Beyonce has released Renaissance, her first full-length solo album since 2016.
The sprawling 16-track record features contributions from her husband Jay-Z, Drake, producer Skrillex and The-Dream and, as always, features a number of moments certain to spark cultural conversations.
Here are four takeaways from Renaissance:
– Renaissance is only Act 1 of an upcoming trilogy.
The album was announced last month with the prefix Act I, suggesting it was part of a larger project, and Beyonce confirmed this in the liner notes on Friday.
It will be followed by two further acts written and recorded amid a particularly creative period during the height of the Covid pandemic.
Fans have speculated about whether the two unreleased records will follow in the footsteps of Act 1 and be dance music-focused.
Other have suggested that, if Act 1 looks back to the black roots of dance music, then Act 2 could explore the present, and Act 3 the future.
– Renaissance pays tribute to the LGBT roots of dance music
Beyonce uses the album to pay tribute to the community from which house and techno emerged in the 1980s, and features trangender DJ Honey Dijon and lesbian R&B star Syd.
The liner notes contain an emotive passage about her uncle Jonny, who is reported to have died from complications from HIV.
She wrote: “A big thank you to my Uncle Jonny. He was my godmother and the first person to expose me to a lot of the music and culture that serve as inspiration for this album.
“Thank you to all of the pioneers who originate culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognised for far too long. This is a celebration for you.”
– Dance music is enjoying a resurgence
Both Beyonce and Drake have drawn on house music for recent projects.
Renaissance was preceded by the house-influenced single Break My Soul, while the album also features disco, Afrobeats and R&B.
Drake also adopted house and Baltimore club music for his recent album Honestly, Nevermind.
All this could prompt other pop artists to follow suit and incorporate dance music into their work this summer.
– Beyonce’s connection with her fans remains as strong as ever
After her fourth studio album, titled 4, was leaked on the internet in full in 2011, Beyonce took to releasing her albums with little or no warning.
She chose to eschew this technique with Renaissance and announce the album with more than a month’s notice.
But the release of Renaissance was jeopardised after it leaked online two days before its official release.
Following reports that Beyonce’s team had worked to scrub the leak from the internet, she released a statement thanking her fans, known as the Beyhive, for calling out “anyone that was trying to sneak into the club early”.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. I can’t thank y’all enough for your love and protection,” she said.