Beyoncé released her long-awaited album Renaissance – her first solo studio album in six years – to a smash response from fans and critics, as well as controversy.
A 16-track dance record packed with high-profile collaborators spanning all genres, including Drake, Skrillex and Grace Jones, Renaissance is the first in a planned trilogy, Beyoncé said, in a statement uploaded to her website the day before. of the album release.
“This three-act project was recorded over three years during the pandemic,” the 28-time Grammy-winning artist wrote. “My intention was to create a safe place. A place without judgement. A place to be free from perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, to break free, to feel freedom.
In the statement, she also paid tribute to her “beautiful husband and muse” Jay-Z and his family, as well as her late uncle Jonny – a gay man whom Beyoncé called “my godmother and the first person to exposing myself to much of the music and culture that inspires this album.
These inspirations come in droves and swiftly on the album, according to a four-star Guardian review of Renaissance who called it the “soundtrack to a wild summer of chaos and joy,” replete with references to international dance traditions. such as Afrobeat, Jersey Club and New Jack Swing. “It’s a celebration of living abundantly and beyond the expectations of others,” wrote Tara Joshi.
Rolling Stone hailed Beyoncé’s refreshing curation of collaborators, which also includes queer club figureheads Big Freedia and Honey Dijon: “Her broad palette exemplifies how the best parties blend racial and gender identities, sexual orientations and aesthetic sensibilities in a harmonious way that belies our tortures and often sectarian public discourse.
In a tweet in June, Big Freedia said it was “surreal” to be on a track with Beyoncé: “So honored to be a part of this special moment.”
Many on Twitter praised the smooth transitions of songs on Renaissance – each track blending into the next, as if positioned over a club mix.
The build-up to Renaissance has been unusually long — at least by Beyoncé’s standards, after surprise drops from her two most recent records, 2013’s self-titled visual album and 2016’s feverishly acclaimed visual album, Lemonade.
Renaissance, by comparison, was preceded by a six-week rollout, including last month’s debut single Break My Soul, a song that – with its call to arms to “liberate your work” – has been hailed as the anthem of the Great Resignation.
A leak – and a controversy
The release, however, was not without problems. It was leaked in full two days earlier, though her legion of fans – collectively titled Beyhive – immediately called on listeners to “respect her wishes” on Twitter and wait for the official release.
Beyoncé thanked her fans in a statement made at the time of the official release of Renaissance. “I can’t thank you enough for your love and protection,” she said. “Thank you for calling anyone trying to sneak into the club early.”
The album samples many tracks, from Donna Summer’s I Feel Love to Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy. But one in particular has grabbed the headlines – a song called Energy, whose liner notes list “an interpolation” of Kelis Milkshake’s single, crediting Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, also known as the Neptunes, with writing. .
After a fan account claimed earlier this week that Energy would be featuring a sample of Kelis, Kelis commented, “I heard about it the same way everyone else does. Nothing is ever as it seems.
In a 2020 Guardian interview, Kelis claimed that she had been “flagrantly lied to and deceived” by her early collaborators the Neptunes and, as a result, “made nothing from the sales of her first two albums”. In a Vulture interview earlier this year, Hugo brushed off the comments, “I heard about his feelings on this. I mean, I can’t handle this. I usually hire business people to help me with this stuff.
In a subsequent Instagram post on Friday, Kelis said the issue was bigger than Beyoncé – but added “from artist to artist, you should have the decency and common sense to reach out…even if you Go do it anyway.” The Guardian has contacted representatives for Beyoncé for comment.
House musician Robin S, whose track Show Me Love is sampled in Beyoncé’s Break My Soul, said she was also unaware of the use until the single was released – although she received the news more positively. In an interview with Good Morning Britain in June, she said it was her son who informed her she was trending, before sending her thanks to Beyoncé: “Thank you so much for giving me my flowers for that I’m still alive,” she said. said. “I am honored.”