Album Review: Renaissance

Renaissance, by Beyonce

I am not nor have I ever been a particular fan of Beyonce as a solo artist. For the most part, I generally enjoyed the music of Destiny’s Child and have enjoyed much of what I have heard in the solo material of the non-Beyonce members of the group, but for a variety of reasons of Beyonce’s music herself has not been as appealing for me personally. There are a variety of reasons for this–she has an imperious mood about her which makes her less appealing for me personally and which undercuts the enjoyment I would have in her music were she a more relatable and approachable sort of person. Similarly, her rabid fanbase is a less than desirable aspect of her superstardom that puts her in the same lane as other overrated artists that are dragged down by the antics of their supporters, which in the case of the Beyhive involves a lot of harassment. On top of this there is also the content of her music, which fails to please me to a great degree because she leans so heavily on misandry, which is something I am particularly hostile to. Given all of this, I was invited to listen to and rank down this album with some curiosity, but with a great deal of concern as well. Is the music any good? Let’s see.

“I’m That Girl” opens the album with Beyonce’s characteristic lack of humility as well as her lack of good taste, with annoying production and a repetitive non-hook. At least there are beat switches to make it less monotonous, even if the anti-American mood is unwelcome. “Cozy” at least features appealing production, while also providing a song about self-love and self-respect which fails to understand why it is that people would dislike her, ascribing it (incorrectly) to racism and unacknowledged desire. “Alien Superstar” has driving production and lyrics that seek to paint Beyonce as a creative and unique person with an alien perspective, which is at least okay, even if her wordplay isn’t all that impressive. “Cuff It,” the second single from this album, is the sort of song that makes sense as a New Year’s Day sort of dance track with appealing production, even if the lyrics are the weakest point of the song by far. “Energy,” featuring Beam, is a song let down by lyrics that fail to match the energy of the words used, along with some farty production that is a bit irritating to listen to. In contrast, if “Break My Soul” is not a great dance song it is at least an appealing one with a good beat and sample as well as populist lyrics that are definitely appealing. “Church Girl” is a song that doesn’t love up to its name, with repetitive lyrics about dropping it in a club like one was a sex worker, but without trying to hurt anyone. “Plastic Off The Sofa” is more of an R&B sort of song, definitely better than the average, with breathy lyrics that focus on love and mutual pleasure. If more songs were like this I would like this album a lot more. “Virgo’s Groove” is a somewhat long song that sits on a great 70’s groove and again, is above the average for this album and one that makes this an appealing part of the album, with a focus on love that is better when Beyonce tries to point out how appealing it would be for the partner rather than for herself. “Move,” featuring Grace Jones and Tems, goes back irritating production as well as terrible lyrics with racial and gender themes. “Heated” is another song that reflects the sort of chemistry and attraction that one can find at a dance club, but the production isn’t particularly good and Beyonce focuses too much on herself, which is a common flaw. “Thique” focuses more on herself, with pretty stupid lyrics, and mediocre production. “All Up In Your Mind” has better lyrics than usual because the singer focuses on someone else for a bit, but the production is really irritating, unfortunately. The author returns with obnoxious production and misguided lyrics for “America Has A Problem,” which focuses on the supposed desirability of Beyonce and shows her in an unflattering light. The production is similarly unflattering in “Pure/Honey,” which features Beyonce bragging about her mediocre to bad technique and more basic wordplay. The last part of the song is better, because it features Beyonce singing, even if it’s still about her supposed sexiness. The album mercifully ends with “Summer Renaissance,” which has uneven production and more discussions about Beyonce about how good her lovemaking is, which is a pretty tired and tedious theme, admittedly.

This album was, admittedly, a pretty big disappointment. A great many dance albums feature singing by generally anonymous singers, and in listening to this album one can see why that is the case, in that while such singing may be undistinguished, it is certainly pretty relatable. One could listen to the slew of 90’s dance acts that this album samples from or emulates and recognize that while they were only passable singers, that at least they were interested in making music that appealed to an audience. Here, though, Beyonce is mainly concerned with letting everyone know how sexy that she is and how irresistible she is and how awesome she is, and quite frankly that is not interesting enough to sustain interest over an entire album. This album isn’t worthless–there are about five tracks here that are enjoyable to listen to, mostly thanks to the combination of good production and Beyonce aiming at a more populist and relatable point of view–but it is a tedious chore to listen to for the most part. Interestingly enough, the singles chosen to promote were two of the five tracks here I found at least modestly enjoyable to listen to, suggesting that the people choosing singles had good ears at least. Apparently, this album is the start of something, but it doesn’t look like an artistic renaissance, at least not yet.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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