Beyoncé released her much-anticipated album Renaissance – her first solo studio record in six years – to a huge response from fans and critics, as well as a controversial spot.
In a statement uploaded to her website the day before the album’s release, Beyoncé said the 16-track dance record packed with notable collaborators, including Drake, Skrillex and Grace Jones, is the first in a planned trilogy.
The 28-time Grammy-winning artist wrote: “This three-act project was logged over three years during the pandemic.” “My intention was to create a safe place. A place without judgment. A place free from perfection and overthinking. A place to scream, release, and feel free.”
In the statement, she also paid tribute to her “beautiful and inspiring husband” Jay-Z and her family, as well as her late uncle Johnny – a gay man Beyoncé referred to as “my godmother and the first person to introduce me to so much of the music and culture that inspired this album.”
Those inspirations come thick and fast on the album, according to the Guardian’s four-star review of the Renaissance which called it “the soundtrack to a brutal summer full of chaos and joy,” with plenty of references to global dance traditions including Afrobeat, Jersey Club and New Jack Swing. “It’s a celebration of life in abundance and beyond the realms of others’ expectations,” Tara Joshi wrote.
Rolling Stone praised Beyoncé’s refreshing curation of collaborators, who also include Queer Big Club characters Fredia and Honey Dijon: “Her vast color palette demonstrates how the best parties blend racial and gender identities, sexual orientations, and aesthetic feelings in harmonious ways that believe we are tormented and alive. Public discourse is often intolerant.” .
In a tweet in June, Big Freedia said it was a “surreal feeling” to be on the right track with Beyoncé: “I am honored to be a part of this special moment.”
Many on Twitter praised the song’s smooth transitions in the Renaissance — each track melting into the next, as if it were set on a club mix.
The lead-up to the Renaissance has been extraordinarily long — at least by Beyoncé standards, following the abrupt decline of her two most recent records, 2013’s self-titled visual album and 2016’s popular visual album Lemonade.
In contrast, Renaissance preceded a six-week release, including last month’s Break My Soul, a song – with its call to arms for “Free You Job” – hailed as the great resignation anthem.
Leak – And Controversial
The version, however, was not without problems. It was leaked in full two days ago, though a slew of fans – who collectively called them Beyhive – immediately called on listeners to “respect her wishes” on Twitter and wait for the official drop.
Beyoncé thanked her fans in a statement At the time of the official release of the Renaissance. “I cannot thank you enough for your love and protection,” she said. “I appreciate you inviting anyone who was trying to sneak into the club early.”
The album samples several tracks, from Donna Summer’s I Feel Love to Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy. But one in particular made headlines—a song called Energy, whose written notes mention “interpolation” from Kelis’ single Milkshake, and credits songwriting to Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, aka Neptunes.
After a fan claimed earlier this week that Energy would feature Kelis’ sample, Kelis commented, “I’ve heard about this the same way the others have. Nothing is ever as it seems.”
In an interview with Guardian from 2020, Kelis claimed she had been “blatantly lied and deceived” by her early Neptunes associates, and as a result, “made nothing of the sale of her first two albums”. In an interview with Vulture earlier this year, Hugo shrugged off the comments: “I heard how she feels about it. I mean, I don’t deal with that. I usually hire business people to help out with this kind of thing.”
In a subsequent Instagram post on Friday, Kelis said the problem was bigger than Beyoncé – but added, “From artist to artist, you have to have the decency and common sense to connect…even if you’re going to do it anyway.” The Guardian has reached out to Beyoncé’s representatives for comment.
House musician Robin S, whose track Show Me Love in Break My Soul was sampled for Beyoncé, also said she was also unaware of the use prior to the song’s release — although she received the news more favorably. In an interview with Good Morning Britain in June, she said it was her son who told her she was heading, before sending her appreciation to Beyoncé: “Thank you so much for giving me flowers while I’m still alive,” he said. “I’m honored.”