‘Renaissance’ Review: America Has a Problem, Isn’t Beyonce

It’s too much, it’s alive and well.Too heavy, too uncertain, too long-term catastrophic, too combative, too uncomfortable, too full of possibilities insight mistake. The past few years – in American activists and academia, anyway – have been “volatile”. It involves ideas of danger, neglect, chance, risk. basically: We are worried. and: We’re worried that you’re not worried enough. Like I said: too much.

If I were a globally-renowned musician whose every wink was checked for meaning, it might be time to discover what it feels like to mean something else. Find the “new” in building one’s “roots” redemption”.

If I were that musician, it might be time to call my freestyle riff “America has a problem” instead of saying what the problem is, because A) Psyche! B) What I’m saying is that you don’t know yet? C) The person who actually played the song knew “that swag will do what it wants to do”. It’s time to exercise your body instead of losing more of your mind. “America” ​​is one of the closing tracks on Beyoncé’s seventh solo studio album, “Renaissance,” in which she investigates the stakes and concludes that the stakes are too high. It’s time to remind herself — “tell everyone” when she sang on her first single “Break My Soul” — that there are no words without disco.

What a wonderful time this is. All 16 songs come from somewhere with a dance floor – nightclub, strip club, dance hall, basement, Tatooine. Most of them are immersed in or outright in black queer bravado. In almost everyone, Beyoncé sounded like she was experiencing some new, private glory: total ecstasy. It takes a different form: bliss, obviously; but also a sexy sternness. On this album, the exercise of control is as fun as the exorcism of stress.

As expensive and production-wise as “Renaissance” sounds (one song goes to two dozen writers, including samples and interpolation), Beyoncé’s vocals here transcend any price tag. Her vocal range is close to the Milky Way; the imagination that powers it can be called cinema. She mumbles, she growls, she growls, she doubles and doubles herself. The perfect ratio of butter, mustard, foie gras, icing to cupcakes.

About halfway through, something called “plastic on the couch” appeared. Now, part of me is crying because she doesn’t even bother to sing those words. Plastic falling off the sofa? See you again! The rest of me cried because the singing she made—in the long waves of madness, Olympic-grade emissions—seemed to come from somewhere beyond the human throat: ocean? oven? But it’s one of the few songs recorded with live instruments — clanging guitars and some dabbing percussion. (The musical plastic comes off the album’s couch.) The bass line swells, bends, and blooms until it grows beyond the flower bed, as does Beyoncé’s voice. It surfs in the waves. It smells of roses. “Renaissance” turns to the Gospel everywhere – on “Church Girls” at its most brazen. This is the only one that sounds like it was recorded in the Garden of Eden.

All the ecstasy of “Renaissance” takes a minute. The first is a mission statement (“I am that girl”) in which Beyoncé warns that love is her poison. And then there’s “Cozy,” an in-production anthem about black women enjoying themselves in their skin. This one has a heavy bottom like a cast iron skillet and a rebound that the Richter scale can’t ignore. “Comfort” is about comfort, but it sounds like an oncoming army. The first real exhale is “Cuff It,” a roller-skating jam held aloft by the vibrations of Nile Rodgers’ signature guitar, while a set of horns provide the afterburner. Here, Beyoncé wants to hang out and have an unforgettable quality time.And it’s contagious enough to make you think too much about one-off lines like “I wanna be missing” when I’m wide awake.

Comedy abounds. Thanks to Big Freedia and Ts Madison for sampling contributions. “Dark skin, light skin, beige” – Madison stretches on “Comfort” – “fluorescent light brown. “Thanks to the tabloid TV keyboard explosion of “America Has Problems.” But Beyonce herself has never been more fun than she is here. She’s harsh enough with the word “no” in “America.” But she’s in “Move” ” in imitating Grace Jones’ bossy, some pointy-elbowed ballroom refraction, and the two of them order the commoners to “separate like the Red Sea” as the Queen passes. (I didn’t touch on who the Queen was in that case.) Pop has been tattooed by Jones’ influence for 45 years. It’s one of the few mainstream recognitions of her vast musical prowess. There’s also Beyoncé’s vamp at the end of “Heated”, which she fancies against an open hand Crackling. This is one of those round table freestyles that fail on some balls. Her small part includes:”Enencle Jonny made my dress/that cheap spandex/she looked a mess. “

This is an album where the big idea is the house. Its house feel is huge. It’s rich music. “Renaissance” borders on pop’s past: pulsing and throbbing. It has larger muscles, more flexible limbs, and self-safety. I don’t hear market concerns. Its sense of adventure isn’t on that type of map, but it’s very knowledgeable about each coordinate. It’s a synthetic achievement that in no way sounds slave or synthetic. These songs are testing the music, celebrating how broad and flexible it is. That’s probably why I love “Break My Soul” so much. It’s Track 6, but it feels like the thematic spine of the album. It has tenderness, determination, and ideas—two different approaches that Beyoncé offers to the church.

In “Pure/Honey,” Beyoncé breaks down wall after wall until she reaches the room that houses all the cousins ​​of her 2013 sizzling “Blow.” It ends with her briskly shouting, “Miss Darling? Miss Darling!” next to drag artist Moi Renee’s sample, and it’s very close to the B-52’s voice, like a Beyoncé song. (But Kate, Cindy, Fred, Keith: call her anyway!)

The album’s embrace of the house, rather than, say, Trap explicitly links Beyoncé to queer black people. On the one hand, that means she’s just an elite pop star with a particularly ardent support. But “Renaissance” isn’t just fan service. It faces some history. The tricky symbiosis between cis women and gay men is one of them. The doors of imitation and homage rotate under the action of centrifugal force.

With Beyoncé, her procrastination seems liberating, not confusing. Her music draws on more than just these lesser-known gay and transgender artists and personalities. are other artists. In “Blow,” Beyoncé wonders how her partner feels when they have sex with her. Now the wonder is: making love—and art—sometimes how does she feel as someone else? The album’s final track, “Summer Renaissance,” opens to the beat of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love.” This isn’t the first time she’s quoted LaDonna. But the nod isn’t just there, the reference is clear. It’s in the middle of the album’s richness, including that couch song and “Virgo’s Groove,” possibly the sweetest track Beyoncé has ever recorded. That said, “Renaissance” is an album about performance — other pop pasts, but ultimately Beyoncé, a 40-year-old star in an era where the real risk is to perform for nothing.

Another piece of history is in the title of this album: 100 years ago, when black America was too much of a thing—lynchings, “race riots” across the country—fleeing south to north seemed like a good bet for murder Selection, Up In Harlem, Alan Rourke, Zora Neal Hurston, Langston Hughes, Aaron Douglas and Jesse Fawcett, pick five figures, in an art explosion At the center, these arts can be as frivolous, party zealous and vulgar as some of the above albums. Its artists are gay and straight, and somewhere in between. The point is that they also call it revival. It persists and delivers joy and provocation despite the crisis around it, it brings people looking for something close to home. New redemption, old foundation.

Beyonce
“regeneration”
(Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia)

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