If you were wondering if Beyoncé’s seventh studio album, titled ”Renaissance” is a return to form for the pop queen, you're in the right place.
The album features a range of vocal performance styles from the Queen Bee with themes of a woman holding her head up high while living through the trials of Black America.
The songs are laced with bassy dance rhythms and drum patterns and takes on the current trend of pop artists (like Drake, Harry Styles and The Weeknd) leaning into their more 80s production roots but with the classy edge that Beyoncé brings to her records.
The features on this album are no slack either. Beam's gruff but melancholic vocals on Energy add a different but welcome energy to the song which we can only say leaves the audience wanting more. Breakout Afropop and RnB star Tems brings her unique signature vibe to the song ‘Move’ (also with a feature from Grace Jones), and seems to have acquired the coveted Beyoncé co-sign. We wait to see if Beyoncé will appear on Tems debut album for the full package co-sign.
The songs have standout features as well, as they are sequenced expertly in a way that they flow into each other almost seamlessly. A technique that is handled much better here than on Drake's ‘Honestly, Nevermind’ but not quite as well as The Weeknd's ‘Dawn FM’; a comparison which now brings to mind the realization that this really is the year of 80s style RnB/HipHop projects with black and blue artwork.
Certain songs like ‘Cozy’ or ‘Alien Superstar’ or ‘Move’ feature distorted vocal production reminiscent of styles on Travis Scott or Kendrick Lamar projects. Throughout the album Beyoncé also plays with a rhythmic spoken work delivery that works very well and sometimes she goes into an almost pure rap flow. There are several dance jams on this while also keeping some slower songs like Plastic Off The Sofa and Summer Renaissance (the outro) for those who prefer that.
The slower songs allow for an actual breath in the album and for the storytelling and Beyoncé's vocal flexing to shine. On songs like ‘Plastic Off The Sofa’ we get a sense of the character that she's portraying - a woman living the rough life in America but still summoning the courage and self-esteem to live without shame or self-pity.
Something can be said about the self awareness of the character which may be why on ‘America Has A Problem’ she doesn't outrightly state the issues but instead subtly repeats the topics of rampant promiscuity, drug abuse, the money chasing rat race etc in the lyrics of the song. It may need closer listening to understand what the message is, we'll keep an eye on it - subscribe to stay tuned.
The album is not without any hiccups though. The theme explored in Plastic Off The Sofa isn't really expanded upon but it's alright, as there is a bit of resolution to the narrative. After your first few listens you might give it a 9.2/10 as well.