Reader’s Criticism Beyoncé’s Renaissance: Euphoric and fresh or paint-by-numbers? | beyonce

“It’s a love letter to the LGBTQ+ community”

I think this is my favorite Beyoncé album. It’s a love letter to the LGBTQ+ community, dancefloors and ballrooms, and it surprised me in the best way possible. You can hear the excitement and euphoria in her voice; it’s double the dose of serotonin we need right now. References and examples are included throughout – some are quite niche which only makes it more special. I never thought I’d hear samples from the late drag performer Moi Renee in a Beyoncé song, and Pure/Honey is based on her song Miss Honey. For that reason, it’s probably my favorite song on the album. It’s insanely exciting to hear details like this, with bits of the underground made mainstream. Tombo, 22, designer, Merseyside

The album cover for Renaissance

“It’s so fun and playful”

I’ve been a Beyoncé fan since my partner gave me a slowed down burned DVD of Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) in 2009 so we could both learn the dance. I truly became a superfan with their album 4 (although Beyhive level cannot be claimed). What I love about Renaissance is that for over an hour she tells us about the wacky Aunt Beyoncé (I almost fell off my chair on “Tig ol’ bitties”) who has always been there but wasn’t the main focus before. I love that it brings together the most danceable elements from their back catalog and mixes them with legendary dance anthems. It’s hard to compete with her self-titled album and Lemonade, and it doesn’t have the same emotional pull, but who needs to put every album through the wringer? It’s so fun and playful – she’s doing new things with her voice; The songs are looser and longer. My favorite track after a few listens is Cozy – it’s fresh and cool and sounds like someone feels right at home in their own skin. James, 32, Melbourne

“Lemonade was a more interesting record”

Lemonade was a more interesting record than Renaissance. It’s the first time in years that I’ve felt like Beyoncé has run out of things to sing about. Renaissance doesn’t sound like it came from an authentic place. There’s no emotion and it’s a paint-by-numbers album when it comes to the lyrics. Parts of the album sounded like a good girl trying to be bad to fit in with the crowd. Lemonade was an angry album and had so much to say, but Renaissance is repetitive and frankly too exhausting. Anonymous, Manchester

Close-up of Beyonce.
“Beyoncé is taking us to the club.” Photo: Mason Poole

“In a world so dark and ambiguous, we must escape”

Renaissance is an sonic thrill from start to finish. After her long hiatus from solo work, I wasn’t sure how Beyoncé would top her previous album. But in a world so dark and ambiguous, instead of Lemonade’s blunt, stark political message, we need a way out! And with “Renaissance Part One” Beyoncé takes us to the club. With influences mostly from 70’s/80’s disco and the New York/Chicago house ballroom scene – a genre and space created by the black queer community – this is the most experimental we’ve heard from Beyoncé. The album plays like a DJ set at a steamy 80’s New York underground ball. It’s a love letter to her black queer fans to relax and have fun and learn how to find joy even when the whole world feels incredibly dark. This is an album of joy. Miles, 24, London

“A Strange Collection of Odes to the Past”

It would have been nice if their album was more of a reflection of how much we’ve changed as a society since the pandemic. Lemonade was a masterpiece in capturing the zeitgeist of the time it was released. Is Renaissance doing the same today? It feels more like an odd collection of odes to the past – a reference to Ibiza here, a reference to Beyoncé herself there. Personally, I would prefer an album with more layers of meaning beyond flash in the pan and self-deprecating hedonism. This appears to be an attempt by the artist to return to her former glory, wrapped in the cloak of “I don’t care about being perfect” – and I’m not sure I buy that. Anna, London

“Your voice sounds more mature”

Beyoncé’s first solo album in six years is a bold foray into EDM and nu-disco (Cuff it, Virgo’s Groove). Alternating breathy vocals and layered harmonies, the album seems to center on seduction and boast of their successes in the music business – which, let’s face it, were well-deserved. She is keen to include references (samples, interpolations) of her inspirations for the album, including Robin S and Donna Summer. Her voice also sounds more mature and deeper, which isn’t a bad thing. The high melismas are still there, but it seems like Beyoncé is happy to explore her mid and low notes. And so do we. Julio, 38, University Lecturer, Hampshire

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