Beyoncé’s new album, “Renaissance,” is consciously steeped in dance-music historical past, cannily embracing many years of samples and sounds: the Seventies disco of Donna Summer and Chic, Jamaican dancehall, internet-speed hyperpop. She selected collaborators, references and even particular keyboard sounds that pay homage to club-land reminiscences whereas making her personal Twenty first-century assertion. Here are a few of the sources she celebrates, and an exploration of their significance.
The album’s second and third tracks, “Cozy” and “Alien Superstar,” characteristic writing and manufacturing by the Chicago-born house-music D.J. and producer Honey Dijon. “Cozy” additionally features a writing credit score for Curtis Alan Jones, generally known as Cajmere or Green Velvet — certainly one of Chicago home music’s biggest producers.
That locale is vital right here. Chicago is home music’s birthplace, and Chicago home, specifically, typically strikes with a closely pronounced swing, accentuated by octave-jumping staccato bass patterns. The canonical instance is Adonis’s “No Way Back,” from 1986, and the bass line of “Cozy” performs like an inversion of it. The music is sort of mnemonically recognizable as early Chicago home with out merely sounding like homage.
On “Alien Superstar,” the cadence of the hook (“I’m too classy for this world/Forever I’m that girl”) is credited to an interpolation of Right Said Fred’s dance-floor novelty smash “I’m Too Sexy.” Taylor Swift borrowed the similar half (additionally with credit score) on her 2017 monitor “Look What You Made Me Do,” and Drake sampled the 1992 music on “Way Too Sexy” from 2021.
There’s one other direct callback on “Cuff It”: The bass line is immediately recognizable as the progeny of Bernard Edwards’s monster riff from Chic’s “Good Times,” a No. 1 hit in 1979, and Edwards’s associate in Chic, Nile Rodgers, will get credit score for writing and taking part in guitars right here. (On bass and drums: Raphael Saadiq.) As Ken Barnes identified in his liner notes to “The Disco Years Vol. 4: Lost in Music,” a compilation on Rhino Records, rewriting Chic grew to become a sort of nationwide pastime throughout the early Eighties, not least by way of early hip-hop and post-disco R&B. This model of the one, two, three (relaxation) is as indebted to the many “Good Times” rewrites as the authentic: the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and Vaughn Mason’s “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll,” for instance.
“Energy” options writing and manufacturing from Skrillex, an EDM-festival celebrity by the early 2010s identified for his drops — dramatic buildups that resolve right into a recent beat — however since his heyday, he’s largely labored behind the scenes. (See Justin Bieber’s 2015 smash “Where Are Ü Now,” which he made alongside Diplo.) “Energy” appears to function on wires; it’s taut minimalism, with the supplest layering of sub-bass tones.
The music additionally has writing credit for Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, the songwriting and manufacturing duo the Neptunes, identified for his or her work with a large swath of singers and rappers beginning in the Nineteen Nineties. On Thursday, earlier than the launch of “Renaissance,” the singer and songwriter Kelis spoke out on social media, saying these credit have been for a pattern of certainly one of her songs (it turned out to be an interpolation of “Milkshake,” from 2003), and that she hadn’t given permission for its use. Kelis wasn’t a credited author or producer on most of the early albums she made with the Neptunes, and didn’t have credit on “Milkshake.” In a 2020 interview with The Guardian she mentioned she had signed an settlement with the duo when she “was too young and too stupid to double-check it.”
A comparable scenario arose with the album’s lead single, “Break My Soul,” which is indebted to the central Korg motif from Robin S.’s pop-house hit “Show Me Love.” But whether or not her 1992 remix was sampled was initially unclear, and for the first week of the music’s launch, the credit shifted. (The newest model says the Beyoncé music “contains elements” of “Show Me Love.”) The Robin S. music’s afterlife has been strong: Its riff confirmed up in the Brooklyn producer AceMo’s 2019 “Where They At???” that includes John FM, which grew to become a key underground dance anthem earlier than and through the pandemic, in addition to in latest releases from Charli XCX and Daddy Yankee.
Another key to “Break My Soul” is the shouting of exhortations (“Release your wiggle!”) by the New Orleans bounce artist Big Freedia, whom Beyoncé had earlier sampled on “Formation” (2016). Bounce is a New Orleans-bred dance-music fashion that’s dizzyingly quick, bass intensive and heavy on name and response; twerking emerged in response to it.
Beyoncé glances again to the late ’90s once more on “Plastic Off the Sofa.” While the bulk of the music is lush digital balladry, there’s a second in its coda that might have come from “glitch” experimental-electronica, the place the tail finish of a vocal run, closely overdubbed, is subjected to a intentionally audible edit. It’s a hair jarring however largely humorous — an audible wink to the listener, one aspect of recent pop’s high-tech manufacturing laid naked. (For an instance from the ’90s, see Oval’s album “94diskont,” or the compilation “Clicks + Cuts,” launched in 2000.)
Classic disco asserts itself at the album’s halfway level. “Virgo’s Groove” options layers of undulating percussion, synthesizer and bass that updates the manufacturing work Quincy Jones did with Michael Jackson — a kind of companion piece to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” “Move,” the subsequent monitor, features a characteristic from Grace Jones — disco royalty, simply in case anybody puzzled the place Beyoncé could also be coming from.
Just as notable on “Move” — and much more noticeably on “America Has a Problem” — is the swarming low finish identified in the dance world as the “Reese bass.” The time period is a reference to a 1988 document, “Just Want Another Chance” by Reese, certainly one of many aliases utilized by Kevin Saunderson, certainly one of the first producers recognized with Detroit techno in the mid-80s.
In a lot the similar approach that “Chicago house” refers not solely to a method and its birthplace but additionally that swinging octave-hopping sound, “Detroit techno” tends to denote consideration to element and an aura of stressed invention. The heavy-fog low finish of “Just Want Another Chance” was typically repurposed by London bass-music kinds like jungle, drum & bass, U.Ok. storage and dubstep — what the author Simon Reynolds has known as the “hardcore continuum” of Black British musical kinds from city areas that took root on London pirate radio.
Beyoncé’s use of the heavy, undulant Reese bass on “Move” and “America Has a Problem” additional locates the album in the Black dance-music continuum. “Problem” additionally opens with orchestral stabs, à la Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force’s landmark electronic-rap monitor “Planet Rock” — or, much more aptly given the title and lyrical theme, Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation.”
“Heated” options Beyoncé in commanding neo-dancehall kind over a slinky, wood-block-heavy groove. At the finish of the music, she mentions tapping out tracks along with her fingers on the MPC, an instrument designed by Roger Linn that arrived in 1988. The MPC, made by Akai, isn’t performed with a keyboard, however as an alternative includes a sq. grid of pads that set off completely different sounds, and it has change into a widespread compositional and efficiency software.
“Thique” seems like one thing that will have been throughout dubstep dance flooring in the days earlier than Skrillex, when the subgenre’s distended bass and variable tempos have been primarily the province of British producers. Sure sufficient, the music’s writing and manufacturing credit embrace an artist influenced by these musicians: Chauncey Hollis Jr., a.ok.a. Hit-Boy, who produced a dubstep-inflected hit on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Watch the Throne” (2011).
The Plasticine sounds of “Thique” segue into the much more closely artificial “All Up in Your Mind,” co-produced by A.G. Cook, the predominant thoughts behind the London label and artwork collective PC Music, which arrived in the mid-2010s with a sound constructed on fashionable exaggeration: tones that weren’t simply excessive in a machine-music approach, however intentionally squeaky. (Sophie, the producer identified for exhilarating hyperpop who died in 2021, got here from this camp.) “All Up” is futurist robo-pop, with a sub-bass line that appears to be snorkeling below the audio system moderately than emanating from them.
“Pure/Honey,” subsequent to final, is one other sub-bass monster: The first half, propelled by a nasty kick drum, is a stunning approximation of techno at its steeliest, or perhaps its most “pure.” The “honey” comes at the 2:11 mark, a bulbous neo-disco groove with feathery horns that remembers early Sylvester. The monitor runs partially off a pattern of a Kevin Aviance music subtitled “The Feeling” — certainly one of the key recordings in a queer home sub-style generally known as “bitch tracks.”
The album’s ultimate monitor, “Summer Renaissance,” options Beyoncé singing, “It’s so good, it’s so good, it’s so good, it’s sooooo good” over a really acquainted pinballing riff — sure, the finale interpolates Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” the 1977 disco hit with an all-synthesizer backdrop and pulsating rhythm that anticipated the future sound of dance music. But the predominant melodic phrase from “I Feel Love” sounds prefer it’s being performed on the Korg keyboard that anchors “Break My Soul,” subtly tying two eras collectively in a 3rd one.