Updated: Mar 18
Somehow, she always knows what we need. After years inside, desperate to visit a public space, haphazardly mimicking the experience of a night out with cheap speakers and shop bought wine, she has brought about a party renaissance. From the first note of her 7th studio album, with the lurching lyrics from Princess Loko’s 'Still Pimpin'. Beyoncé reminds us of the history folded into her music. ‘I’M THAT GIRL’ reminds us that this catharsis has been years, decades, in the making.
It's early enough to maneuver your way across the dancefloor with relative ease. When was the last time you were here? Your flatmate’s Birthday? Your work friend’s final day in the office? How did it end? A fight? A cigarette while you wait for the bus? A lengthy queue in the chip shop? The floor is sticky, years of spilled drinks coating the floor, benches are littered with coats, bags. You hear the song blaring from the speaker, a familiar beat, something close and reminiscent, like placing your ear on someone else’s chest and listening to their heart. You love this song.
On ‘I’M THAT GIRL’ Beyoncé’s vocals are whispered, quiet, rolling into a sudden soar, reminiscent of Beyoncé’s ‘Haunted’, but for ‘ALIEN SUPERSTAR’ she channels ‘Partition’, coating each line with a sultry, demanding tone. Founder of the National Black Theatre, Barbara Ann Teer, is layered over the steady beat. Closing the song are lines from an interview dissecting the relationship to her craft as a Black woman, reframing this dance anthem as radical.
Later in the interview this song samples, Barbara Ann Teer pre-emptively summarises the ethos of Renaissance, “the Black arts movement developed, I think, out of a need to be in an atmosphere that is free, that is open, that is devoid of dictators telling you how to do your thing.” Perhaps this has been Beyoncé’s guiding principle all along.
People pour in, slotting in next to each other, forming circular patterns across the dancefloor. Untrained voices are rising, not quite in tandem with the song but adjacent to it. A camera flash hangs in the air over a huddle of friends, a moment is haphazardly captured.
For the first time since B-Day, Beyoncé works with Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, The Neptunes, on ‘ENERGY’, a song undercut by an ever-shifting rhythm. The song feels cumulative, encapsulating ‘Kitty Kat” and ‘Green Light’ and more recent offerings from The Gift – a retrospective on the joy and vitality she has always infused into her music.
Beyoncé has a keen understanding of her own patterns, the empowering self-reflection of Lemonade, the heartfelt self-examination of Everything is Love, requires a communal release the likes of Renaissance. Once you have done the emotional legwork, accepting that life is a series of mental break throughs, unending emotional movement, physical movement is the only response.
The lights are turned on. Time has crept in but not before the final song.
Watch the video for Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ on YouTube and you will be greeted with a stream of comments declaring this “a hit decades ahead of its time!” Considered a seminal dance classic, wielding a synthesizer (borrowed from classic composer Eberhard Schoener,) to timeless effect, it is a characteristically bold way for Beyoncé to close the album.
With Renaissance Beyoncé has reminded her audience that dancing alongside others to the music you love is a revolutionary way of sharing space.