by Abigail Levasseur '24 on September 18, 2022
Arts & Entertainment
Singer, songwriter, producer, and pop icon Beyoncé released her new album, Renaissance, on July 29, 2022. The album is Beyoncé’s seventh studio album as a solo recording artist. Before going solo, she co-wrote five studio albums with Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams—the trio made up the famous girl group Destiny’s Child. Some of Destiny’s Child’s most popular songs include “Bills, Bills, Bills,” “Survivor,” and “Say My Name.” The group was most popular in the 90s and early 2000s before disbanding in 2006 after 16 years together. After another 16 years as a solo artist, it is safe to say that Beyoncé is still topping musical charts. On August 13th, Beyoncé’s Renaissance hit number one on Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart, becoming the first album released by a female artist to reach number one in 2022.
The last album recorded by a female artist to hit number one was Adele’s 30 in December 2021. This seven-month stretch was particularly unusual and marks the longest female drought for Billboard’s Top 200 in over five years. Beyoncé hasn’t produced a full musical album in six years, her last being Lemonade in 2016. The long wait makes Renaissance all the more exciting. But Beyoncé hasn’t exactly been living in the shadows. She produced a documentary film titled Black is King, voiced “Nala” in Disney’s live-action movie The Lion King, and helped produce Homecoming, a concert movie documenting her “Beychella” set, which was largely inspired by Black American Performance.
Amplifying Black music and culture was also a driving force in the production of Renaissance. The album pays homage to Beyoncé’s late Uncle Johnny, whom she calls her “godmother.” According to Beyoncé, her Uncle Johnny was the first person who exposed her to “the music and the culture” that inspired her seventh album. Uncle Johnny passed away from HIV-related health complications when Beyoncé was only seventeen years old, but apparently, the two were inseparable during her childhood. Uncle Johnny’s influence has helped draw a direct connection between Beyoncé and the Black queer community. Beyoncé calls her new album a “safe place, a place without judgment…a place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking.” The album is largely a celebration of safe spaces, inclusive of clubs, churches, and venues made for Black women and queer people. This celebration is all the more important after Covid-19 shut down these lively, cultural venues. The album title references the Renaissance period (1300-1600), which marked a “revival of art and literature.” While the album is titled “renaissance,” it symbolizes Bey’s “rebirth.”
The term is very characteristic of Beyoncé’s album, which celebrates the rebirth of culture and music after the pandemic forced clubs to close their doors and concert venues to transform into medical sites. But despite the modern twist, Beyoncé still carries some history into her album cover, which mimics the famous Anglo-Saxon painting of Godiva. So, if you’re surfing through Spotify, and if you wish to listen to Renaissance, just look for Queen Bey posing on a holographic horse.