Not only the cover is genius: those who rushed to eulogize Beyoncé will have to wait a bit
The symbols and quotes are indeed corny, but in almost every song on her new club album, "Renaissance", Queen B proves what a great singer she is.
Meanwhile, the representative of the generation after her, Lizo - who suddenly became a remote singer to a superstar - discovers in her new album the price of success.
Tuesday, 02 August 2022, 01:58
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In the video: Beyonce breaks the record of winnings for a singer with 28 Grammy Awards (Courtesy: CBS/RECORDING ACADEMY)
In an interview that Elton John gave about two weeks ago to the British magazine Music Week, the veteran singer brought to the headlines the main problem of creating albums in 2022. "The sales chart is full of artists like me, Abba and Kevin," explained Elton.
"Every now and then someone unusual like Sam Fender or Harry Styles emerges, but usually a new album enters the chart at number 3 and a week after that it's already at number 80 or something. It's depressing, because there are a lot of good albums that deserve to be on the chart, but they're not there because of people like me ".
Elton did not exaggerate and the examples we live every week.
To illustrate, four days after the interview, the album sales chart for that week was published, where "Special", the new spoken word album by the American singer Lizo, went right into the sixth place.
Seven days later, the album dropped to number 37 on the chart, with collections by such luminaries as The Beatles, Bob Marley and Elvis Presley continuing to hold high positions, well above it.
To this atmosphere returns this week who is considered the greatest singer of the 2000s, Beyoncé, who released the album "Renaissance".
Each of Beyoncé's previous six albums became classics and extraordinary commercial successes—the complete opposite of what Elton described for albums in this day and age.
From the moment her first solo album, "Dangerously In Love" was released in the summer of 19 years ago, until "Lemonade" was released 6 years ago, Beyoncé has not left the charts.
720 weeks, which is almost 14 years, that she has always been on the chart.
The album cover (photo: Carlijn Jacobs, Parkwood Entertainment)
This success was an extraordinary expression for a singer who was initially seen as just another pop singer.
The initial attitude towards Beyoncé, from the girl group Destiny's Child, was as someone who might give a match to other stars of the time, such as Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera - but nothing more.
But it quickly became clear where she was and where they were.
Unlike the pop stars who established their status among the youth, Beyoncé targeted a much wider audience in terms of ages.
She created pop, but elegant.
One with soul, disco and R&B influences.
She sings about love, but also about feminism and America and politics.
Her voice is one of the most impressive in their range and her looks are mesmerizing.
At the same time, Beyoncé is a friend of everyone who is right in music and outside of music.
She became the face and face of the success of the Afro-American society during the administration of Barack Obama, and a kind of parallel to him, only in music.
It's just that unlike the presidency, where your tenure is limited in time, in the world of art you don't have that privilege.
Time is mostly a cruel function.
The fears were misplaced
The previous album, "Lemonade", was released in 2016, four months before the election of Donald Trump to the presidency.
"Lemonade" became Beyoncé's most acclaimed album, because it made a turn from being a pop star to much more artistically abstract directions.
There are no more pop hits, and there are also long compositions, with an experimental and rather gloomy sound.
All of these were accompanied by texts that connected perfectly with the social agendas held by large sections of African-American and liberal-democratic society during Trump's reign.
The Black Lives Matters, the Mi-To, the status of women - everything was predicted in "Lemonade" in a prophetic way.
Beyoncé managed to create the soundtrack of the protest.
Precisely in the turbulent era that America experienced during Trump's rule - Beyoncé seems to have chosen to stay away from the fire and cool down her activity, and focused on slightly different directions.
In the last six years she did release two albums, but it was minor: one album, with Jay-Z, was a kind of fusion of the problems with her partner;
The second was the soundtrack to the acclaimed new version of The Lion King.
Fears that the years since the previous "real" solo album might have killed Beyoncé's career were dispelled even before "Renaissance" was released.
The first single, "Break My Soul" released a month ago, managed to tear up the charts, which showed that the comeback of Queen B is serious, and that there is no crisis here.
The song, which is influenced by the house sections of the early nineties and deals with the changing attitude of young people to the modern world of work, quickly became another classic from its creator.
Now comes the complete album, which includes 16 songs and lasts a little over an hour.
On the black cover Beyoncé is seen, dressed in little clothes, sitting on a glass horse, like a kind of Lady Godiva.
This is one of the genius covers seen lately.
One that is etched in your mind - and one that manages to completely convey the spirit of the album in one picture.
The vibe of "Renaissance" is like Beyoncé in the picture.
The sound is gloomy, clubby, like her blackness.
The glass horse is like the music.
Created by man and machine and comes out very shiny.
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The songs on the album are quite like "Break My Soul" in sound, that is: with few layers, classic drum machines, electronic sounds of clubs and Beyoncé's powerful vocals, which more or less in every song reminds what a great vocalist she is.
Admittedly, it's a bit of a confusing album.
At first it feels like an improvisation, but the more you listen to it, you realize that every detail was thought of here.
Not everything is perfect in "Renaissance".
The symbols and references, for example, take Beyoncé back a bit.
The use, for example, of Right Side Fred's "I'm Too Sexy" in "Alien Superstar" is beautiful, but it's also an imitation of the exact same use Taylor Swift made in this part of her 2017 hit "Look What You Made Me Do."
At the same time, the sample of Kelis' "Milkshake" in "Energy" has already received criticism from the singer.
The use of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" in the closing segment "Summer Renaissance" is perfectly done, but it's a little corny.
Unlike them, there are quite a few sections that are really worth delving into, especially in the second part of the album.
Among the recommendations is the dark "America Has a Problem", which sounds old-school rap in parts;
The monotonous and precise "Pure/Honey" may become a great LGBT anthem; and "Move" that brought out Grace G
Also in the first part of the album there are some exits.
In the opening segment "I'm That Girl" Beyoncé manages to transport us through a tunnel of changing and confusing emotions, while managing to push the curse Motherfucker no less than 19 times in the song.
Another prominent piece, which will probably become the next hit from the album, is "Cuff It", which is a bit unusual in the album landscape.
It has a disco, seventies spirit.
It's a classic song, Lizzo's "About Damn Time" style, which is currently number one in the US.
Do these two songs foreshadow an expected comeback for disco from 50 years ago?
There is definitely a situation.
"Renaissance" is not an easy album to digest, but those who rushed to eulogize Beyoncé will have to wait a bit.
We are already in August and "Renaissance" is undoubtedly one of the outstanding albums of the year.
It also looks like he'll hear a shell live, which, in this day and age, is what matters most.
And meanwhile, Lizo is at a crossroads
The singer Lizo belongs to the wave of African-American singers who are the next step in the evolution after Beyoncé: performers who combine pop, soul and rap, only in a much rougher and rawer way.
Besides Lizo, the prominent singers in this wave are Duja Kat, Cardi B and Megan De Stallion.
Beyoncé even sponsored the latter's career, when she turned her breakout track "Savage" into a duet, which took it to number one in the United States.
All the singers of this wave owe quite a bit of their success to the Tik-Tok app, which turns almost every segment of theirs into a viral hit (Tik-Tok, by the way, is a field that Beyoncé is completely unfamiliar with. She joined the app only last December, probably to market "Renaissance") .
Lizo, who released her fourth album "Special" this month, is probably the first big star to break through Tik Tok, but contrary to the image of the app, she is not a 20-year-old star who just appeared out of nowhere.
She was born in Detroit 34 years ago under the name Melissa Jefferson and has been releasing soul-pop-rap pieces for over a decade, although at first she was not successful.
In 2019, when TikTok really broke out in the United States, two of her old clips from 2016 - "Truth Hearts" and "Good As Hell" became hysterical challenges on the app.
From complete anonymity, Lizo became an overnight megastar with a fat Warner Brothers contract, number one hits in America and duets with Ariana Grande.
But success also has a price.
Lizo's new album is the first one she creates when she is no longer part of the underground.
When your every piece becomes a huge hit, your place in the world changes.
Lizo, who went from being quite an outcast to America's new darling, it's quite confusing.
Lizo creates in the same areas she worked in before, but with an invested and rich production, she suddenly sounds different, in a rather disturbing way.
She creates pop anthems and throws out rude words, like she used to.
It's cool, except that in the current constellation, pieces like "The Sign" and "2 B Loved" sound more like songs by Katy Perry who lost control of her mouth, than cheeky and cool pieces.
A kind of power-pop with curses.
Lizzo has already run into trouble with this, when following a public outcry she was forced to re-record the album's third track, "Grrrls" which mugs the Beastie Boys.
The reason was that the song included the word "Spaz", which is used as slang for panic, but also, among other things, as slang for muscular dystrophy.
The knights of political correctness went out on Lizo, who quickly apologized and changed.
This is a problem, because all along the charm of Lizo is that she brings songs with a sweet melody, which is accompanied by the fact that there is no restraint on her mouth.
She can write a nice and captivating love song called "I Love You Bitch" or a sweet funky anthem called "Everybody's Gay".
And she really is.
The problem is that in the current situation these can become big viral hits, but because of the limitations of the blunt language they will have trouble making the crossover to the American mainstream radio, which is still necessary to make a song a real hit, as the money people behind it probably expect from it.
Since Lizzo is a crazy hit machine these days, as evidenced by the "About Damn Time" section from the album, Lizzo nevertheless made sure that five of the songs on the album did not appear with the Explicit label, meaning: no foul language.
Probably to allow a few more sections to succeed.
There is no doubt that Lizo is at a crossroads and has to ask herself if she wants to play the game, or not.
Right now it feels like she's a foot here, a foot there.
The album's closing song, "Coldplay," which is a tribute to the British rock band, pretty much tells the story.
Coldplay are kind of the conceptual opposite of what a singer of Lizo's type is expected to hear.
She doesn't mind quoting from their hit "Yellow" and admitting that she sings and dances to them at night.
Lizo does sound hurt in the song, but it is not clear if this is excessive flattery to the mainstream, or a desire to show that she does not play by the rules and can also connect to something that is apparently not a voice.
It's all very confusing, but that's why it's also fascinating.