- 29 Jul 22
An Unstoppable Force Meets A Movable Object
She’s Queen B. Resistance is futile. She’s made some astounding records since Destiny’s Child closed up shop. The dirty funk of her debut single ‘Work It Out’, the all-conquering brilliance of ‘Crazy In Love’ and ‘Déjà Vu’, singing her ass off on ‘If I Were A Boy’, stopping the world with the ‘Formation’ video, and every single note on 2016’s Lemonade – she’s so far ahead of the competition she probably can’t even make them out in her rear-view mirror.
Safe to say then that six years after that record, hopes and expectations are high. Everything from the grand title to the Lady Godiva cover art and the revelation that this is merely the first part of a “three-act project” screams “epic”. Announcing Renaissance, Beyoncé said she wanted to “create a safe place, a place without judgement… A place to scream, release, feel freedom.” She delivered all that on the first single ‘Break My Soul’ alone. Built around a sample from ‘Show Me’ by Robin S, it literally shouts “Release!” and ascends to a gospel-tinged crescendo. She also spoke about dealing with isolation and injustice, making the chorus of “You won’t break my soul!” a roaring statement of defiance.
It's not even the best thing here. The lethal ‘Cuff It’ would have the dead up and dancing. There’s the instantly recognisable guitar of Nile Rodgers and when the bass starts walking at about 1:42, it attains another level of greatness altogether. Realising what she has, she carries the grove straight into ‘Energy’ mutating Kelis’ ‘Milkshake’ into some sort of futuristic calypso. The six minutes of ‘Virgo’s Dream’ are slinkier than a silk dress as she demands, in no uncertain terms, that her man gets on his knees, and transforms whatever room you happen to be in to the kind of club that most of us can only dream about. ‘Move’ features Miss Grace Jones and updates the hybrid funk/soul/industrial hybrid she first pioneered, and the closing ‘Summer Renaissance’ straps a rocket to Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder’s ‘I Feel Love’ and blasts it even further into the future than it already was.
While she appears to, for the most part, avoid big state-of-the-world messaging this time, she doesn’t even consider compromising, swearing like a sailor on a two-day pass throughout, perhaps daring radio – as if she needs them - to ignore something as airwave friendly as ‘Cuff It’ despite her declaration that “We Gon’ Fuck Up The Night”. Every cut here is built for the dance floor - whether that floor is located somewhere impossibly glamorous or in your kitchen - and for fucking up that night, even if that night happens to be going on in your head at 10.30 in the morning while you’re doing the dishes. You name a sub-genre of dance music, whether it be house, new jack swing, disco of even afrobeat and Beyoncé cops a feel before rising above it by infusing the results with her innate soul. She can even take something as base as Right Said Fred’s ‘I’m Too Sexy’ and forge the monumental ‘Alien Superstar’. There’s a warning to listeners, “do not attempt to leave the dance floor” but no one in the right mind is going to even think about it.
It's not a boast that she delivers in the same song , it’s just a statement of fact. “I’m one of one, I’m number one, I’m the only one. Don’t even waste your time trying to compete with me.” You’d wonder why anyone would even try. Put it another way, as she does in the opening ‘I’m That Girl’ – which is probably what it says on her passport. “Motherfuckers ain’t stopping me… It’s not the diamonds, it’s not the pearls, it’s not my man, it’s not my stance, it’s just that I’m that girl”. Even writing about her is pointless. It’s Beyoncé’s universe; the rest of us just happen to be taking up space in it.