Act i of Beyoncé’s latest music offering is a warm hug to Black queer people.
Grace Jones and Big Freedia are two of the artists with features on the Renaissance album.
Words: Jamal Grootboom | Images: Getty Images + Apple Music
Beyoncé’s Renaissance is here and it’s giving pioneers of House music a platform previously denied.
Pop music has had several key players that have moved the needle in the industry when they resurface after a hiatus.
And while there are new artists making an impact, when it comes to the likes of Lady Gaga, Adele, Rihanna, and Bruno Mars (to name a few), there is something different in the air.
Beyoncé is the chief among them and has been since 13 December 2013 when she stopped the world with that digital surprise drop. The multi-award-winning artist not only kicked off a trend that other artists tried to emulate, but she influenced the shift of the standard new music release day from a Tuesday to a Friday.
Fast forward a few years later, and we got Lemonade, The Gift, Homecoming, and even a joint album with her husband Jay-Z; Everything Is Love. With all these chart-toppers making up her catalogue, it was unclear how Queen Bey would outdo herself again with her next solo album. During this time, there were hopes of a new supreme rising to fill a gap while she was busy cooking up her next project.
Alas, there still isn’t a pop act that’s shown much promise yet. Instead, for us lovers of fierce female performers with vocal prowess, memorable live performances, and overall artistry, all we’ve been given so far are empty promises of upcoming debut albums, endless teasers of new music, and songs the length of a shallow breath.
Beyoncé must have seen how we were starving for new classics and so the birth of the Renaissance era kicked off in June when she removed all her profile pictures on social media. And since she’s an aficionado of pettiness (meant in the most affectionate way possible), she dabbled in some online banter with a pop-up text on her official website asking “What is a B7?”, along with more trolling from the queen. In contrast to her previous project, we got a heads-up about not only a lead single but a release date for the album.
While many of us spent weeks speculating about what Renaissance was going to be, it’s now clear after the release that this is a love letter to Black queer people who were not only pioneers of House music - which is the core genre for the album - but the Black queer people that had impacted her personally. In the ‘thank you’ letter from the album booklet (yes, she got people to buy actual CDs and Vinyls in 2022), Beyoncé dedicates this project to her late Uncle Johnny, who introduced her to House music, as well as various LGBTQIA+ figures that served as inspiration for it.
As with many of the OG pop stars, having a core fanbase consisting of queer people isn’t unheard of, but very few have immersed themselves in queer culture and have uplifted members from the community in the process. Beyoncé learned a lot during the making of The Gift - which was a love letter to Africa - and employed a similar approach to the creation of Renaissance.
While some of her regular collaborators appear on the project, she made sure to include Black transwomen and Black femmes in the project. The sample list includes Ts Madison, Big Freedia, Kevin Aviance, Moi Renee and producing by DJ Honey Dijon. It's clear not only did Beyoncé do her research, but created something that celebrates the Black queer people who have gone unrecognised in this genre.
The music is phenomenal. Beyoncé comes in with her unmatched vocal ability, seamless transitions, stellar production, and replay value that supersedes that of her previous albums. However, Renaissance takes all of the things that make Beyoncé a peerless superstar and wraps it in gift wrapping that is unmistakably queer.
And for an audience that has supported Beyoncé for the majority of her career, it does feel like a warm hug. Of course, this isn’t the first time Beyoncé has made music that feels like it was made for her queer audience, Get Me Bodied will get the gurls rushing to the dance floor. Renaissance is explicit in the people that inspired it and who it’s made for.
If Lemonade explores what Black womanhood means, The Gift acts as a love letter to Africa and now Renaissance is an ode to Black queer people, then there really is no stopping Beyoncé when it comes to creativity and the way she constantly raises the bar. And to think we still have two acts to look forward to.
And on that note, they may not be Telfar or Hermès, but here are a few totes to shop: