Much of the early fallout surrounding the discharge of Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” — within the sense that there will be any true fallout from a militarily exact rollout that strikes in stealth and is staffed by armies of writers, producers, entrepreneurs, legal professionals and social media savants — got here down to issues of acknowledgment and credit score.
These are issues which can be, in essence, authorized, however actually extra philosophical and ethical. Acknowledging a supply of inspiration, direct or oblique, is appropriate enterprise apply but in addition, within the period of internet-centric hyperaccountability, one thing akin to enjoying offense as protection.
This is maybe unusually true with reference to “Renaissance,” a meticulous album that’s a wealthy and considerate exploration and interpretation of the previous few many years in American dance music, significantly its Black, queer roots, bearing on disco, home, ballroom and extra. The credit and the listing of collaborators are scrupulous — Beyoncé labored with producers and writers from these worlds and sampled foundational tracks from these scenes.
But there have been nonetheless quarrels, or quirks, because the album arrived. First got here the ping-ponging songwriting credit on its first single, “Break My Soul,” which initially included the writers of the Robin S. membership basic “Show Me Love,” then eliminated them, then reinstated them. (The credit don’t, nevertheless, acknowledge StoneBridge, the remixer who popularized the unique track.)
A number of days earlier than the album’s launch, its full credit have been circulated on-line, suggesting that the track “Energy” had interpolated a Kelis track that was produced by the Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo). Kelis, the early 2000s alt-soul innovator, posted a sequence of Instagram movies expressing frustration that she was not suggested of the borrowing, though she just isn’t the publishing rights holder. (Kelis wasn’t a credited author or producer on a lot of the early albums she made with the Neptunes, owing to an settlement she signed with the duo when she “was too young and too stupid to double-check it,” she instructed The Guardian.) That opened up conversations about authorized versus religious obligations, and the potential two-facedness of Williams. Without remark, Beyoncé up to date the track, seemingly eradicating a part of the interpolation of Kelis’s “Milkshake.”
When these kinds of dissatisfactions spill over into the general public eye (or within the worst circumstances, the courts), typically the textual content is about cash however the subtext is about energy. And it has been notable that even Beyoncé, ordinarily past reproach, couldn’t safely traipse throughout the trendy web completely with out incident.
Conversations about who has the correct to borrow from whom — and whether or not it’s acceptable — are heightened when the individual doing the borrowing is among the many strongest figures in pop music. But on “Renaissance,” Beyoncé largely deploys her loans savvily — working with the long-running home music D.J. and producer Honey Dijon, sampling the vastly influential drag queen and musician Kevin Aviance — offering an enormous platform for artists who are sometimes relegated to the margins.
Days after “Renaissance” formally arrived, Beyoncé launched a sequence of remixes of its single, most notably “Break My Soul (The Queens Remix),” which blended her observe with Madonna’s “Vogue.” That 1990 track, after all, represented an early mainstreaming of New York’s queer membership tradition. But Beyoncé introduced new cultural politics to this model, turning Madonna’s roll name of white silver-screen idols right into a catalog of essential Black ladies musicians: Aaliyah, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Santigold, Bessie Smith, Nina Simone and extra. (The concept for the remix seemingly originated with a D.J. named frooty treblez on TikTook, who acquired a miscellaneous manufacturing credit score.)
The remix is electrical, each philosophically and musically — it shows a transparent continuum of the methods by which pop stars are themselves voracious customers, and have been granted sure latitude when their borrowings are perceived as respectful. (Naturally, each Beyoncé and Madonna have acquired some criticism from queer critics who discover their work appropriative.)
Three many years on from “Vogue,” nevertheless, Madonna continues to be demonstrating her ongoing, deep engagement with queer tradition. She lately launched “Material Gworrllllllll!” a collaboration with the rapper Saucy Santana remixing his personal track, “Material Girl” (named, naturally, for her 1984 hit). It’s a little bit of a messy collision — Madonna’s vocals sound as in the event that they’ve been run by form of a hyperpop vocal filter, and her segments of the track really feel extra aspirated than his. It’s peppy however lacks aptitude.
Saucy Santana, a homosexual rapper who first discovered fame on actuality tv after working as a make-up artist for the hip-hop duo City Girls, started attaining TikTook virality a few years in the past. Of his track snippets that gained traction on-line, “Material Girl” was essentially the most vivid, an ode to transactional luxurious simply as uncooked as Madonna’s authentic.
But the wink of the title was his handiest gambit, a manner of linking his insouciance to Madonna’s. This technique spilled over into “Booty,” his most up-to-date single, which is predicated on the identical ecstatic horn pattern as Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love.” Even in a yr by which numerous pop stars have plundered the previous for apparent samples, this was a very audacious maneuver. Especially on condition that the borrowing just isn’t, in actual fact, from “Crazy in Love,” however reasonably from the track that “Crazy in Love” samples, “Are You My Woman? (Tell Me So)” by the Chi-Lites.
Here, once more, the linkage to the previous is a sleight of hand. To the uninitiated, “Booty” appears like an official cosign from Beyoncé herself. To the marginally extra savvy, it’d seem that Beyoncé’s approval was implicit, the results of a behind-the-scenes understanding. Or maybe Saucy Santana merely audaciously outflanked her.
Whichever the case, these borrowings mark Saucy Santana as a pop star who understands that fame is pastiche. He’s constructing a persona from components which can be there for the taking, risking asking forgiveness reasonably than worrying about permission. Or extra succinctly put, doing precisely what the divas earlier than him did.