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Beyoncé’s album Renaissance dropped in the early hours of this morning and the record has already gone stratospheric. In fact, it’s unlikely that you were able to get from your home to the office this morning without hearing either it or about it.
With thousands of fans and hundreds of critics sharing their thoughts online, the album crowns Beyoncé – yet again – as the Queen of Pop. For those bored of hearing this title, the facts are undeniable: when was the last time an artist was able to cause this much buzz?
Over the last several months, every minute detail of Renaissance’s release has been well-documented by publications worldwide: from when the rumours started swirling about the forthcoming album, to the cover art, to the track listing, to Beyoncé’s slick cover photoshoot with British Vogue, to the album leak two days ago (Beyoncé remained steadfast and waited until this morning to officially release Renaissance).
Admittedly, Kanye West’s Donda album releases in 2021 and 2022 did create some chat online, but they were tangled up in the artist’s controversial Instagram posts about ex-wife Kim Kardashian and her new boyfriend Pete Davidson.
Then came Drake’s June album release. Honestly, Nevermind went to number one on the Billboard 200 album charts, but it was mostly music aficionados piling in to discuss the record and his decision to sample house tracks in his songs (Beyoncé has followed the trend in Renaissance, but arguably she’s done it better: working with DJs Honey Dijon and MikeQ, both of whom are important players in the LGBTQIA+ and ballroom communities).
Harry Styles’ third album Harry’s House still remains at number three on the US Billboard 200 album charts two months after its May release, with his single As It Was still at number two on the US singles charts, 16 weeks later. But even then Styles seems somewhat niche compared to Beyoncé. Think: do dads know who Styles is?
Rihanna – who is the only artist with enough star power to stir up a Beyoncé internet-breaking level of interest – is taking an extremely long musical hiatus.
Her last album Anti was released in 2016 and despite fans’ desperate pleas for new tunes, the mogul has been focusing instead, understandably, on her billion-dollar business venture Fenty Beauty. And with her first baby born in May, it doesn’t look like she’ll be dropping an album any time soon.
So for now, Beyoncé rules unrivalled – and today’s release only confirms that.
Turning online, critics and fans clamoured to add their own commentary to the ongoing discourse.
“This album is truly a sonic experience. I’m taking it all in. The pristine vocals. The flawless production & transitions. The empowering messages. Beyoncé, you have outdone yourself again,” tweeted BuzzFeed’s Deputy Director of Pop Culture.
“Our lives will never be the same now that Renaissance has dropped. Mind blown,” added Drag Race star Pangina Heals.
Media personality Scottie Beam Tweeted: “BEYONCE DEADASS TOOK MY HAND AND IS DRAGGING ME TO EVERY CLUB.”
“BEYONCE BABY YOU ARE EATING,” she said in another Tweet.
Chrishell Stause, star of Netflix’s Selling Sunset added: “Beyoncé did it again No hot takes. Nothing new to add. Just pure appreciation.”
Edward Enninful, the editor of British Vogue, previously described the album as, “music that makes you rise, that turns your mind to cultures and subcultures, to our people past and present, music that will unite so many on the dance floor, music that touches your soul”.
“We could ask for more, but not for more fun,” said the Standard’s David Smyth. “Songs flow together like a club mix and while the beats shift across a wide range of dance subgenres, they rarely slow down.”
The calamity around the Houston-born singer is unrelenting. Beyoncé has, as Smyth put it “ascended to such a lofty plane as an artist that her new album makes front page news”.
And this, surely, makes her the indisputable Queen of pop. Over her two-decade career, she has created an almost cult-like presence, where she is viewed as a Goddess among mere mortals, a feminist icon (she spent the entirety of her 2016 album furiously embarrassing Jay Z who had cheated on her. Remember the lyrics “Becky with the good hair?”, “You can taste the dishonesty, it’s all over your breath” and “I smell your secrets”?) and she is a champion of black culture too.
For years, her music videos have played on her Texas roots, while delving into racism and police brutality. While choosing filming locations for her 2020 musical film Black Is King, for example, Beyoncé chose to film partly on a former slaveholding plantation.
“Beyoncé is the most powerful pop star in the music business,” said the BBC back in 2015. And not only does today’s news cycle seem to still confirm the statement, but the stats back it up too: Beyoncé has won the second most Grammy awards of any artist ever, and she’s just three trophies behind the top spot. Georg Solti, the Hungarian-British conductor, has 31 awards, while Beyoncé has 28.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, she also has the title of Most Grammy awards won by a married couple (with husband Jay Z) and shares the Most Grammy Awards won in a single year by a female artist, alongside Adele.
The artist has released eight albums since 2003, including the 2019 Lion King soundtrack album and the 2018 collaborative album with Jay Z Everything Is Love. She has also released 53 singles since 2002, and has been a featured artist on 14 other tracks over the same period. As part of Destiny’s Child, she released a further five albums. She is also said to be worth a heady $500 million.
If just reading about all of her accolades and success are making you feel like you feel a bit breathless, Beyoncé, very comfortable in her crown, is now taking things more lightly – and wants you to as well.
In a statement shared before her new high-energy 16-track release, she said: “My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgement. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. I hope you find joy in this music. I hope it inspires you to release the wiggle. Ha!”
“She’s ready to be superficial, appearing to have no bigger plan than lighting up the club on her most upbeat collection,” says Smyth.
So perhaps we should follow in the footsteps of the peerless Queen of pop and enjoy this moment that she is calling the “renaissance emerging”.