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 album, BEYONCÉ, 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 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 format with the highest possible sound quality, 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 release. premiere on TIDAL, the online music service he owns, along with jack dorsey among others, her husband, rapper and businessman Jay-Z.
Jay-Z's real name, Shawn Carter, appears several times in the credits of Act I: Renaissance. Beyoncé is known for being quite responsible for her songs, on a compositional and sound level, as the Coachella concert documented for Netflix in HOMECOMING demonstrates), but she has always surrounded herself 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 BEYONCÉ's edition.
In this case, the artist seems to have searched 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 Drakealso accredits lesser-known producers, avant-garde artists such as 070 Shake, a benchmark of thug electronics such as Skrillex and even icons such as Giorgio Moroder, the 'godfather' of the synthesizer, Nile Rodgers, guitarist and founder of Chic, and to 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. While in Lemonade Beyoncé was accompanied by stars of the caliber of Kendrick LamarJack White, The Weeknd either james blakehere he recovers a great diva of the eighties, Grace Jones, and introduces two young voices influenced by the musics of africa and the Caribbean, the Jamaican Beam and the 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. The cover, which presents an exuberant Beyoncé on the back of a glass horse on an intimidating black background, seems to be a nod to the yeehaw agenda, a 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 twisted I'm That Girl, where a vocal loop teases her 'haters' and one of her signature melodies is laced with a defiant reggaeton groove. It is not the only song that allows itself to be wrapped in aggressive synthesizers and dark timbres, as Energy, Thique or All Up In Your Mind show.
Their homage to disco music is also clear, an intention revealed with that Break My Soul single that they have just accompanied, as is usual in house and other dance focused stylesversions instrumental Y a cappella. Nor does he hesitate to cite Robin S. or Right Said Fred and shine songs that are perfect for listening to while rolling on a skating rink, such as Cuff It, Virgo's Groove and, of course, the closing with Summer Renaissance that reinterprets I Feel Love by Donna Summer.
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There are more protagonists in Act I: Renaissance. For example, bounce, a hiphop subgenre born in New Orleans to which Beyoncé pays tribute in Move, along with Grace Jones and Tems. And also sampling Big Freedia on Break My Soul, as he already did in the capital Formation, whose 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 an era 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 decided homage to the vogue movement, whose style is evident in many rhythms on the album and with the appearance on Pure/Honey of Kevin Aviance, from the House of Aviance, a legendary New York vogue dance hall.
This “renaissance” lasts more than an hour but there are few songs —Alien Superstar, Church Girl and Plastic Off The Sofa almost exclusively—, in which he slows down and bets on the tone of his well-known ballads. In the vein of Drake's recent Honestly, Nevermind, surprisingly turning to techno-house, or that generation tiktoker creating one-minute hits, Beyoncé looks ready to take the dance floor by storm. An intention that underlines the fact that, unlike her films on Lemonade (HBO) or Black Is King (Disney +), she did not have 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 going 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 brilliant Crazy In Love with Jay-Z. Although her 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 Lemonade songs as devastating as Don't Hate Yourself. And while speech by the Nigerian feminist writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in ***Flawless was for many activists a global speaker 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.