Since the days of Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé has been revered in my home.
I remember listening to The Writing’s on the Wall on repeat on my parents’ CD player and performing the “uh-oh” dance with my mum when Crazy in Love arrived in 2003. Seeing Beyoncé on Top of the Pops and Popworld, I couldn’t quite believe what I was witnessing – the birth of a goddess who we know today to be our greatest living entertainer.
Queen Bey has the ability to make us all feel like the powerful queens that we are. Act I of her new project, the 16-track dance-leaning Renaissance, takes this to the next level. Dedicated to her “godmother,” Uncle Jonny (who gets a shoutout on HEATED), and “the pioneers who originate culture,” the album features samples and contributions from a number of Black LGBTQ+ music icons, from Big Freedia to Honey Dijon.
Renaissance is pure joy. Bey sounds carefree and ready to dance – and she brings us along for the journey. Upon the album’s release, the artist released a statement, saying: “my intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgement. A place to scream, release, feel freedom.”
Many have declared this to be Beyoncé’s “gay era,” and within the plethora of infectious club-ready tracks like CUFF IT and BREAK MY SOUL, the album features several affirming messages and nods to queer culture.
Opening with I’M THAT GIRL, Beyoncé makes a declaration of self-worth. “It’s not the diamonds, it’s not the pearls, I’m that girl, it’s just that I’m that girl.” Regardless of how we present ourselves to the world, we’re worthy and we need to remember that. Growing up, so many LGBTQ+ people are led to believe that who we are is something to be ashamed of. It’s important to build ourselves back up, stand proud and celebrate ourselves.
In a similar vein, COZY reminds the audience to be “comfortable in my skin” and “cozy with who I am.” The second verse also serves as a tribute to our diverse communities, with lyrics that paint the colours of Daniel Quasar’s Progress Pride Flag.
ALIEN SUPERSTAR takes clear influence from ball culture. The ballroom-inspired vocal delivery, followed up with a chorus that samples Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy, backed by space-age synths, make for an intergalactic auditory experience. Throughout the track, Bey spells out “unique,” telling us to appreciate what makes us different.
Track 7, CHURCH GIRL, begins life as a gospel standard before bursting into a Choppa Style-esque rap song – with the lyrics “I’m gonna love on me, nobody can judge me but me, I was born free” harking back to earlier themes, with Beyoncé daring us to love ourselves and live free of shame.
On Queen Bey’s first foray into the realm of hyperpop – a favourite genre of the queer community in recent years thanks to the likes of A.G. Cook, Sophie and Charli XCX – ALL UP IN YOUR MIND offers fans a glimpse into a different room of the club. A direction we may not have expected, but one I’m definitely here for.
PURE/HONEY, the penultimate track on the record, again calls back to the ballroom scene of the 80s and 90s, lifting from Moi Renee’s Miss Honey. “I ain’t never felt a feeling like this,” and neither have we. From the emcee opening of PURE to the funk infused climax of HONEY, this two-parter takes you on a journey through genres and leaves you yearning to be on the dancefloor.
The album’s closer, SUMMER RENAISSANCE, samples Donna Summer’s disco hit I Feel Love, a Pride favourite that’s been covered by the likes of Bronski Beat and Sam Smith. The track radiates confidence, sensuality and love – not to mention the song ending on the line “I’m in my bag,” which feels more than correct for what we’ve just witnessed.
Much like 2019’s The Gift and subsequent film, Black is King, Renaissance celebrates communities close to Beyoncé’s heart. She has continued to show support for LGBTQ+ people at a time when our rights and existence are held by many as topics for debate. In recent years, Bey has advocated for equal marriage and support for trans young people, winning the GLAAD Vanguard Award along with her husband, Jay-Z.
To honour these communities, Queen Bey continues to collaborate with producers, songwriters and performers whose lived experiences, culture and heritage contribute to a colourful listening experience; offering us a place to escape, reflect, dance, celebrate and be our authentic selves. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a mixed race Black person, this album means so much to me – and I know it does to so many others.
Messages and themes aside, perhaps the most satisfying part of Renaissance is how seamlessly it flows. It’s an hour-long journey through space and time – an opportunity to venture into the artist’s finely crafted soundscape. As Lady Gaga once said: “talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping, spectacular, never the same.”
Beyoncé is an album artist, so it should go without saying that you’ll get the best experience of this record by listening to it top to bottom. No cross-fade, no shuffle, no skips and preferably in the lossless formats offered by Tidal and Apple Music.
We may only be a few days into Act I, but I know none of us can wait for the next servings of this three-act project (Enlightenment and Romanticism? A film? A tour?)
Until then, welcome to Club Renaissance. Release the wiggle.
Malik is the Social Media Officer at Just Like Us, the LGBTQ+ young people’s charity. If you’re LGBTQ+ and age 18-25, sign up now to volunteer.