Beyoncé ‘Renaissance’ review: ‘Gay black man’ rebirth after Jay-Z drama


Seriously, did you really think that Beyoncé was one of us?

Bey makes it very clear that she is on a whole different level than this world on “Alien Superstar,” one of the standout tracks on her much-anticipated seventh solo studio album, “Renaissance,” which dropped from the stratosphere on Friday morning.

“I’m one of one/I’m number one/I’m the only one/Don’t even waste your time/Trying to compete with me/No one else in this world can think like me,” B purrs at the beginning of the track, which takes Lady Gaga’s “Chromatica” to the ballroom, as if she was binging “Pose” during the pandemic.

Indeed, the long-awaited proper follow-up to 2016’s “Lemonade” — considered by many to be the highlight of endless career highlights for the 40-year-old über-diva — is a rebirth for Beyoncé after the relationship drama, much of it centering around husband Jay-Z, of her last studio album. Clearly, she got all that out of her system, and after being pent up during the pandemic, she’s ready to release her wiggle — as hinted by the LP’s housed-up first single “Break My Soul.”

If anything, Beyoncé has been reborn as a gay black man — or even a trans woman — on “Renaissance,” embracing the sounds of the underground that those communities have fiercely used as a means of empowering club catharsis. In this way, it’s even more like her answer to Madonna’s “Erotica” than her surprise self-titled set was in 2013.

After Beyoncé clears her throat with the eerie electro-soul of opener “I’m That Chick” — and, um, of course, she is! — the album really kicks into full effect with “Cozy,” on which the empowering lyrics of Destiny’s Child hits such as “Independent Women Pt. 1” and “Survivor” now have a sleazy, feeling-myself vibe. “Comfortable in my skin/Cozy with who I am,” she sings over the dirtiest of grooves.

“Virgo’s Groove” plays like a sensual sequel to “Gift from Virgo,” from Beyoncé’s 2003 solo debut, “Dangerously in Love.” Meanwhile, “Plastic Off the Sofa” — a sexy slow jam with fluttery vocals reminiscent of Mariah Carey in a lush, layered arrangement— sounds like a blissed-out take on “Rocket” from 2013’s “Beyonce.” It’s post-coital perfection.

Beyoncé embraces the sounds of the club underground on “Renaissance.”
Columbia Records

And the album gets a sexy sendoff with  “Summer Renaissance,” which pays homage to Donna Summer, reworking her erotic classic “I Feel Love” just as Beyoncé did “Love to Love You Baby” on 2003’s “Naughty Girl.”

It certainly sounds as if Mrs. Carter has been getting some good loving during the pandemic.

Although “Renaissance” hits a bit of a lull with a few tracks in the second half, you gotta give it to Beyoncé for reinventing herself yet again. This is not an album designed to have No. 1 hits — don’t think “Crazy in Love,” “Irreplaceable” or “Single Ladies.” And she is the rare pop superstar whose music has gotten more adventurous during her career. 

For that, we bow down, Queen Bey.