Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’ is a collaborative masterpiece


Parkwood Entertainment

Carlijn Jacobs | PRNewswire

Maya Alexander

Beyoncé’s latest album, “Renaissance” was released on July 29 and showcases the artist as a rejuvenated singer. Written and recorded during the climatic and confusing time of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Beyoncé was dedicated to creating an album whose sole purpose was to offer an escape.

“Creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world,” the artist wrote in a letter posted to her website after the album’s release.

“My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment,” she continued while discussing the reasoning behind creating an album like “Renaissance.” “A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, release, feel freedom.”

In the letter, Beyoncé also thanked some of the driving forces behind the album’s development including producers like The-Dream and Mike Dean, and songwriters such as Syd, Raphael Saddiq and Drake.

One of the album’s main critiques is that it relies too heavily on sampling and past works. With controversy surrounding the uncredited use of a Kelis sample, some detractors have used the number of samples and collaborators as a knock on the artist’s creative process and abilities.

Despite these critiques, “Renaissance” may be the album that serves to shift the long-held music narrative that only great albums can be born out of independence.  It is the premier embodiment of collaboration. The way she seamlessly takes from the old house and disco standards and reinvents them for a new listening age is unprecedented.

What these critics fail to realize is that the culture of house and Black-rooted genres are never-ending cycles of reinvention. The cultural and historical context that this album is rooted in makes it impossible for Beyoncé not to draw upon her house forefathers to create this project.

“Break My Soul” being a revamp of Robin S.’ “Show Me Love,” or the use of Grace Jones vocals on the track “Move” is as much an homage as it is Beyoncé taking what these house and disco legends have laid out in the past aexpanding and updating their work for a modern audience living in a completely different social, historical and cultural context than the original audience.

Yet, despite the innate collaborative nature of a Beyoncé album, her charm and star power make it so that the singularity of the “artist” is not hindered.

No stranger to exploring her personal tribulations on previous songs, her latest album finds her taking on not just her own personal burdens but the listeners’ burdens, and commanding them to let loose and forget for just a little over an hour.

While living in times of economic strife, environmental disaster and political turmoil, albums like Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” offer a necessary reprieve from life’s pressures and provides us a space to release.