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5 Takeaways From Beyoncé's New Album 'Renaissance'
Beyoncé's seventh album, 'RENAISSANCE,' pays tribute to the LGBTQIA+ roots of club culture — and one very special family member.
When Beyoncé released the club-ready single "BREAK MY SOUL" as the first taste of her seventh album, RENAISSANCE, fans prepared for a summer of booty shaking. Now that the album has officially dropped — despite leaking a few days early — the dancing has commenced.
With collaborators like Nile Rodgers, Grace Jones, Green Velvet and Nigerian singer Tems, it's clear that Beyoncé has spent the last few years immersed in the escapism of dance music's Black pioneers. As she said herself upon announcing RENAISSANCE, her inspiration for the album was similar to that of club culture: "My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment."
Dubbed "act i," RENAISSANCE is the first installment of a "three-act project," as Beyoncé revealed on her website the day before the album's release. If these 16 songs are any indication, Queen Bey has only just begun her dance-floor quest.
Here are five key details to know about Beyoncé's bold new album, RENAISSANCE.
The Album Is A Tribute To Her "Godmother" And The Pioneers Of Club Culture
Beyoncé called her late cousin Jonny, who was her mother's nephew, her uncle. He died of HIV-related complications, Beyoncé revealed when she paid tribute to him while accepting GLAAD's Vanguard Award in 2019. She dedicated the album to him and her family, showing pictures of her with her kids and her mother with Jonny.
"A big thank you to my Uncle Jonny," she wrote in the acknowledgements that appear on her website and on physical versions of RENAISSANCE. "He was my godmother and the first person to expose me to a lot of the music and culture that serve as inspiration for this album."
She continued, "Thank you to all of the pioneers who originate culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long. This is a celebration for you."
The album features contributions from several LGBTQIA+ artists that are acclaimed in the world of dance music, including Big Freedia, Kevin Aviance and Moi Renee. Honey Dijon, a transgender producer who worked on "COZY" and "ALIEN SUPERSTAR," called the RENAISSANCE experience "life changing."
"Your elegance, beauty, talent, work ethic, and vision is truly inspirational," Dijon wrote in a Facebook post. "To share my Chicago house music roots and black queer and trans culture with you and the world is profound and emotional. I am honored, humbled, delirious with joy, and proud."
RENAISSANCE Emulates A DJ Set
The songs on RENAISSANCE track at speeds from 92 to 136 beats per minute, a tempo range that's aimed straight at the dance floor. And many of the songs sample several other tracks within a few minutes in the way that a DJ set might be structured.
"PURE/HONEY," for example, samples the bassline from Chicago house classic "Mystery of Love" as well as vocals and stabs from three ballroom anthems: Kevin Aviance's "Cunty" (1999), "Miss Honey" (1992) by drag icon Moi Renee and MikeQ featuring Kevin JZ Prodigy's "Feels Like" (2011).
Further, Beyoncé has released a cappella and instrumental versions of "BREAK MY SOUL" on her YouTube channel — a move that signals that she's open to DJs everywhere using them as tools to create unofficial remixes in their sets.
Beyoncé Is The Drug On RENAISSANCE
The album drips with metaphors on how Beyoncé is the only intoxicant you need to get high. "You know love is my weakness," she sings in the opening song, "I'M THAT GIRL." "Don't need drugs for some freak s—/ I'm just high all the time, I'm out of my mind/ I'm tweakin'..."
On "AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM" — which samples beats from Atlanta rapper Kilo Ali's 1990 song "America Has a Problem (Cocaine)" — she compares herself to the drug, rapping, "Your ex-dealer dope, but it ain't crack enough/ I'm supplying my man, I'm in demand soon as I land."
You Can't Hear Him, But JAY-Z Is There
Beyoncé has collaborated with JAY-Z on several of her albums, but it would be easy to miss his contribution to RENAISSANCE. Though you won't hear the rapper's voice this time around, you'll still hear some JAY-Z lyrics: he's a co-writer on "AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM."
In the album's dedication, she calls him her "beautiful husband and muse, noting that he "held me down during those late nights in the studio." Sounds like the couple's collective creativity is still in full effect.
She's Leaning More Into Her Own Vocal Production
Beyoncé's deep involvement in her album production processes is routinely overlooked, but she serves as her own vocal producer for RENAISSANCE — in addition to her writing and producer credits.
"Sometimes it takes a year for me to personally search through thousands of sounds to find just the right kick or snare," she told Harper's Bazaar in 2021. "One chorus can have up to 200 stacked harmonies. Still, there's nothing like the amount of love, passion, and healing that I feel in the recording studio. After 31 years, it feels just as exciting as it did when I was 9 years old."
Will the next two acts in Beyoncé's musical story remain on the dance floor, or will the star explore new directions? With no announced timeline for the rest of the project, fans will just have to wait and see — but in the meantime, keep dancing.
Beyoncé and JAY-Z
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Beyoncé & JAY-Z To Be Honored With GLAAD Vanguard Award
The GRAMMY-winning pair will receive the honor for their work as LGBTQ+ allies at the 30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles on March 28
On March 11, GLAAD, the LGBTQ+ social justice non-profit organization, shared they will be honoring Beyoncé and JAY-Z for their work as allies of the gay community at their 30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards.
The GRAMMY-winning pair will be presented with the organization's Vanguard Award, which, as GLAAD explains, "is presented to allies who have made a significant difference in promoting acceptance of LGBTQ people. Beyoncé and JAY-Z are longtime allies and supporters of the LGBTQ community who use their global platforms to share messages that inspire and change the world for the better."
The annual awards ceremony celebrates "fair, accurate and inclusive representations of LGBTQ people and issues" in the media, recognizing LGBTQ+ changemakers—and their biggest allies—across music, film, TV, print media and more.
"Beyoncé and JAY-Z are global icons and passionate defenders of human rights and acceptance for all people," GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement on their site.
She continues: "When Beyoncé and JAY-Z speak, the world becomes inspired and when it comes to LGBTQ people, their voices of acceptance have been heard loud and clear. We could not be prouder to stand with them to send a message of love during the biggest LGBTQ event in the world and to honor their work to bend the arc of justice forward for LGBTQ people, people of color and marginalized communities everywhere."
GLAAD points to the couple embracing the queer community on their social-media platforms, in their music and videos, and more. They highlight Beyoncé choosing to include queer individuals and couples in her videos for "All Night" and "Formation," the latter which won Best Music Video at the 59th GRAMMY Awards. They also underscore her advocacy for the community, as she continues to speak up against laws that would discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community and proudly supports marriage equality.
The org explains that JAY-Z also publically supported the nationwide passage of marriage equality, and points to examples of celebrating LGBTQ+ leaders in his work. The music video for "Family Feud," from his 4:44 album, opens with a quote from the late social justice writer James Baldwin, a queer black man, and features a cameo from transgender activist Janet Mock.
"Smile," also from 4:44, tells the story of Jay's mother, Gloria Carter, who came out as a lesbian publically for the first time on the song. Both Jay and Carter were presented with GLAAD's Special Recognition Award at the 2018 event for the touching, personal song and video.
Jay and Bey are among the top GRAMMY winners of all time. Most recently, at the 61st GRAMMY Awards, they each earned another GRAMMY, for the collaborative album they released as The Carters. The powerful LP, Everything Is Love, won Best Urban Contemporary Album.
GLAAD will also hold an awards ceremony in New York City on May 4, where another GRAMMY-winning musical/pop culture icon, Madonna, will be honored with the Advocate For Change Award. The nominees up for awards this year include GRAMMY winner Brandi Carlile, GRAMMY nominees Janelle Monáe, SOPHIE, plus Hayley Kiyoko, Christine and the Queens, Troye Sivan and BROCKHAMPTON.
Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Adele: Record Of The Year GRAMMY Rewind
Time travel through GRAMMY history and revisit the impressive lineage of Record Of The Year winners
Numerically speaking, it's the first category on the GRAMMY Awards nominations list. Conversely, it is typically one of the final categories announced on the annual GRAMMY telecast. And its winners have spanned jazz, pop, rock, R&B, and Latin, among other genres.
What's the category? It's Record Of The Year, which is an award that goes to a track's artist, producer, engineer, mixer, and mastering engineer.
The Record Of The Year category's 59-year history offers a unique aural tour through the annals popular music — one that certainly has the makings for one powerfully diverse playlist.
Record Of The Year: Full List Of Winners And Nominees
There's Bobby Darin's swingin' "Mack The Knife" (1959), Henry Mancini's exquisite "Days Of Wine And Roses" (1963), Frank Sinatra's velvety "Strangers In The Night" (1966), Simon And Garfunkel's inspired "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Roberta Flack's radiant "Killing Me Softly With His Song" (1973), and Captain & Tennille's breezy "Love Will Keep Us Together" (1975).
In the '80s, radio-friendly hits such as Toto's "Rosanna" (1982), Michael Jackson's "Beat It" (1983) and Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It" (1984) were among the winning recordings.
The Record Of The Year lineage continued into the 2000s and beyond with unforgettable hits such as U2's "Beautiful Day" (2000), Green Day's "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" (2005), Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" (2007), Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers' "Get Lucky" (2013), and most recently, Adele's "Hello" (2016).
Which recording will become the 60th Record Of The Year GRAMMY winner? Tune in to the 60th GRAMMY Awards on Jan. 28 to find out.
What's The Difference? GRAMMY Record Of The Year Vs. Song Of The Year
GRAMMY Insider: Madonna, Paul McCartney, Metallica, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake
All the GRAMMY winners news, including the nominees for the Songwriters Hall of Fame class of 2014
(The GRAMMY Insider keeps you up to date about news on your favorite GRAMMY winners, including information about new album releases, tour updates, notable media appearances, interviews, and more.)
The nominees for the Songwriters Hall of Fame class of 2014 include GRAMMY winners Harry Wayne Casey, Luigi Creatore and Hugo Peretti, Vince Gill, Mark James, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, John Mellencamp, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), and Sade, among others. Inductees will be honored at an awards gala on June 12, 2014, in New York. … Nominations for the 2013 American Music Awards were announced with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis leading with six nominations, followed by Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake with five each. The awards will air live from Los Angeles on Nov. 24.
In more Taylor Swift news, the 23-year-old songstress will be honored as the Nashville Songwriters Association International's Songwriter/Artist of the Year for a record sixth time, surpassing previous records held by five-time winners Vince Gill and Alan Jackson. Swift, who remains the youngest artist to receive the award, will showcase her six trophies at the Taylor Swift Education Center, set to open Oct. 12 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tenn.
Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience, 2 Of 2, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 350,000 copies sold, marking Timberlake's second No. 1 album of the year following The 20/20 Experience, which was released in March and earned the largest sales week of the year with 968,000 units sold. … Kanye West's "Gone" peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week after the song, from his 2005 GRAMMY-winning album Late Registration, appeared in the viral YouTube video of 25-year-old Marina Shifrin announcing her job resignation.
TLC unveiled their first new song in 10 years, "Meant To Be," which was written by GRAMMY winner Ne-Yo, among others. The track will appear on their forthcoming greatest hits compilation album 20, due Oct. 15. … Eminem released the video for "Survival," the second single from his forthcoming new album The Marshall Mathers LP 2, due Nov. 5. The video, which also appears in the trailer for the "Call Of Duty: Ghosts" video game, features the rapper performing in a gloomy warehouse while clips of the video game flash in the background. … In a recent interview with The Oakland Press, Metallica frontman James Hetfield revealed the band will begin work on their next studio album in early 2014. "Hopefully it happens soon. I'm itchin'," said Hetfield. "We have tons of material to sift through. … I know we only need a few songs, but there's 800 riffs we're going through. It's kind of insane."
The next time you start posing for your "Sunday selfie," think of Paul McCartney. In a recent interview on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," the former Beatle said, "Most people don't actually know that I invented the selfie," referring to a black-and-white solo shot of himself. When presented with a photo in which he's spontaneously posed in the background of an image of John Lennon, McCartney said, "That's actually me inventing the photobomb."
Laura Jane Grace
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Bonnaroo Virtual Fest To Feature Laura Jane Grace, David Lynch, Charli XCX, Nubya Garcia & More
In addition to live content, archival Bonnaroo sets from Metallica, Beastie Boys, Alabama Shakes, Tears For Fears, Run The Jewels, the xx and more will be streamed during the three-day online event
Today, Sept. 16, Bonnaroo announced a star-studded three-day "Virtual Roo-Ality" fest, streaming on their YouTube channel Sept. 24–26. The event will feature both live and archival music sets, as well as programming like Hayley Williams' Sanctuary of Self Love, which she has hosted at past Bonnaroos.
David Lynch, Laura Jane Grace, Charli XCX, Nubya Garcia, Tank and the Bangas, Chromeo, CloZee, Billy Strings, Big Gigantic, Ashley McBryde, Denzel Curry, Jamila Woods and many more will make live appearances during the weekend. As for the archival sets, of which over a dozen will be aired, Metallica (2008), Alabama Shakes (2015), Tears For Fears (2015), Run The Jewels (2015), the xx (2015), Nile Rodgers & CHIC (2018) and the Beastie Boys (2009) will be featured. The Beastie Boys show was their final live performance and will be its full-length streaming premiere.
Bonnaroo 2020 was originally slated for June 11–14 with Lizzo, Tame Impala, Flume, DaBaby and others on the stacked lineup. It was later postponed to Sept. 24–27 due to COVID-19. Like other festivals, it has since been pushed to 2021 and, now, the virtual event will offer a musical balm during these live-eventless times.
The entire three-day event will be streamed on their YouTube channel, and some content will be available after on-demand. The event is free to tune in to, but Bonnaroo will be fundraising for voting rights org HeadCount.org and the ACLU. As their website explains, "donations collected during the weekend for these and additional organizations will be made by the Bonnaroo Works Fund, whose mission is to foster community, creativity and positive influence."
The schedule will be announced soon. For the full lineup and more info on Bonnaroo Virtual Roo-Ality Lineup and Bonnaroo 2021, visit their website.