As Rolling Stone wrote last month, “For at least the past decade, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter has been the world’s greatest living artist.” The African-American pop star has achieved unique celebrity status like other mega pop stars Madonna, Cher, Britney and Adele.

Beyoncé’s World

Our obsession with stardom centers around the “search” for the “authentic” person behind the fabricated persona in pop videos.

Beyoncé’s Visual Album (2013) was a sign of the growing personal intimacy of Beyoncé’s stardom and her transition to actively creating and owning an intimate, identifiable, and holistic world.

Other contemporary pop stars build an “authentic” star image by sharing intimate details of their lives via social media or semi-autobiographical albums and music videos. But Beyonce’s social media posts are notoriously organized and low-key about her private life. She rarely posts captions and favors fashion shots of herself over “authentic” no-makeup selfies (although she wrote a lengthy caption to launch the Renaissance album – a rarity).

This is Beyoncé’s world. We just live in it

Lemonade (2016) was Beyoncé’s most personal album. He addressed the infidelities of her husband, rapper and music mogul Jay-Z, as well as her own personal outrage at racial injustices in the United States. Beyoncé World isn’t the messy, no-makeup selfies or confession videos of other stars. It’s a more curated, high-fashion, high-art, and high-concept world for fans to take part in.

Caring for the Beyhive

Beyoncé’s work is still causing a stir but her seventh solo album, Renaissance, was leaked online 36 hours before its scheduled release. Fans in France were able to purchase CD versions two days before its scheduled release.

But Beyoncé has such a loyal fan base that some of her die-hard fans (called the “Beyhive”) thought it blasphemous to listen in early, posting instructions on social media to wait. If this is Beyoncé’s world, you have to play by Beyoncé’s rules, and Beyhives are a cornerstone of upholding those rules.

Being “aware” of the specific visual and musical references the star makes (in each release) helps fans get into the world-building process – and they certainly want to interpret her art the way she intended.

Her last two solo albums have been both surprises: Beyoncé’s groundbreaking digital downfall and the politically charged celebration of black women in Lemonade. (She also directed, wrote and produced the film/visual album and celebration of Black Excellence, Black is King in 2020, to accompany the Lion King remake.)

Renaissance received more of a traditional marketing buildup. The lead single, Break My Soul, was released on June 21, and the full track list and album cover were posted on her Instagram ahead of the album’s release. While she’s been teasing images for the album for months, some have been hoping for a visual album — or music video for every song on the album — like her previous two solo releases.

Beyoncé has yet to release any music videos for Renaissance, except for lyric-only videos. This either means the star is set to release a Renaissance visual album, or she has bigger plans for a longer musical film project.

Renaissance woman

Renaissance is Beyoncé’s first solo album in over five years and her first all-dance album. Much of his success is due to his ability to constantly reinvent himself and his music, borrowing from all genres and collaborating with a range of hit-makers and unusual musical artists.

Renaissance spans many genres, references many musical touchstones, and pays significant homage to African American dance music creators and LGBTQI+ dancehall culture. The album includes nods to 1970s disco queen Donna Summer and New Orleans bouncing music icon Big Freedia, as well as a collaboration with Grace Jones on the track Move.

Renaissance crosses disco, funk, techno, hip-hop, house, dancehall, afrobeats and ballroom. Besides Jones, Beyoncé has worked with a wide range of collaborators, including Drake, The-Dream, Honey Dijon, Skrillex, Syd, Hit-Boy, Mike Dean, and AG Cook, among others.

As Renaissance celebrates diversity in dance music, the star was called out for using an ability slur in the song Heated, and has now announced she will be removing the lyrics. It might be Beyonce’s world, but that doesn’t mean she won’t listen to her fans.

Lemonade came out at a time of great political upheaval in America and spoke directly to the Black Lives Matter movement. Renaissance is less overtly political and more of a celebration of a post-pandemic opportunity to hit the dance floor. She hopes it will inspire fans to “liberate the movement”.

Beyoncé World is not only created by the star and her team, but also by fans connecting the dots between her social media, website, Renaissance and their own real world. They will know how not to take this album too seriously, and imagine themselves on the dancefloor with Queen B.

The author is Senior Lecturer in Screen Media, University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia
Republished from The Conversation

Posted in Dawn, ICON, August 7, 2022


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