What are the two things you want from a DJ when you’re out dancing? You want them to play something that you recognize, and you want the music to transition seamlessly from one track to the next. On Renaissance, Beyonce does both those things better than almost any other pop or R&B artist could.
The familiar: Beyonce’s voice is obviously familiar, and she gives a vocal performance up there with the best she’s given. But with that, comes a mix of nods to other dance music as well as samples that make her original songs feel instantly relatable like old friends.
Not all the references are as straightforward as the “Show Me The Love” sample on “”Break My Soul” or “Milkshake” on “Energy,” or as easy to draw comparisons as “Cuff It” and “Virgo’s Grove,” which are the closest thing to Daft Punk since… well, Random Access Memories, with Nile Rodgers replica guitar riffs and a “Voyager” styled synth breakdown. But that, plus moments that draw from artists like Donna Summers, Big Freedia and dance hall club records mesh really well together to form a complete package that’s varied in sound but consistent in aura.
That consistent aura leads us to point No. 2: seamless transition. The opening notes on the album through the end of “Break My Soul” is a nonstop party, with songs morphing naturally. Even when the style changes the energy stays the same or evolves. After that, right when you might start to get a little tired, it shifts to still fun, but less in your face, fast dance music that’s welcome. The shifts are a little more blatant or abrupt in the second half of the record, mixing in soul, hip-hop and R&B more, but it all works really well and feels sleek, shiny and precisely manicured.
This isn’t a flawless record by any means. Even if it’s fun almost throughout, at 62 minutes and 16 songs it feels long, especially with its relentless nature.
Also, I’m usually bothered a little when older, more mature artists do or say things that are trendy with the younger generation when they’re probably beyond what they’re saying. Maybe Beyonce is still going out on weekends dropping it like a thottie, but something about lyrics like that always rubs me the wrong way a little, although the song itself is good and the line is absolutely appropriate for the setting of this album. “Thique” is another one that just doesn’t work for me in that way, and is a little too dumb. “All Up In Your Mind” works better for the hip-hop influenced tracks than.