The Ultimate Album Rowdy Guide: Beyoncé’s "RENAISSANCE"
Six years after Beyoncé’s groundbreaking visual album “Lemonade,” Queen Bey herself has returned to grace our presence with her seventh studio album, “RENAISSANCE.
CREDIT: Mason Poole
“RENAISSANCE” was composed to get out, party, and dance in the wake of being cooped up inside due to the pandemic, and the title simply alludes to what will be explored in her latest album: the revival of the classics.
Dedicated to her late Uncle Johnny who passed due to AIDS, Beyoncé pays tribute to queer influences in music and dance, such as Ball Culture, and samples classic house music artists. While this album isn’t necessarily meant to sit down and hyper-analyze, Rowdy wanted to give you a guide on the history, themes, and easter eggs presented throughout the album.
We hope you enjoy :) With love, Rowdy Nation.
P.S. Praise Queen Bey <3
Track 1: I’M THAT GIRL
“I’M THAT GIRL” effectively sets up a majority of broader themes explored throughout the album: the idea of the “It girl,” love, obsession, wealth, sex and party culture.
Setting the scene in a club, Beyoncé reminds the fictional partiers and her listeners that despite her diamonds and pearls her “that girl” status is not defined by her wealth but by her success.
The opening track’s intro introduces an omnipresent opposition, stating that these “m***********s ain’t stoppin’ me.” The opposition is up to the listener's discretion. Whether it’s Beyoncé’s husband Jay-Z who allegedly cheated on her, Bey’s competitors in the music industry, or simply the stereotypical aggravating people that you’re forced to accompany the bar with (“OK Chad, we get it. You’re in a frat.”)
As the most discussed theme in her album, Bey doesn’t shy from detailing both the stark negatives and positives of party culture. The artist describes clubbing as an extravagant experience accompanied by “lights” and “D-flawless skies” while touching on how intense partying can lead to “losin’ my mind” and going “off the deep end.”
Track 2: COZY
“COZY” addresses exactly what her loyal Bey Hive has continued to question since the “Lemonade” era: How has Beyoncé dealt with her husband's infidelity?
The song opens with an electronic voice saying, “This is a reminder.” Who does Knowles want to remind?
The track essentially sticks it to Jay-Z reminding him that despite the “burning of the dagger,” she has arisen from the wake of his affair better than ever: “Comfortable in my skin.”
In addition to detailing her current romantic stance, Bey pays tribute to the LGBTQ+ community by weaving the colors of Daniel Quasar’s Pride flag into the song’s second verse. The variation of the traditional Pride flag brings light to the intersection of trans, gay and marginalized communities.
Track 3: ALIEN SUPERSTAR
In “ALIEN SUPERSTAR,” Bey lets everyone know that her beauty, excellence and wealth are so extravagant they borderline otherworldly, describing how she’s so wealthy that “kicking crystal off the bar” is not a concern to her.
Take a deeper look into the lyrics and you’ll discover that her lyrics allude to the ’90s New York Ballroom Scene through the use of traditional Ball Culture terminology, such as “clock” and the double entendre in “Category, bad bitch/I’m the bar.”
Track 4: CUFF IT
“CUFF IT” doesn’t shy away from the reality of drinking and going out: sometimes, people want to get absolutely f****d up.
Knowles acknowledges that the party scene's temporary gratification, such as drugs and bar hookups, allows the party goers to experience a sense of excessive pleasure. In the third verse, Bey breaks the fold of temporary love by asking her man if he can “cuff it” in an attempt to extend their romance past the night.
Track 5: ENERGY (feat. Beam)
In the chorus, Beam details how Beyonce’s party and everyday life are anything but separate. Imagery and diction throughout the song allude to the paparazzi or people constantly hoping to capture a picture of Queen Bey.
Beam raps about an individual photographed using the “stop mode” and casually ends up on the “front page of Vogue.” Yeah, I would say that’s “Kodak energy” and if anyone has it, Beyoncé’s got it.
Bey also addresses the 2020 election in the first verse and doesn’t shy away from her opinion on the former 45th President of the United States Donald Trump: “Votin’ out 45, don’t get outta line, yeah.”
Track 6: BREAK MY SOUL
“BREAK MY SOUL” dives into the negative aspects of hustle culture and acknowledges that even artists with 28 Grammy awards can be burnt out.
Bey’s proclamation of “You won’t break my soul” is a hard pill to swallow for some people, especially overachieving college students who want to make the best out of their careers. Maybe if Beyoncé can “quit…[her] job” we can look within ourselves to question if our career choices truly motivate us. If not, we must make the leap of faith to locate our “new vibration.”
Knowles once again alludes to Ball Culture throughout the song, paying homage in the song’s second verse. “The queens in the front and the Doms in the back,” intentionally reverse societal norms by placing drag queens front and center, and “dominant males” in the background. Knowles understands that the influence of drag and Ball Culture within the media often goes unnoticed; weaving its history throughout her album, she essentially created a modern renaissance of Ballroom in our current era.
Track 7: CHURCH GIRL
“CHURCH GIRL” is for all the girls that love a good night out but are labeled as the “mom of the friend group,” “good girl,” or seemingly always end up holding their friend's hair back in the bathroom.
Beyoncé asserts that “good girls actin’ bad” or “Church girls actin’ loss” isn’t going to harm anyone. This potentially alludes to how women typically receive the short end of the stick when participating in nightlife often receiving short remarks about how going out too much or too little can lead to harmful generalization.
Track 8: PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA
Arguably the slowest and most personal track on the album, Beyoncé once again discusses her titular relationship with her husband.
“PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA” is a compelling contrast to “COZY,” which shifts Knowles’ perspective of herself after her husband’s infidelity to how her perspective of Mr. Carter.
In the first verse, Knowles says she loves how her husband can’t help but be his genuine self around her, revealing how despite his flaws she appreciates that he’s being truthful in the current state of their relationship. In the second verse, Bey reveals that she thinks the world has judged him too harshly for his mistakes in their relationship and tells him to only focus on his family’s opinions of himself.
The song essentially hits the nail on the head on whether or not Knowles has finally forgiven Carter, and the answer is yes.
Track 9: VIRGO’S GROOVE
“VIRGO’S GROOVE” is easily the most sex-centered song on the album, but despite its R-rated lyrics, Bey has fun poking at her sexual desires through her zodiac sign.
Virgos are notoriously known to be exceptional in the bedroom due to their desire to please their partner. Knowles’ Virgo qualities are exemplified throughout the song as she…urges her partner to do certain acts knowing he will enjoy it.
Track 10: MOVE (feat. Grace Jones and Tems)
The heavily inspired Afro-beat track focuses on the theme of essentially ignoring and forcibly telling opposition to “move out the way.”
While “MOVE” includes Nigerian singer-songwriter Tems, the song has multiple Jamaican influences. Jamaican singer Grace Jones provides her vocals on the track, and Bey sings “it’s Brukup,” paying homage to the Jamaican origins of Bruk Up dancing.
Track 11: HEATED
Where “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA” reveals Knowles’ forgiveness towards her husband, “HEATED” highlights how the person in a relationship who was cheated may forgive, but they’ll never forget.
“Boy, you musta mixed up our faces” is obviously a snide remark directed towards her husband, while “whole lotta n****s been waitin” reveals that Bey can only forgive once and will easily move on to another man if he makes the same mistake again.
Despite dedicating the album to her deceased Uncle Johnny, Bey only mentions him explicitly by name in this song. Knowles’ uncle is credited with introducing her to the various music styles and cultures that were referenced throughout “RENAISSANCE” at a young age.
Track 12: THIQUE
Honestly, you can guess what “THIQUE” is about… “THIQUE” comes in second for the most sexual song on the album, and we’re graced with the comparison of Jay-Z’s asset to a limousine.
Track 13: ALL UP IN YOUR MIND
“ALL UP IN YOUR MIND” tackles the concept of obsession head-on, playing on common phrases to demonstrate Bey’s loyalty and love for her husband (very Virgo of her.)
Beyoncé’s statements of how far she’ll go to please Carter become more as the song progresses, saying she’ll commit crimes and do time “if it means to make you mine.”
The song is a compelling contrast to “I’M THAT GIRL” and “HEATED,” but is important in demonstrating Knowles’ emotional complexity and the spectrum of love within a relationship.
TRACK 14: AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM
The intro samples Kilo’s “America Has a Problem (Cocaine),” and from Kilo’s song title, it’s clear which national problem the song is about.
Actually, not entirely. Beyoncé claims that her love is so addicting it can be compared to a drug. “Fiending,” “scheming” and “hit it on multiple times” allow the listener to pick up on the parallels pretty quickly. And if that’s not enough, we have a Tony Montana from Scarface reference thrown in there.
Track 15: PURE/HONEY
The penultimate track on this album once again explores the concept of the “It girl,” but this time, we get a lot of rhyming with feminine slang. “Honey” is used throughout the song to compare Bey’s body and wealth to a sweet and desirable substance.
“PURE/HONEY” possesses the strongest beat switch in the album, essentially splitting the song into two parts. Potentially, a nod to Part 2 of “RENAISSANCE”? OK, I know that’s a stretch but it’s basically confirmed that there will be a Part 2.
Track 16: SUMMER RENAISSANCE
In the closing track, Beyonce samples the disco queen Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” and reiterates the main points she makes throughout the album.
Knowles opens the song singing that she wants her husband to “take my name,” essentially showing Carter that despite her love for him Knowles wants to maintain a level of independence and dominance in the relationship. This can be a nod to a new power role Queen Bey has after the infidelity scandal, but otherwise, Carter and Knowles have their last names legally hyphenated.
We get another nod to ball culture with “The category is Bey.” According to House of Luna, there are seven ballroom “categories” for dancers to participate in: Butch Queen (BQ), Femme Queen (FQ), Butches, Drag Queen (DQ), Female Figure (FF), Male Figure (MF) and OTA (Open to all genders/sexualities).
Knowles closes the song, and the album, perfectly in one line: “I’m in my bag.” There’s no secret about the stigma toward aging women in the music industry, and with this statement, Beyonce shows the media that she is in her prime and she doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon.
Allie Sinkovich is an Online Writer for Rowdy Magazine. When she's not writing, you can find her at Opus or Flacos.