Tag Archives: renaissance

Beyoncé – RENAISSANCE

22 Aug

Whenever Beyoncé releases new music, it’s an Event™ – especially as she has a penchant for dropping music out of the blue. RENAISSANCE, her seventh album, was actually released on July 29th with a heads’ up by way of an announcement on July 16th. Expectations were high, and the first single “BREAK MY SOUL” raised them even further.

So how good is RENAISSANCE? Does it best Lemonade, her acclaimed sixth album from 2016? Probably not. But there are more than enough highlights on this album – not to mention an exciting new turn for Queen Bey – that makes this one well worth the listen.

By and large, RENAISSANCE celebrates the disco and house sounds of the 1970s, especially from Black America. We’ve already written about “BREAK MY SOUL”, a raucous Afropop-tinged disco track seemingly soundtracking the Great Resignation. “ALIEN SUPERSTAR” is another early stand-out with club-ready beats against Beyoncé’s sweetly-sung vocals. “CUFF IT” offers a funky disco sound with the unmistakable Chic touch – and no wonder, because Nile Rogers himself was involved on the track. “VIRGO’S GROOVE” is another disco-funk classic: a seamless, six-minute ode to the desire that Beyoncé still feels for her husband. 

When we looked back at these standout tracks, what jumped out was that all except “BREAK MY SOUL” come courtesy of a production & songwriting duo Nova Wav, consisting of Brittany “Chi” Coney and Denisia “Blu” Andrews. Chi and Blu first worked with Beyoncé on her Grammy-winning “BLACK PARADE” track in 2020. On RENAISSANCE, they have contributed to eight of the best tracks from this album. “MOVE” featuring Grace Jones and Tems is sparse and dramatic with an opening section reminiscent of “Tokyo Drift”, while “PURE / HONEY” is an irresistible track that brings to mind early-90s dance-pop hit “I’m Too Sexy”. “SUMMER RENAISSANCE” is a classic disco / house song that samples none other than Donna Summer’s iconic disco hit “I Feel Love”. It’s not a stretch to say that Nova Wav is the actual powerhouse behind the marketing & vocal genius of the Beyoncé brand on this album.

The other thing that really strikes you about RENAISSANCE is the sheer perfection of the song transitions. They are beautifully done in a way that makes the entire album feel like one cohesive whole, with different sections corresponding to different moods and tracks. In particular, the entire stretch from “CUFF IT” to “ENERGY” (featuring Jamaican rapper Beam) to “BREAK MY SOUL” is a kaleidoscopic ten-minute ride with no discernible stitch whatsoever.

Apart from the core tenets of disco and house, Beyoncé does a good job of highlighting other sub-genres – for example, the dancehall vibes on the aforementioned “ENERGY” and on “HEATED”. Gospel and trap intersect on the Megan thee Stallion-like “CHURCH GIRL” with its insistent drumline and a lot of quotable lyrics, while “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA” is the closest thing to sweet pop on this album that’s otherwise aggressively sensual.

While there are definite weak points on RENAISSANCE (for example, the tryhard “THIQUE” and the forgettable “ALL UP IN YOUR MIND”), it’s clear that Beyoncé has spent considerable time, energy, and skills in creating the distinctive throwback sounds on this album. The production values are sharp and her vocals are as on point as ever. RENAISSANCE doesn’t have the emotional range of Lemonade (and to be honest, people like Jessie Ware have already made better disco albums in recent years), but Beyoncé’s seventh album is certainly worth a listen. 

Rating: 7/10

Best tracks: “BREAK MY SOUL”, “VIRGO’S GROOVE”, “CUFF IT”

Monthly Playlist: Jun. 2022

11 Jul

Hello, and welcome to the Monthly Playlist for June 2022! We are halfway through the year and have had some big album releases already. Kendrick Lamar dropped his much-awaited new album, as did Bad Bunny. There were big albums from Radiohead-side project The Smile, superstar The Weeknd and hyped newcomers Wet Leg. For now, read on for our top picks for the sixth month of the year – and look for a mid-year list soon!

“BRAND NEW BITCH” by COBRAH

COBRAH is a Swedish musician specializing in the genre of hyperpop. If that makes you think of Charli XCX (side note: check out our album review of Charli’s latest!), you’re spot-on – COBRAH’s music falls in the same vein of pulsing, club-ready bangers that blur the line between pop and EDM. “BRAND NEW BITCH” is a party track about COBRAH’s ability to switch between fashionable looks – whether it’s Mugler or Versace – but always looking new, shiny, polished and (use your imagination) slimy. Of course the lyrics don’t really matter because ultimately this song is about the beat and how COBRAH’s vocal-fry pronouncements add a layer of freneticism that perfectly suits the post-COVID club scene. 

“<maybe> it’s my fault” by WILLOW

We’ll be honest – we haven’t been giving WILLOW her musical due. The singer-songwriter (and daughter of a famous and dare we say infamous couple) has been steadily coming into her own, especially over the past year or so. She had a feature from resurgent pop-princess Avril Lavigne on last year’s Lately I Feel Everything, and also put together a great track (“psychofreak”) with Camila Cabello earlier this year. With “<maybe> it’s my fault”, WILLOW has expertly combined a few of those elements, and the result is a pop-punk track about the confusion and angst of early-adulthood relationships. “It’s all in my mind, it’s all in my mind, I try to rewind and all of the while / I’m hurtin’ inside, it’s your fault, Maybe it’s my fault,” she sings, in between surprisingly heavy guitar riffs. Definitely a track that will put WILLOW on your radar if she isn’t there already.

“BREAK MY SOUL” by Beyonce

From the first 10 seconds of “BREAK MY SOUL”, you can instantly tell that this isn’t your father’s (or mother’s) Beyonce track. Afropop house music segues smoothly into Queen Bey intoning the title phrase a few times – apparently with the intention of soundtracking the Great Resignation. “Now, I just fell in love and I just quit my job / I’m gonna find new drive, Damn, they work me so damn hard,” she says and honestly – same. It’s a surprising, new sound for Beyonce, and one that makes us excited for the July 29th release of her new album Renaissance.

“Cracker Island” by Gorillaz feat. Thundercat

After a fantastic album in 2020, Gorillaz are back with another track, just in time for the summer / fall leg of their worldwide tour (and hopefully the release of Song Machine Vol. 2). “Cracker Island” features the jazzy bassist Thundercat on a track seemingly about a cult that sets up shop on their own island (?). In true Gorillaz fashion, the famously multimedia band announced “Cracker Island” in a press release where they have also encouraged fans to join “The Last Cult” – whatever that may be. Mysterious lyrics aside, the song itself is pitch-perfect Gorillaz, with catchy synths, Damon Albarn’s filtered vocals, and beautifully crisp production – with the added bonus of Thundercat’s irresistibly funky bass. Here’s hoping for a lot more soon from everyone’s favorite virtual band.

“Betty (Get Money)” by Yung Gravy

Who knew that the old Internet meme-slash-80s-hit “Never Gonna Give You Up” would work so well as a rap track sample? Not us, but apparently Yung Gravy did. “Betty (Get Money)” is a ridiculously catchy track that starts off with the chorus and unmistakable synth-violins of Rick Astley’s iconic hit, and it only gets better from there. Yung Gravy shines throughout the whole fun track with cool verses and clever flipped lines (try it yourself: sing “Never take a L no more, never take a damn thing slow / All I know is chase this dough And get money” to the original chorus). We hadn’t heard of Yung Gravy until this track, but he’s certainly on our radar now!

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