Beyoncé Knowles, a cultural phenomenon herself, made headlines this week with her new album, Renaissance, debuting at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200. Although the singer is no stranger to chart-topping records, this is the first time any woman has accomplished the feat in music history.
The highly anticipated album was released on July 29th, six years post-Lemonade. Despite the wait, Renaissance, act one of a three-part project, was just the nostalgic LP Beyoncé’s fans could have hoped for.
The word “renaissance” refers to a revival, a renewed interest in something.
The album’s upbeat disco sound and retro imagery drew inspiration from previous decades. In physical copies alone, Renaissance is now the top-selling hip-hop or R&B vinyl created by a woman since 1991, resurrecting an otherwise diminishing musical medium.
Even the line, “this Telfar bag imported,” from the album’s track, “Summer Renaissance,” reinvigorated interest in the Telfar bag, garnering an 85% increase in views on The RealReal as of last Saturday.
In an Instagram post caption, Beyoncé explained that the album was an outlet for exploration and experimentation. Recorded during the pandemic, the songs were a space for the singer to find solace in an ever-changing and hostile world. Renaissance is “a place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, release, feel freedom.” Beyoncé hopes her music will make her listeners feel “unique, strong, and sexy.”
The record’s cover art, a reference to Bianca Jagger’s 1977 horseback entrance to Studio 54, depicts Beyoncé sitting atop a blurred silver holographic horse and saddle. The slightly veiled features starkly contrast the clearly defined image of the artist sitting upon them. Beyoncé’s silver-heeled sandals rest in similarly chromatic stirrups while our focus is drawn toward the star’s long wavy hair, red lipstick, and commanding gaze.
The remaining Renaissance album art is a series of striking photographs depicting the queen herself wearing haute couture in retro settings— and a lot more chrome.
Presumably inspired by 60’s Space Age fashion, the star is ethereal in a beehive hairdo and plunging metallic Mugler breastplate. With the ensemble’s dramatic points extending above her shoulders and crystal glass in hand, the image says, not only is Beyoncé timeless, she is the future.
On August 5th, a week after the album’s debut, the star released a “Break My Soul” remix created by herself and legendary pop star, Madonna. A promo photo of the pair features Beyoncé wearing a Schiaparelli Haute Couture cone bra, paying tribute to the Jean Paul Gaultier version worn by Madonna during her 1990 Blond Ambition tour. The collaboration, “The Queens Remix,” gets at their tremendous mutual influence on popular culture.
An exploratory renaissance of music, fashion, and culture, Beyoncé’s seventh studio album gave modern meaning to the term. Already a living legacy, one can only imagine what the following two parts of “Renaissance” will have in store.