138 days have passed — it’s been a little under five months since the release of Beyoncé’s seventh studio album Renaissance. Celebrating Black, queer culture in a dance-filled record, the album has easily found itself on listeners’ #SpotifyWrapped charts, across Ballroom floors, and placed on album of the year lists.
It’s unsurprising that Renaissance has held a relevant position in pop culture considering the endless memes and themed dance parties — regardless of the album’s undelivered music videos. If it wasn’t obvious after the release of her self-titled album in 2013, Beyoncé knows how to captivate an audience for an extensive period of time. As Twitter users joked about members of the BeyHive getting to leave the imaginary waiting room of artists that rarely drop music (alongside fans of SZA, Rihanna, and Frank Ocean), the unbelievable existence surrounding the album’s long-awaited release started to feel real. The longing for the album’s visuals is similar to how we’ll be yearning for the next chapter of the Houston native’s teased three-act project.
Longevity isn’t anything new for Beyoncé. If you’ve been following her superstardom since the days of Destiny’s Child or even 2016’s vulnerable project Lemonade, everything revolving around the artist stays relevant. On “Formation,” she did claim that she’s that b*tch because she frequently causes conversation. In “I’m That Girl,” she reminded her listeners exactly who the f*ck she is with the opening sample by the late Memphis rapper Princess Loko.
She’s also tapping into a wider trend. Like a variety of musical projects from the likes of PinkPantheress, Rochelle Jordan, Drake, Shygirl, Channel Tres/Tinashe, and IDK/Kaytranada, Renaissance is one of many examples of why 2022 was a popular year for dance music by Black artists. Following two years of isolation, grief, and an unforeseeable return to normalcy, Renaissance arrived at a necessary time to return to the dance floor.
As many have mentioned, the album’s effortless flow is perfect for a night out, and that’s evident with the existence of #ClubRenaissance parties at clubs across the globe. While sharing an open letter about the album, Beyoncé anticipated that her fans would find joy in the music and “release a wiggle” while listening to it. Following the June arrival of lead single “Break My Soul,” some pointed out that the album’s ode to queer culture would’ve been heavily appreciated during Pride Month, but its drop toward the end of July promised a rewarding conclusion of the summer.
In the open letter, she also dedicated the album to her late Uncle Johnny, who passed away from HIV. “He was my godmother and the first person to expose me to a lot of the music and culture that serve as inspiration for this album,” she writes. While acknowledging the impact that her Uncle Johnny had in her life — which was also mentioned during her acceptance speech at the 2019 GLAAD Media Awards — the mission to pay homage to Black queer and trans icons was evident throughout the album.
Her extensive roster of Black LGBTQ+ collaborators included New Orleans bounce phenomenon Big Freedia, The Internet’s singer-songwriter and sapphic superstar Syd, multihyphenate Grace Jones, television personality Ts Madison, and DJ/producer Honey Dijon, among others. Prior to Renaissance’s arrival, Beyoncé said, “My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, release, feel freedom.” Her intended choice of words has resonated with me for months: to be Black and queer during the release of Beyoncé’s Renaissance is to feel heard, seen, and unapologetically loved. The album’s recognizable reverence to Black queer artists, drag queens, and listeners was intentional, just as she spoke.
To minimize the longevity of this album to the unknown arrival of its visuals wouldn’t be fair. Following the surprise drop of Beyoncé in 2013, fans have always questioned the secrets that could be up the artist’s sleeve, especially if she’s carrying her notorious laptop.
Besides the visuals and forthcoming two acts, what else is Beyoncé hiding up her sleeve? Well, I personally didn’t account for the limited-edition “Cuff It” themed merchandise that would be gifted by Queen Bey for the lucky few that created a viral video for participating in the trending #CuffItChallenge. After the challenge swept its way beyond TikTok and onto every social media platform, she rewarded her fans’ choreography by reposting 27 of her “Cuff It Picks” onto her account via an Instagram Guide.
Perhaps the relevancy and compelling nature of the 16-track album has more to do with its sound, specifically the work of longtime collaborator The-Dream. After penning remarkable classics like “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It),” “Grown Woman,” and “Formation,” The-Dream was bound to create a sonic masterpiece on Renaissance. If the combination of the album’s funk, disco, house, soul, R&B, and gospel doesn’t explain its addictive flair, maybe the excitement for its live performances will.
Following the historic blessing that is BeyChella, not to mention her infamous dance breaks, the Renaissance tour will be a lively experience creating FOMO for those not in attendance. The approaching tour dates were inadvertently confirmed to occur during next summer after an auction for October’s Wearable Art Gala, leaving fans who are now financially preparing themselves for the tour’s announcement. Whether Ticketmaster is ready or not for the BeyHive after the debacle with Taylor Swift’s devoted Swifties, the satisfaction of attending the Renaissance tour has motivated employed people everywhere.
As fans fill Beyoncé’s comment sections asking about the status of the album’s visuals, don the disco balls (every last one of them) and dance carefree with your loved ones as the hour-long album plays from start to finish. Renaissance has gifted us a moment to release ourselves and escape within songs like “Church Girl” or “Virgo’s Groove.” Go ahead and press play to absorb the bad b*tch energy that oozes out of tracks like “Pure/Honey” and “Heated.” In an attention economy that often finds it hard to focus on anything longer than a week, this is built to last. As Beyoncé stated in the album’s opening track, Renaissance truly is That Girl, and it’s time to wholeheartedly recognize it while reviewing this year’s best albums.