She is the singer of all records. Beyoncé has won as many Grammy’s as Quincy Jones (28). And joined Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson in the very closed club of artists with at least 20 singles in the American top 10 in solo, and 10 within a group.
With the release this Friday of her 7th solo album, Renaissance, six years after Lemonade, Queen Bey has nothing left to prove. Except that it can last, past 40 years. But if its place in the Hall of Music is not debatable, its societal influence goes far beyond music, explains the journalist from BuzzFeed Zia Thompsonwho oversaw the coverage of Renaissance for the US site.
In the past, Beyoncé has innovated: a surprise release, a visual album. With its more traditional launch, is Renaissance less ambitious?
Beyoncé doesn’t do anything halfway, don’t bury this album just because it doesn’t have a surprise launch. Again and again his albums have reflected their times. Break my soul (the first single) breaks with the hustle mentality that is so prevalent in our society. A house album with a frenzied beat, to let go and decompress, that’s exactly what we needed.
This new album, like Drake’s, pays homage to the black and queer roots of house music, notably with the presence of Big Freedia. Why is this important?
House was born out of disco in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The name comes from a club in Chicago, the Warehouse, frequented mainly by young black gay men. Pioneers include DJs like Ron Hardy, Farley “Jackmaster” Funk, Mr. Lee, JM Silk, and Frankie Knuckles, who was himself gay and considered the godfather of house music. He is famous for splicing, he cut and reattached magnetic tapes to create a continuous groove, marrying disco with a new electronic rhythm.
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As house music exploded in popularity, its black roots were largely forgotten and never truly recognized. It was time for artists like Drake or Beyoncé, who are bringing it up to date for younger generations, to pay homage to its origins.
Beyond music, what does Beyoncé mean to you and to artists? like Lizzo or Cardi-B?
As a young black woman, Beyoncé makes me feel seen and valued. It gives voice to my successes, my joy, my pain, my existence. Thanks to his music, I found myself, it’s the soundtrack of my life. With my girlfriends, we sang at the top of our lungs on Crazy in Love in pajama party. I cried with Irreplaceable and If I Were A Boy when my first relationship ended. In college, I danced the night away in clubs to ***Flawless. Now, as an adult, I groove on Break my soul.
Even back in the days of Destiny’s Child, his music was about finding your identity and being proud of it. To claim her femininity or her masculinity, her independence, her sex appeal, to be black. The world of music is particularly hard on women. But Beyoncé, by daring to talk about herself and her existence, paved the way for a whole new generation of artists.
On the racial question, there seems to be a before and an after of his performance paying homage to the Black Panthers during the 2016 Super Bowl. She denounced police violence, supported Black Lives Matters and Hillary Clinton. Has she found her voice?
Talking openly about politics is always risky when you’re black, and not just for celebrities. Countless people have lost those who led the fight for equality: friends, jobs, Olympic medals, even their lives. For a long time, many artists preferred to focus on their music and not make waves. But in our digital age dominated by social networks, ignoring injustices has become impossible.
That’s what I respect about Beyoncé: she fully understands the influence she has on her industry and culture, and she’s used her platform to shine the spotlight on the causes she cares about, already there. era of Destiny’s Child. But today, she has more control over her voice, and how she chooses to use it. Sometimes publicly, such as writing a letter to the Kentucky Attorney General, demanding justice for Breonna Taylor. And sometimes more discreetly, with his foundation, by donating screening tests against Covid-19, masks and food to the inhabitants of his hometown (Houston) at the height of the pandemic. In her song I was there, she talks about leaving the world a little bit better off. From my point of view, it is fulfilling this objective.
Some critics deem her co-songwriter credits on her albums lavish, with dozens surrounding her. Does this prevent him from being considered the most influential artist of the past twenty years?
With 79 nominations and 28 Grammy wins, the record for a female singer, Beyoncé cemented her place in music history. Love it or hate it, no one can argue with that. But unlike many contemporary artists, his influence and legend go beyond music. Her talents in front of and behind the camera, as a producer, in fashion and her charitable commitment have allowed her to find a place for herself in American pop culture, but also now in a broader global consciousness. His name is synonymous with a certain level of excellence and talent that his peers envy him. She doesn’t take shortcuts. She doesn’t do things by halves. There is no other Beyoncé, and that makes her a true Renaissance woman.