vibe, vibe and energy that keeps it rocking — moving people,” he said. “For me, it has some remnants. Bounce, energy, horn thump, artist thump. It’s like something in Off the Wall, but in 2022.”
He likes that “Renaissance” presents a different, bolder song structure than Beyoncé is known for. “She’s at the forefront as always.”
Cor.ece had a different experience with the “Renaissance”. When he started “Cozy” a little over a year ago, he had no idea who it was for.
He didn’t even know he was a famous songwriter until the album was released and he saw his name listed.
In 2020, his original song “Get Up” from his original song “HIM” (2019) appeared on Showtime’s “The Chi” episode. Cor.ece was featured on DJ producer Honey Dijon’s recent dance singles “Work” and “Unleash,” but “Cozy” catapulted him into a different category.
“I have a lot of feelings,” he said of working for “Renaissance.” “Honestly, I feel very happy, happy and lucky. You can work as hard as you want, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to get something like this.
“In a way, I feel clean because, as an artist, much of this work is about getting your work to be seen by as many people as possible. In fact, it’s a moving Project, for me, new work is about to start because the door is opening other opportunities for me.”
The other nine songwriters for “Comfort” are Beyoncé, Honey Dijon (Redmond), Christopher Lawrence Penny, Luke Francis Matthew Solomon, David Giles II, Ninja Charles, Terius “The-Dream” Gesteelde-Diamant, Mike Dean and Curtis Alan Jones .
Cor.ece can’t say which lyrics or expressions in “Cozy” are his.
He credits his place in the “Renaissance” to his writing team – Solomon, Honey Dijon and Giles, aka Team Honey Dijon.
“The four of us have really created a lot together,” Cor.ece said. “A lot of ideas have been passed on over the past few years.”
When he started writing “Comfort,” he said, “I don’t know what it’s for. But it’s a team I trust. It’s like, ‘Hey, would you write to it without asking what it’s for? They’re not being Details are allowed.”
The “Cozy” version he sees at first is naked.
“When I first heard it, I remember I was just excited to write,” he said. “When I got it, I thought, ‘What have you got? What can you add?
He was always inspired when he could write about his own black people—and black people in general. “Comfortable” means being comfortable with one’s own skin. He described the song as a thump with a message.
“Every time I listen to it, I think, ‘Damn, that’s good,'” he said.
Cor.ece released his new EP “Dance to Keep From Crying” on August 5, which includes “Possibly Impossible”. He will appear on Honey Dijon’s new album later this year.
Harrold will perform at the crossroads of the Grand Center from September 10th to 11th.