The pop star we need right now

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Are you ready to “let go of the wiggle”? Beyoncé’s new album will soon test America’s appetite for dance and its ability to adapt to the times.

But first, here are three new stories from Atlantic.


Irreplaceable

When Beyoncé’s seventh solo album, Renaissancearrives on Friday, we’ll find out what pop’s most ingenious superstar has been up to for six years, and if she still has the power to stop the world.

It was April 2016 when Beyoncé unveiled her latest solo album, Lemonade, with an HBO special. In addition to delivering musically eclectic anthems with intricate videos, Beyoncé also rocked audiences with gossip (lyrics seemed to reveal her husband, Jay-Z’s infidelity) and social message (poetry and imagery pondering the struggles History of Black Women in America). Blending songwriting, film, memoir, politics and marketing to a very high standard, she had once again proven the capabilities of pop as a total art form, or at least as a rich storytelling medium.

Beyoncé didn’t exactly disappear after that. A glorious Coachella performance, a love rap album made with her husband and a deeply ambitious project Lion King the related soundtrack/movie all arrived within the last few years. Beyoncé also spent that time building a casual wear empire and raising three children. Still, fans are dreaming of another solo album, as solo albums tend to be Beyoncé’s most important and enduring works. They featured all-time classic singles such as “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and “Crazy in Love”. They popularized innovations such as the surprise album, visual album, and phrase i woke up like this.

Still, 2016 was a long time ago – does Beyoncé still matter like she once did? TikTok and streaming have made celebrities more accessible, audiences more fractured, and popularity more fleeting than ever. Beyoncé’s famous royal persona is arguably out of step with a zeitgeist in which performers are rewarded for taking selfie videos in their bathrooms.

But the current absence of Beyoncé-esque characters—demanding, elegant, unknowable—is precisely what makes her new album such an intriguing prospect. Plus, she knows how to create art that fits her moment and drives it forward. For nearly two decades now, his albums have seemed less designed to dominate radio than to dominate cultural conversation.

This time around, she may also be aiming to get people moving their bodies. Judging by the clues she’s uncovered so far, the sound of Renaissance will channel the history of dance culture, drawing inspiration from discotheques, raves and maybe even jazz joints of the 1920s. Orléans Big Freedia’s first single, “Break My Soul”, performed very well on the Billboard Hot 100. The production credits for RenaissanceUnreleased songs from include dance legends such as Donna Summer, Grace Jones, Nile Rodgers and (here’s a curveball) Skrillex. Shortly after a Drake album’s foray into house music, Renaissance may signal a change in cultural mood: long-fashioned trap and R&B beats could give way to a fast, fun beat.

However, the album will surely not be a hedonistic explosion. Beyoncé’s music is distinguished by its important themes, her voice full of personality and her talent for stylistic juxtaposition. “Break My Soul” mixes rap, house, bounce and more in a four-plus-minute epic about burnout, hard work and resilience. By focusing on dance music, it shines a light on one of the art forms that has helped black people and other marginalized communities survive and thrive over generations. She also pleads to let go in tense moments. “My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgement” with this album, wrote Beyoncé on Instagram. “A place to be free from perfectionism and reflection.” Who doesn’t need a place like this in 2022?

Related:


Today’s news
  1. The European Union has agreed to cut natural gas consumption after Russia cut supplies to Germany.
  2. Prior to January 6, advisers to Donald Trump sent emails regarding plans involving “fake” electoral votes.
  3. St. Louis, Missouri, surpassed its all-time high for single-day precipitation.

Dispatches

Evening reading
(Paramount+/Netflix; Joanne Imperio/The Atlantic)

The Dirtbag is back

By Adrienne Matei

This summer, the “salettes” invaded the screens. You recognize them when you see them. A paragon of the form is Eddie Munson of stranger things: Repeating his senior year of high school, Eddie sells weed, runs the Dungeons and Dragons club, and hits most of the townspeople like a plausible Satanist. He is by turns zany and intimidating, in love with heavy metal and a mule whose smells of stale beer one imagines. In the new series from FX/Hulu the bearthe protagonist, Carmy, represents another version of the dirty archetype – a tattooed, greasy type of man who seems unsteady but exerts a certain allure.

Read the article completely.

More Atlantic


cultural break
collage of Victoria's Secret catalogs
(Astrid Stawiarz/Getty; New York Daily News Archive/Getty; Joanne Imperio/The Atlantic)

Lily. by Elvia Wilk Death by Landscape argues that giving space to the strange can help us reconsider our relationship to nature.

Look. Victoria’s Secret: Angels and DemonsHulu’s new documentary, asks why we bought what the brand was selling.

Play our daily crosswords.


PS

Filling in the Daily today was a nice break from working on another Beyoncé-related piece I’ll be posting soon, about the history of dance music. Want some recommended music for this so-called summer of clubbing? To travel back in time to some of the most liberated raves of all time, check out this newly discovered collection of tapes from decades of DJ sets on Fire Island and New York. If you need a rush of adrenaline, fire up this explosive 2022 mix Pride from futuristic producer Doss (and if you need something cooler, try his dreamy 2021 EP). Finally: I won’t soon forget a party I was at last month where DJ, Ash Lauryn, picked up Casamena’s two-step remix of Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul,” giving off a sense of melancholy that is submerged in the original.

-Spencer

Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.

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