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‘Renaissance’ puts Beyonce at the center of pop music right nowExBulletin

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The aesthetics of escape Renaissance is its own kind of statement, the way Beyonce affirms the primacy of black musical forms throughout American pop history.



DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

It’s FRESH AIR. Beyonce’s first new studio album in six years is here and it’s called “Renaissance.” The pop star claims all 16 tracks were recorded during the pandemic. Our rock critic, Ken Tucker, says that while the music is dense with allusions to different eras of pop music, Beyonce’s performances have a levity and agility that give the project an often heart-pounding energy. Here is Ken’s review.

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE SONG, “BREAK MY SOUL”)

BEYONCE: (singing) You won’t break my soul. You won’t break my soul. You won’t break my soul. You won’t break my soul. I say everybody, everybody, everybody, everybody. Now I just fell in love. And I just quit my job. I’ll find a new record. Damn, they work me so hard. Work at nine o’clock, then after 5 o’clock. And they get on my nerves. That’s why I can’t sleep at night.

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: It’s “Break My Soul,” the first single from Beyonce’s new album, “Renaissance.” “Break My Soul” was released a few weeks before the album, and with its lyrics about escaping the deadly drudgery of the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, it has been widely interpreted as Beyonce’s take on the great resignation inspired by the pandemic. Little did we know what was to follow was an entire album about freedom of escape.

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE SONG, “ALIEN SUPERSTAR”)

BEYONCE: (singing) I’m one of the few. I am number 1. I am the only one. Don’t even waste your time trying to compete with me. No one else in this world can think like me. I’m twisted. I will contradict him. Keep it hooked. Lying on his lips, I lick it. Unique. That’s what you are. Stiletto heels that bring the vintage crystal out of the bar. Category – bad – I am the bar. Alien superstar. Whip, whip. I’m too chic for this world, forever, I’m that girl. Feed on diamonds and pearls, oh, baby. I’m too classy…

TUCKER: It’s “Alien Superstar,” over the beat of which Beyonce applies a layer of her patented positive thinking, half-joking that she’s, quote-unquote, “too chic for this world.” “Alien Superstar” gives you an idea of ​​how many of the songs here are built around rhythms and riffs that pulsate and pulsate as Beyonce’s vocals soar to the top of the music. The best example of this is the longest track on the album titled “Virgo’s Groove”, as Beyonce sings along to a languid, sly beat.

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE SONG, “VIRGO’S GROOVE”)

BEYONCE: (Singing) Baby, come on. Come be alone with me tonight. All emotions. It overwhelms me tonight. Here. At present. Ice. To bite. Baby, lock yourself in now. I want him here, now. Snuggled up on the couch. Motorboat, baby, twirls. Slow motion coming out of my house. I want him here, now.

TUCKER: At over 6 minutes, “Virgo’s Groove” is both very contemporary and very 1980s. Its sound owes something to the Michael Jackson-Quincy Jones albums of that era. And its hypnotic hook reminds me of Lakeside’s 1980 hit, “Fantastic Voyage.” Now listen to how Beyonce travels further back to the ’70s and nods to Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” on the song “Summer Renaissance.”

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF THE SONG, “SUMMER RENAISSANCE”)

BEYONCE: (singing) That’s so good. It is so good. It is so good. It is so good. Oh, that’s so good. It is so good. It is so good. It is so good. It is so good.

TUCKER: Elsewhere on “Renaissance,” Beyonce offers the song “Cuff it,” a thick slice of R&B reminiscent of Funkadelic’s “Not Just Knee Deep.” And on another standout track, “Move,” she calls on dance music pioneer Grace Jones with a focus on Detroit techno music.

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE SONG, “MOVE”)

BEYONCE: (Singing) Move, move, move. Yeah, you gotta move, move. Everything you do will be held against you. You have to move, move, move. Skrrt (ph) off, make room. Upcoming stampede. Big boss in motion. Yeah. Bounce.

TUCKER: There are some jaw-dropping moments on “Renaissance,” which are all the more awe-inspiring because Beyonce so casually delivers them. Listen to how she almost buries that outburst of beautifully fluid phrasing near the end of the song “Pure Honey.” Lesser artists would build a hit single around a verse that Beyonce just throws in.

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE SONG, “PURE HONEY”)

BEYONCE: (singing) You know it’s Friday night, and I’m ready to drive. Throw me those keys. Baby, let’s go. Friday night and I’m ready to drive. Throw me those keys. Baby, let’s go. We jump in the car, a quarter full of gas. The world is at war, running out of money. Jump in the car, quarter tank of gas, the world is at war, out of money. I have never felt such a feeling. You were in love but not like this. Sweet sin of honey, taste it on your lips. Up and down top, light switch.

TUCKER: With the exception of the song titled “America Has A Problem” and a fleeting reference to Donald Trump’s election defeat, there is little social commentary that has been tied to his previous album, “Lemonade” by 2016. But the escapist aesthetic of the “Renaissance” is its own kind of statement. Beyonce’s way of asserting the primacy of black musical forms throughout American pop history. And “Renaissance” puts Beyonce at the very center of pop music right now.

DAVIES: Rock critic Ken Tucker has reviewed Beyonce’s new album titled ‘Renaissance’. On Monday’s show, actor Melanie Lynskey. She is nominated for an Emmy for her starring role in Showtime’s “Yellowjackets.” The show tells the story of a women’s soccer team that crashed in a plane crash in 1996 and had to survive in the desert for over a year. Lewinsky’s other films include ‘Heavenly Creatures’, ‘Up In The Air’, ‘The Informant’ and ‘Don’t Look Up’. Hope you can join us.

The executive producer of FRESH AIR is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham, with additional technical support from Joyce Lieberman, Julian Herzfeld and Al Banks. For Terry Gross, I’m Dave Davies.

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