On my second listen today I thought about what a master she is at collecting all these seemingly disparate things together (and I do mean anything, from ideas to musical eras to soundbites of memes) to create something fresh and forward thinking without eschewing the past or losing any of its soul or intention. She began developing this with Lemonade, an album that played like a musical landscape of America, and then HOMECOMING and how it weaved the past century of Black American music into her own catalogue, creating a career retrospective that honoured those who came before her and moving them into the present. I think RENAISSANCE takes the best of both albums (how Lemonade turned the personal into the universal and HOMECOMING's array of Black musical influences) and creates something totally new that's been missing from her work lately - pure joy, escapism and glamour (now that I think about it, Lemonade, HOMECOMING and BLACK IS KING/The Lion King: The Gift are very earthly).
I saw a review on YouTube that said it's the most forward thinking dance album since Random Access Memories and I'm sure it's at least that - the album plays like a fabulous patchwork of dance music through the ages yet it rarely feels like a throwback or pastiche. I love how prominent Afrobeats are throughout this album - I don't think any other artist has made the connection between Afrobeats and American dance music, whether it's disco or house or whatever people think of as EDM, and I love that for her. By putting them together on this album perhaps she's telling us that Afrobeats is the future of the genre.
This idea of Beyoncé working in a patchwork collage style on her last few projects made me think of the artist Mickalene Thomas and her collages of Black women, depicted glamorously while surrounded by patterns and textures that range from found scraps of cloth to luxurious looking materials: