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The Beyoncé ‘Renaissance’ Exit Survey

Our instant reactions to the Queen’s latest, a sleek dance-pop master class that will be dominating clubs near you all summer

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Six years after Lemonade, Beyoncé has returned. Renaissance is out Friday, and there’s a lot to sift through. What are the best tracks? Where is the Queen at in her career? Did she successfully pull off her dance-pop gambit? Our staff digs in.

What is your tweet-length review of Renaissance?

Khal Davenport: Now I know why Drake surprise-dropped Honestly, Nevermind.

Bridget Geerlings: I am not stingy with my love for this album!!

Logan Murdock: Beyoncé is liberated. I’m trying to hit a function with her.

Justin Sayles: Wish I was still young to go to a club this weekend!

Jacqueline Kantor: Beyoncé would probably say please get off Twitter! Go touch (gr)ass and fuck somethin’ up.

Kellen Becoats: The Queen has blessed us with music perfect to dance to in a sweaty Brooklyn club. Now let’s take the (misplaced) anger aimed at Kelis and aim it at Pharrel and Chad.

Katie Baker: For when I want to spend dusk till dawn on a dance floor without ever leaving my desk.

Matt James: Beyoncé is making dance music like no one’s watching. This is not Beyoncé cashing in on a “dance” trend, this is a heartfelt celebration of the past 50 years of dance music.

What’s your favorite song on Renaissance?

Geerlings: It’s a tie between “Heated” and “Alien Superstar,” but I’ll go with the latter because it sounds like Prince was resurrected for 3 minutes and 35 seconds.

Davenport: “Cuff It,” because it’s the closest to Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories I’ve heard since Random Access Memories.

James: My biggest criticism of this album, which I love, is that Bey has so many ideas she’s attempting to fit into 16 tracks. There are times when she changes up a track before we have a chance to fully settle into a groove. It’s a bit antithetical to the very spirit of dance music and R&B. (I really want “Pure” and “Honey” to be their own full-length tracks!) “Plastic Off the Sofa,” “Virgo’s Groove,” “Cuff It,” and “Break My Soul” are all fantastically distilled, singular, immaculate vibes with running times that allow you to really get deep into them. I just can’t choose between these four tracks.

Kantor: Torn between “Cuff It” and “Heated” at the moment, in part because of how they seem to be more mature counterparts of “Party” and “Mine,” two of my favorites from their respective albums.

Baker: I could listen to “Virgo’s Groove” on repeat for hours on end. But one of my favorite things about this album isn’t any one track, but some of the transitions between them. The way “Cuff It” leads into “Energy” leads into “Break My Soul” is pure, surprising, delightful fun. I already really liked “Break My Soul” before, but in the context of the album it’s somehow SO much better. Thank you, Big Freedia.

Murdock: “Cuff It” is a walk down a runway in Milan, a morning run through the canyons of View Park, and the perfect pregame song for a legendary night on the town.

Becoats: It’s the intro track, “I’m That Girl,” for me. I’ve already caught myself mumbling “Please, motherfuckers ain’t stoppin’ me” multiple times as I write this. The beat is deviously simple and I can already see it being one of my hype songs before I go out for the night.

Sayles: “Church Girl!” A perfect auntie jam that draws on bounce classics like “Triggerman.” What more do you want?

Least favorite?

James: “All Up in Your Mind” is the only track that feels like a bit of an undercooked experiment to me. If the song was really clicking it’d probably crack three minutes of running time, right?

Baker: The “Pure” half of “Pure/Honey.” But then again, I also appreciate it in a night-is-darkest-before-the-dawn kind of way, because when Beyoncé’s noted vocals finally started soaring during the “Honey” half I floated away like another noted honey-respecter and it felt like I’d earned the trip, somehow.

Davenport: “American Has a Problem,” but that may be due to placement.

Murdock: I could’ve done without the first minute of “Move.” It sounds like a throwaway from the Black Panther soundtrack. A flawless groove salvages it in the final minute, though.

Kantor: It’s too early for me to tell. I’ll say “Virgo’s Groove” because it invokes earth signs.

Geerlings: If I’m forced to pick one, it’s “Cuff It,” but only because it reminds me of a song Foxxy Cleopatra would have sung in Goldmember. But let me add, that is NOT a bad thing!

Becoats: “Flip-flop, flippy, flip-floppin’-ass bitch” from “Heated” literally made me laugh out loud. No one is infallible, even the Queen.

Favorite lyrics?

James: “I feel like falling in love / I’m in the mood to fuck something up” is a perfect explanation of what dance music should feel like.

Becoats: “I pull up in these clothes, look so good. / ‘Cause I’m in that ho. You know all these songs sound good. / ‘Cause I’m on that ho.” That’s the type of energy I’m trying to roll with this summer.

Sayles: Anywhere she doesn’t say “swaggy.”

Murdock: “We gone fuck up the niiiiiiigggght. Black liiiiggght.”

Geerlings: “Vuitton, Dior, Givenchy, collect your points, Beyoncé!” She found a way to rhyme Givenchy and Beyoncé! Does anything else really matter?


“Drinkin’ my water, mindin’ my biz
Monday, I’m overrated, Tuesday, on my dick
Flip-flop, flippy, flip-floppin’-ass bitch”

Baker: “The only double lines we cross are dollar signs” and also, sorry for being obvious, but putting “it must be the cash cause it ain’t your face” on a song called “Church Girl” is a pretty memorable move!

What do you think of the production on Renaissance?

James: To quote Beyoncé within the first minute of this album, “You know all these songs sound good.”

Davenport: You can tell that there was a clear vision of what this album was going to be, and the execution is dope.

Sayles: Renaissance sounds like it was made in a gold-plated Mothership. To compare it to the other unexpected pop dance album of the summer, Drake’s record felt forced at times. Beyoncé’s pulls together so many different genres and makes them a sleek masterpiece.

Becoats: I think what surprised me the most was just the vast swath of genres she pulled from. We’ve got dance floor jams, house, a taste of Afrobeat, disco, and soul. I mostly use this term ironically, but it screams “Hot Girl Summer” to me, and I love it.

Baker: I love that it just really replicates the feeling of being on a dance floor, from the demanding squads (“Move”) to the occasional semi-delirious lulls (“Thique,” I am typing respectfully) to the increasingly loose abandon of “Summer Renaissance,” which feels like getting a surprise cameo from the artist and/or a hallucination of Donna Summer as the sun starts to rise.

Murdock: Love it. The flawless fusion of techno, funk, house, and disco doesn’t seem forced. Most importantly the Queen remains in her pocket in her most ambitious project yet.

Geerlings: Let me put it this way: I looked for “God” to be listed as one of the producers on Wikipedia last night.

What’s your favorite sample/interpolation/homage on Renaissance?

Geerlings: The “I’m Too Sexy” interpolation from Right Said Fred on “Alien Superstar.” She really said, “nice try, Drake” with this whole album.

Davenport: “Cuff It” giving me dirty “Get Lucky” feels will forever be my favorite moment of the entire album.

Kantor: “Must be the cash ’cause it ain’t ya face,” among the other bounce elements in “Church Girl.” The beautiful thing is that someone in New Orleans is probably already working on the bounce remix of this song. Stream 93.3 and wait.

James: The power of a Beyoncé sample really can’t be overstated. It’s a homework assignment to anyone unfamiliar with its origin. It’s exciting thinking about young listeners discovering how much Teena Marie’s “Square Biz” slaps. Across the world right now there are teens who will be forever changed, discovering ballroom because Bey sampled Kevin Aviance.

Baker: So, I was gonna answer “the ‘Fu-Gee-La’ reference” but then I Googled to make sure I had the hyphens and capitalization right whereupon I learned that the Fu-Gee-La reference was once an “Ooo La La La” reference, which is a great reminder to always educate yourself. I also enjoyed the Barbara Ann Teer speech on “Alien Superstar.”

Becoats: It would be really basic of me to say “Show Me Love” by Robin S. right? I don’t care, that beat is too hard not to bring up again. It’s such an earworm that it’s been sampled on countless songs, with everyone from Charli XCX to Craig David to Young Thug getting in on the action.

Sayles: Again, “Triggerman”!

Does Beyoncé—a literal billionaire—sound relatable on


Davenport: No, but at least she has a good backing track?

Baker: I don’t need her to!!! (Though I *did* just spend way too long trying and failing to come up with a pronounceable Beyoncé/hygge portmanteau w/r/t “Cozy” …)

Kantor: I used to teach sixth grade, and now those kids are teens who sometimes provide me with invaluable Gen Z insight, like last year when one of my former students, then 15, commented thoughtfully: “I’ve had to accept the fact that Beyoncé is a capitalist. It’s heartbreaking to know that.”

A 15-year-old said that!!! I thought a lot about that revelation when “Break My Soul” came out, because a literal billionaire talking about quitting her job is annoying. But Beyoncé singing “Comfortable in my skin / Cozy with who I am,” at 40 with three kids and Lemonade six years behind her is ... endearingly authentic? Her austere standards of social media and press access make her albums seem like such a gasp of intimacy. Renaissance seems to lean into the vibe of a lifestyle, not the actual aesthetics, which are extremely unrelatable. Almost makes you forget about the Bombardier Challenger 850 (heartbreaking).

Murdock: She’s your rich auntie, but the rich auntie from Third Ward who has no problem occasionally reminding you she’s from Third Ward. She talks about love, strength, and power, which is what we all aspire to have. She’s one of us, with a lot more paper.

James: The lyrics on this project definitely take more of a backseat than on a typical Beyoncé project. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to take in lyrically, but if she’s doing her job, most of the time you’re supposed to be too busy moving to focus on lyrics. Most of the songs are about love or sex, so they’re relatable enough. It’s not like she’s trying to get us to hit the dance floor while she’s singing about how much you should spend on a holiday gift for the pilot of your private jet.

Becoats: Ask the people who quit their jobs after “Break My Soul” dropped. Look, you’ll never catch me out here defending billionaires’ actions—even one as vaunted and beloved as Beyoncé—but I think the pandemic has put many of us in a similar position of craving a getaway and community. I don’t have a mega yacht or a private jet to achieve those things, but this album drips with a sense of escapism and a return to the dance floor that makes it feel rich. So in terms of Beyoncé’s desire to go outside, I relate heavily. But I’m gonna keep my paycheck, because not all of us have the world’s richest people on speed dial and nine zeros in our bank account.

Geerlings: Listen, as long as her concert tickets aren’t the same price as pearls, diamonds, and Basquiat paintings, it does not matter.

It’s been six years since Lemonade—how does this album compare?

Becoats: Every Beyoncé album release is an event, but

Lemonade’s drop felt like a moment. The visual album aspect to it and the anticipation to see how she’d react sonically to Jay-Z’s infidelity made it a cultural juggernaut. Renaissance is a perfect album to dance around your house/sweat your ass off in the club moving to. But I don’t think it can touch Lemonade in terms of influence, video content, and where it stands in terms of Beyoncé’s best albums.

Kantor: Lemonade was so specific and so open it’s hard to consider this album ever comparing. They seem very different. In a good way!

Murdock: It doesn’t, and that’s OK. Lemonade was clearly a response to a low moment in Beyoncé’s life.

Renaissance is a celebration of everything she endured. We’re not talking about the elevator six years later. We’re partying instead.

Baker: Renaissance > Lemonade.

Geerlings: Lemonade was a revolution, but Beyoncé is just having pure fun on this perfectly produced album. And that’s before we’ve seen any of the music videos!

James: I would almost categorize Renaissance as a Beyoncé side project. This album is going to be disorienting for some Beyoncé fans. If you like to get in your feels and cry in your car listening to “Sandcastles,” Renaissance isn’t going to be in your wheelhouse. I think fans have a tendency to view an artist’s new album as the mission statement for the future of that artist’s career, but if Renaissance isn’t what you want from Beyoncé, don’t stress, there will be more Beyoncé albums for you down the road.

Davenport: It’s not the statement that Lemonade was, but I love focused Beyoncé.

Where is Beyonce at in her career?

Geerlings: Making Jay-Z look like the laziest person in her house.

Murdock: She’s free. This album shows why Everything Is Love—the collaboration LP with her husband Shawn Carter—and the Lion King soundtrack were so vital artistically, as all of the best elements of both projects appear on Renaissance. For years, Beyoncé’s career has been defined by a militant-like precision. Now, she seems out of her shell, and the most relatable she’s ever been.

James: Beyoncé is Too Big to Fail. While that’s often a death sentence for an artist’s ingenuity, here it just means that she has the freedom to experiment and chase whatever sparks her curiosity. Renaissance is wonderful but even if it doesn’t connect with you, you have to appreciate that Bey is still taking risks rather than idly sitting atop her throne.

Kantor: She doesn’t need to do any of this, and she knows it. In the grand scheme of legacy, money, and performance, she’s cemented herself in a way in which her future projects probably can’t do much to sway her reputation, her net worth, or her fan base. She can—in a way that many other artists and individuals cannot—do what she wants and have fun doing it.

Becoats: I think the pandemic has leached some of the power from these super popular artists. A lot of albums we spend months craving end up disappearing from the public consciousness a month or so after they drop. Do I think that will happen with Renaissance: Act I? Maybe. But that “Act I” looms over this question. When do we get “Act II”? What will the rollout look like? Beyoncé’s press tour over the past month and the public’s obsession with the project—and their desire to snitch on those who tried “to sneak into the club early”—have proved that her influence isn’t ebbing anytime soon. If that means we get two more albums that make me want to quit my job and dance until I can’t feel my legs, I think that’s a pretty good spot to be in.

Baker: As inventive, playful, and relentless as she ever was, luckily for us all.

Davenport: Wherever the fuck she wants to be, and loving it.