Despite being one of the most commercially successful artists on the planet, it’s not uncommon for Beyoncé Knowles-Carter to surprise her fans with unannounced releases. This was the case with the edition of her fifth studio feature, beyonce, published in a totally unexpected way one day in mid-December 2013, with the accompaniment of a so-called audiovisual album. Therefore, advances in the form of single catchy, fancy fashion editorials and ad in social networks of the specific date of release of their latest effort have come to conform, according to a certain sector of critics that praises their courage to assume some unusual risks at these levels, as the most promotional effort “conventional” Of the singer.
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The major scare for his team, as complex as it is efficient production machinery, came three days after publication. After what appears to have been a sales by mistake of several copies on CD in Europe ahead of time, Act I: Renaissance (Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia Records/Sony Music Spain) appeared in the forums and also in the highest possible sound quality format, lossless audio or FLAC, something that it already happened with 4 in 2011. The album has been released in multiple formats and on all platforms simultaneously, a different strategy than the one he tried with his previous album, lemonade, in 2016, which took three years to appear as available on Spotify after its premiere on TIDAL, the music service on-line which she owns, along with Jack Dorsey among others, her husband, rapper and businessman Jay-Z.
Jay-Z’s real name, Shawn Carter, appears several times between the credits of Act I: Renaissance. Beyoncé is known for being quite responsible for her songs, on a compositional and sound level, as her concert for Coachella, documented for Netflix on Netflix, demonstrates. HOME COMING), but he has always surrounded himself with the best producers, from legends of the level of Timbaland, The Neptunes or Swizz Beats to an unknown promise like BOOTS, whom he kept practically secret until the release of beyonce.
In this case, the artist seems to have looked for the best combination for each theme, and just as she signs usual names in hiphop and R&B such as The-Dream, Mike Dean, Raphael Saadiq, the aforementioned Neptunes or Drake, she also credits lesser producers. well-known artists, avant-garde artists like 070 Shake, a benchmark of hooligan electronics like Skrillex and even icons like Giorgio Moroder, the ‘godfather’ of the synthesizer, Nile Rodgers, guitarist and founder of Chic, and even James Brown.
This diversity may seem bizarre on paper before plunging into a long-minute album, but it becomes more interesting when the vocal collaborations are reviewed. Meanwhile in lemonade Beyoncé was accompanied by stars of the caliber of Kendrick Lamar, Jack White, The Weeknd or James Blake, here she recovers a great diva of the eighties, Grace Jones, and introduces two young voices influenced by the music of Africa and the Caribbean, the Jamaican Beam and Nigerian Tems, almost unknown to the mainstream.
Glamor (and darkness) on the dance floor
The sixteen songs on this album are just the “first act” of a project, in the form of a trilogy, that the singer from Houston composed and recorded over three years, since the start of the pandemic, with the creative freedom and hedonism as main aspirations. Featuring an exuberant Beyoncé riding a glass horse against an intimidating black background, the cover looks like a nod to the yeehaw calendara movement that embraces the vindication of western aesthetics by people of African descent, and of which both his sister Solange like the irreverent Lil Nas X they have already offered numerous samples in videos, sessions and red carpets.
Also, it ends up being a good reflection of the sound of the album. Significantly, the opening is the crooked I’m That Girlwhere a loop Vocal baits her ‘haters’ and one of her trademark melodies is embellished with a defiant reggaeton beat. It is not the only song that allows itself to be wrapped up by aggressive synthesizers and dark timbres, as they show Energy, thick either All Up In Your Mind.
His tribute to disco music is also clear, an intention revealed with that single break my soul which they have just accompanied, as is usual in house and other styles focused on dance, versions instrumental Y a cappella. Nor does he hesitate to quote Robin S. or Right Said Fred and polish songs that are perfect to listen to while rolling down a skating rink, such as cuff it, Virgo’s Groove and of course the closing with Summer Renaissance who reinterprets the I Feel Love by Donna Summer.
The ‘samples’, a political issue
There are more protagonists in Act I: Renaissance. For example, him bouncea hiphop subgenre born in New Orleans to which Beyoncé pays tribute in Move, along with Grace Jones and Tems. And also sampling in break my soul to Big Freedia, as I did in the capital Formationwhose video, the best in history according to Rolling Stone, caused him to be boycotted by the security forces of his country for considering it “anti-police” and “anti-American”.
In a time marked by the continuous questioning of the rights of women, migrants and trans people, it does not seem casual to dedicate the album to her uncle Johnny, whom she defines as “godmother”, using a song title as explicit as America Has A Problem or the resolute homage to the vogue movement, whose style is noticeable in many of the album’s rhythms and with the appearance on Pure/Honey by Kevin Aviance of the House of Aviance, a legendary New York vogue ballroom.
This “renaissance” lasts more than an hour but there are few songs —Alien Superstar, Church Girl Y Plastic Off The Sofa almost exclusively—, in which he slows down and bets on the tone of his well-known ballads. Along the lines of the recent honestly nevermind of Drake, surprisingly turned to techno-house, or of that generation tiktoker what do you think hits After a minute, Beyoncé seems ready to give battle on the dance floors. An intention that underlines the fact that, unlike her films about lemonade (HBO) or black is king (Disney +), not having had visuals this time.
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His, of course, has not been the first case of a youth idol who ends up articulating an interesting career, as shown by those of artists from different eras, from Scott Walker to Britney Spears through Justin Timberlake or Harry Styles himself. But the impact of Beyoncé’s solo career is still surprising, from the perspective of those first Destiny’s Child albums or her dazzling one Crazy In Love alongside Jay-Z. Although his career has not been without controversy.
Scene partners like Azealia Banks they made him look ugly with The Carters album a “happy ending” familiar to those alleged infidelities of his partner that he exorcised in songs of lemonade as devastating as Don’t Hate Yourself. And while speech by the Nigerian feminist writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in ***Flawless For many activists, it was a global resonance loudspeaker for feminism, others considered it an appropriation and commercialization of the movement.
Despite its good intentions, the one in Houston is capable of offering a messianic and sweetened version of The Lion King. At the same time, it is also necessary to demonstrate with a single video the unacceptable lack of representation of Afro-descendants in large museums. Lights and shadows of an artist with a real record who manages her career at her own pace and with an iron fist, producing through Parkwood Entertainment, designing clothes for brands like Adidas with Ivy Park and socially intervening with her philanthropic project to support NGOs called BeyGOOD.