Readers review Beyoncé’s Renaissance: euphoric and fresh, or paint-by-numbers?

·4-min read

‘It’s a love letter to the LGBTQ+ community’

I think this is my favourite Beyoncé album. It’s a love letter to the LGBTQ+ community, dancefloors and ballroom, and it has surprised me in the best way. You can hear the excitement and euphoria in her voice; it’s the double shot of serotonin we needed right now. References and samples are included throughout – some are quite niche, which only makes it more special. I never thought I’d hear samples of late drag performer Moi Renee in a Beyoncé song, and Pure/Honey is based on her song Miss Honey. It’s probably my favourite song from the album for that reason. It is insanely exciting to hear details like that included, with parts of the underground made mainstream. Tombo, 22, designer, Merseyside

‘It’s so fun and playful’

I’ve been a fan of Beyoncé since my partner gave me a slowed-down, burned DVD of Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) so that we could both learn the dance back in 2009. I truly became a superfan with her album 4 (although can’t claim Beyhive level). In Renaissance, I love that she’s giving us an hour-plus of the crazy aunt Beyoncé (I nearly fell off my chair at “tig ol’ bitties”) that has always been there, but hasn’t been foregrounded before. I love that it brings together the danciest elements from her back catalogue and mixes them with legendary dance anthems. It’s hard to compete with her self-titled album and Lemonade, and it doesn’t have the same emotional sucker punch, but who needs to be put through the wringer every album? It’s so fun and playful – she’s doing new things with her voice; the songs are looser and longer. My favourite track after a couple of listens is Cozy – it’s fresh and cool and sounds like someone so at home in their skin. James, 32, Melbourne

‘Lemonade was a more interesting record’

Lemonade was a more interesting record than Renaissance. It’s the first time in years that I felt like Beyoncé had run out of things to sing about. Renaissance does not sound like it came from an authentic place. There’s no emotion and it’s a paint-by-numbers album when it comes to the lyrics. Parts of the album sounded like a good girl trying to be bad to fit into the crowd. Lemonade was an angry album and it had so much to say, but Renaissance is repetitive and, frankly, too try-hard. Anonymous, Manchester

‘In a world so dark and ambiguous, we need to escape’

Renaissance is a sonic thrill ride from start to finish. After her lengthy hiatus from solo work, I wasn’t sure how Beyoncé would top her previous album. But in a world so dark and ambiguous, instead of needing the blunt, stark political messaging of Lemonade, we need an escape! And with Renaissance part one, Beyoncé is taking us to the club. With influences primarily from 70/80s disco and the New York/Chicago house ballroom scene – a genre and space created by the Black queer community – this is the most experimental we’ve heard Beyoncé so far. The album plays like a DJ set at a steamy underground New York ball in the 80s. It’s a love letter to her Black queer fans, to letting loose and having fun and learning how to find joy even if the whole world feels incredibly dark. This is an album of joy. Miles, 24, London

‘An odd collection of odes to the past’

It would have been nice for her album to be more of a reflection of how much we have changed as a society since the pandemic. Lemonade was a tour de force in capturing the zeitgeist of the time in which it was released. Is Renaissance doing the same today? It seems more like an odd collection of odes to the past – a reference to Ibiza here, a reference to Beyoncé herself there. Personally, I would rather see an album with more layers of meaning beyond flash-in-the-pan, self-ironic hedonism. This seems like an effort by the artist to get back to her former glory, wrapped in the guise of “I don’t care about being perfect” – and I’m not sure I buy it. Anna, London

Related: Beyoncé: Renaissance review | Tara Joshi's album of the week

‘Her voice sounds more mature’

Beyoncé’s first solo album in six years is a bold foray into EDM and nu-disco (Cuff it, Virgo’s Groove). With alternating breathy vocals and layered harmonies, the album seems to circle around seduction and boasting about her successes in the music business – which, let’s face it, were well deserved. She’s very keen on including references (samples, interpolations) of her inspirations for the album, including Robin S and Donna Summer. Her voice also sounds more mature and deeper, which is not a bad thing. The high-note melismas are still there, but it seems like Beyoncé is happy exploring her mid range and lower notes. And so are we. Julio, 38, university lecturer, Hampshire

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