Countdown to Beyoncé’s The Renaissance: Act I (Non-Leaked)

Queen Bey. Photo: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/Shutterstock

I’ve prayed for days like these. Days when Beyoncé announces her seventh studio album. The last time she dropped a solo project was six years ago. Obama was still president, I lived in a college dorm with 59 cents in my bank account, and Blue Ivy was just beginning her career as Yoncé’s manager. The visual triumph that was Lemonade bubbled with ideas about Black art and maternity, infidelity and the pain of forgiveness, and, most important, fits inspired by Julie Dash’s film Daughters of the Dust. In the years that followed, she had twins, stunned with Homecoming — a concert film documenting her 2018 Coachella performance — and kept up with her tradition of celebrity birthday wishes. And now she’s taking us out of the cold, dark, somewhat Beyoncé-less Middle Ages into the Renaissance. This era will be fruitful: Hours ahead of the album’s release, the Queen decreed that the project consists of three acts in an open letter to fans.

Here’s everything we know about the upcoming album (resisting the leaks).

Renaissance: Act I officially drops Friday, July 29, at midnight. Leakers beat Yoncé to it.

At 1:22 a.m. ET on June 16, Tidal — Beyoncé’s husband’s music-streaming venture — announced the new album. There was much speculation about an album announcement earlier this month, when Beyoncé deleted her profile pictures on her social-media pages on June 9. Shortly thereafter, she teased “B7” with cryptic — and frankly sort of annoying (Beyoncé, I’m fragile, please don’t mess with me) — posts on her website. The since-deleted posts appeared by typing “June 10” or “June 11” into the search bar of her site and seemed to be placeholders for an album captioned “B7.”

Despite what appeared to be an airtight rollout, the album apparently leaked on July 27, just two days before the planned release. The tracks spread like wildfire across the internet to the dismay (or satisfaction) of many a fan. The leak even ignited a movement from the BeyHive to report the bootlegs to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for piracy. The Hive flooded leak-related search terms on Twitter with tiny.urls linking the would-be pirates to her online store to purchase the physicals. Other fans simply wrote a good tweet about the whole affair.

What does the album art look like?

“Creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world,” Beyoncé wrote in her caption unveiling the artwork, an homage to Bianca Jagger’s Studio 54 entrance on horseback. “It allowed me to feel free and adventurous in a time when little else was moving. My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, release, feel freedom. It was a beautiful journey of exploration. I hope you find joy in this music. I hope it inspires you to release the wiggle. Ha! And to feel as unique, strong, and sexy as you are.” Beyoncé officially wants you to release not only your job, but your wiggle as well.

How many tracks are on Renaissance?

Eagle-eyed fans found the Apple Music page for the new album, which appears to show a 16-track studio album. Songs one through four, seven, nine, and 11 through 16 are all listed as explicit, so here’s to hoping we get some pussy-popping music or something where she’s mad as hell or both. Anything fun for the girls to dance and get ready to. The first single, “Break My Soul,” dropped on June 20 with a Robin S. influence and Big Freedia feature. The full track list of 16 songs was revealed exactly a month later on July 20. Claim your song below — mine is “Plastic Off the Sofa,” because it reminds me of my grandma’s house.

Who’s credited on Renaissance?

Fans dug up the list of credited composers on July 21 after spotting the track-by-track credits on the album’s profile on Apple Music. Notable credits include samples from Donna Summer, Teena Marie, Kilo Ali, the Clark Sisters, Giorgio Moroder, James Brown, and Moi Renee. The-Dream, Honey Dijon, Nile Rodgers, Skrillex, Raphael Saadiq, Big Freedia, the Neptunes, No ID, Drake, and Syd are also listed as composers. Although Bey reportedly screened her collaborators for Me Too-related accusations of abuse and harassment, Sabrina Claudio — whose allegedly racist tweets came back to haunt her in 2018 — made the cut.

Who’s featured on Renaissance?

On July 22, Beyoncé shared a stop-motion video on her socials, revealing the album’s vinyl edition. With it came the full list of features — Beem makes an appearance on “Energy,” while Tems and Grace Jones show up on “Move.” In the past, Jones has written that “middle of the road” pop stars like Beyoncé and Rihanna are influenced by her artistry, and she refused to collaborate even when one of them offered. Perhaps Jones finally accepted. Anyway, hope these collabs include visuals!

What will Renaissance sound like?

In British Vogue’s July cover story, the magazine describes Beyoncé’s new music as “soaring” with a long preamble about how it reminds one of clubbing in their youth. “I want to get up and start throwing moves,” British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful wrote. “Music that makes you rise, that turns your mind to cultures and subcultures, to our people past and present, music that will unite so many on the dance floor, music that touches your soul.” Not sure if that’s a sound, but perhaps it means we’re getting something disco-y. A “Blow” part two, perhaps? When else can we dream?

Speaking of genre, the Apple Music page for the new album lists it under the “pop” category. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be delusional and hope we’re also getting rapper Beyoncé, “Partition” Beyoncé, and “Savage” Beyoncé. The North remembers you can rap, Ms. Knowles-Carter, and we very much would like you to do so on this next record.

The Beyhive also speculated that instrumentals from Ivy Park ads might be from songs in her new album.

What has Beyoncé said about Renaissance?

Beyoncé, unbeknownst to us, teased the album title in her Harper’s Bazaar cover story last August. “With all the isolation and injustice over the past year, I think we are all ready to escape, travel, love, and laugh again. I feel a renaissance emerging, and I want to be part of nurturing that escape in any way possible,” she told the magazine. “I’ve been in the studio for a year and a half. Sometimes it takes a year for me to personally search through thousands of sounds to find just the right kick or snare. One chorus can have up to 200 stacked harmonies.”

In an open letter to fans ahead of the July 29 release, Beyoncé described her creative process as borne out of the still-raging pandemic. “A time to be still, but also a time I found to be the most creative. Creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world,” she wrote. “It allowed me to feel free and adventurous in a time when little else was moving. My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, release, feel freedom. It was a beautiful journey of exploration.” The three-act project promises to bring some much-needed joy to a decidedly hellish moment.

This post has been updated.

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