Stevie G: Beyonce a true renaissance girl

Renaissance has been the most heavily anticipated album in pop music for ages, and is hasn't disappointed... says Stevie G in his Downtown column
Stevie G: Beyonce a true renaissance girl

Beyonce’s new album, ‘Renaissance’, comes six years after the acclaimed ‘Lemonade’, and is even better.

Beyonce times things perfectly! Her last album, Lemonade, arrived without warning six years ago and she has a history of surprise releases.

Renaissance has been the most heavily anticipated album in pop music for ages, but bar ‘Break My Soul’ none of us really knew what was in store.

I’m grateful that she timed it to arrive last Friday, just before a busy weekend of festivals for this DJ! It did not disappoint!

It’s been quite a journey for Beyonce, from the early days of Destiny’s Child. It was always obvious that she was going to be a star. Destiny’s Child were an iconic group and much of their music still sounds great.

I warmed up for them in the Point Depot (now 3Arena) in 2001, and it was a great opportunity to see Beyonce and the girls up close. She was only 19, but commanded the stage like a veteran. Masterful on the mic and doing extravagant dance moves wearing high heels is no mean feat, and she was as talented as anyone I’ve ever seen live. Kelly and Michelle were amazing, too, but Beyonce was special and the subsequent years have illustrated that.

I was a little annoyed when certain sections of the music press, who had turned up their noses at Beyonce for years, started over-intellectualising her work, namely Lemonade. Stan culture can be unhealthy, and the Beyonce Beyhive have had their moments of toxicity, too, but it’s the same for every artist at this level. Journalists and fans claiming that Beyonce ‘invented’ black women’s social commentary with Lemonade was a big insult to Nina, Lauryn, Aretha, Billie, Mahalia, and hundreds of other great artists, but again, Beyonce would distance herself from this lazy commentary. She’s aware that she is simply part of a lineage, but I’m pretty sure she knows she’s one of the very best.

Beyonce gives flowers to those who passed before (the credits are detailed on this new album) and while there will always be a few grumbles (from Kelis and others), Renaissance nods to both the obvious and the obscure. It’s not too deep.

This is an album of celebration and emancipation, and it will make people dance. It’s a disco and house album and a party album and there are echoes and samples and credits for Chic, Donna Summer, and Grace Jones, plus many more. There are also underground hip-hop, trap, bounce, and jersey influences and the production is first class.

Much of the commentary surrounds its housey nature. I dealt with ignorance around this when reviewing the Drake album recently, but the homophobia in the US is even worse than here. As mentioned, house music and many other incarnations of what we listen to now, has deep roots in black and hispanic communities, and women were always at the forefront of it. Spinning these new albums as some sort of fashion cash-ins is weak, particularly as both artists have made house music before.

Unfortunately for Drake, who’s album is also well produced, Beyonce is on another level at composing songs, and she’s obviously a more capable and likeable artist.

From the Destiny’s Child days, she’s always captured the zeitgiest and nearly every line on this album could be, and will be, an Instagram caption. Beyonce and her team are always on it and cutting edge. Renaissance may not be as highbrow as some would want, but it’s all the better for it.

It’s an album you’ll be hearing often, whether you like it or not. I’m a DJ and a fan, so I’m happy. There are no ballads and music is not being reinvented, but that’s no problem.

Renaissance is probably Beyonce’s most assured album yet and it flows like a DJ set, with no interludes or over-indulgence and no filler. And remember, this is only part one.

It’s been a busy few years for Beyonce, who’s mastered a career-defining performance at Coachella and numerous other audio-visual and fashion projects, plus her young family. Renaissance is even better than Lemonade and another great step for one of the great artists of our lifetime.

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