A few hours before the release of Beyoncé’s RENAISSANCE last night, her label, Parkwood, released a statement confirming that there will be NO VISUALS, for now, to accompany the album.
“The originator of the visual album format, and the preeminent visual artist, decided to lead without visuals giving fans the opportunity to be limitless in their expansive listening journey. It is a chance again to be listeners and not viewers, while taking in every gem of the pristine production.”
Lyric videos for all 16 tracks on RENAISSANCE are now available but, again, the visuals are missing. As Taylor Crumpton told The Guardian this week, “Beyoncé moves with intention,” so the decision to NOT release a single visual video for any of her new songs is deliberate and meant to amplify the spirit of the work – Beyoncé is asking us to be “limitless” in our “expansive listening journey” but also, since RENAISSANCE is a tribute to the history of queer Black club life, and club music in its original era was heard before it was seen, delivering the work this way is meant to carry forward that energy into the present and future. It’s throwback energy through and through. Beyoncé is spotlighting the Black queer pioneers of the club, and she is telling us that to fully appreciate how her work is an extension of theirs, we should listen to the music instead of watching it, to feel it with our bodies instead of looking at it on our screens.
According to the press release, “the visuals are scheduled for a later date” so, of course, we’ll eventually get all the looks, but she obviously doesn’t want the sound to be first defined by our eyes. That, too, is its own “renaissance”, since so much of what we do, collectively, is via our devices; and here is the Queen of Culture telling us to go back to how dance music was meant to be experienced – dance begins with what you hear, aural stimulation spreading and connecting to all the parts of us that make us whole, eventually giving way to the “wiggle”, a full physical release set to her seamless sixteen song soundtrack.
Because this album FLOWS. This is CLUB RENAISSANCE and Beyoncé is our host and the DJ – all you have to do, really, is hit play on RENAISSANCE and lose yourself for an hour. The six song opening stretch from “I’m That Girl” to “Break My Soul” is a relentless kick-off that builds and builds, keeping you on the dancefloor (or, in my case this morning, on the treadmill) with a constant injection of classic beats on fresh spins; before Beyoncé the dance boss expertly serves a moment for a breather in between “Break My Soul” and “Church Girl”, switching up the groove and the mood without losing any momentum. Until she cranks it back up again on “Move” for another high funky streak until she closes on “Summer Renaissance”. It's cohesive, smooth, organic – total sonic cohesion, and an exhilarating display of her musicianship and artistic genius.
And we’ve been promised more of it.
As we now know, RENAISSANCE is the first of a three-act project so there’s speculation now about the other two acts, and whether or not at least one of them will be the visual accessories to the 16 songs. Obviously we won’t know until she decides we’re ready to know and right now, all she needs us to know is that, well, Beyoncé definitely wasn’t pleased this week about the leak. But even in her acknowledgement of the leak it became a flex of her cultural power:
Beyoncé is not happy with those who tried to “sneak into the club early” – and they will have to live with that disappointment – but in expressing her disdain for the leakers, she emphasises the loyalty and the ferocity of the Beyhive for shutting it down, for mobilising in formation to protect her, as always. How can she be hurt when her soldier-bees are always armed and ready?
And now it doesn’t matter anymore because the RENAISSANCE has begun. This is a dance movement – and the movement exists on multiple levels. Dance is about motion, allowing your body to express your mind and your mood. In that expression, though, particularly in the club, where members of the Black queer community thrived in the face of oppression, the dance floor is a safe space, the dance floor is home, the dance floor is the soul, the source of inspiration and creativity, of joy and exuberance and life. Beyoncé’s RENAISSANCE is a celebration of those values and its own form of resistance.
RENAISSANCE is the party and it is the club. And what she’s saying with this album is that you can’t stop the party and you will never shut down the club.
More on Beyoncé’s RENAISSANCE in the days to come.