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A Guide to the Dance Music on Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’

Beyoncé’s new album, “Renaissance,” is consciously steeped in dance-music historical past, cannily embracing a long time of samples and sounds: the Seventies disco of Donna Summer season and Stylish, Jamaican dancehall, internet-speed hyperpop. She selected collaborators, references and even particular keyboard sounds that pay homage to club-land recollections whereas making her personal Twenty first-century assertion. Listed here are among the sources she celebrates, and an exploration of their significance.

The album’s second and third tracks, “Cozy” and “Alien Famous person,” function writing and manufacturing by the Chicago-born house-music D.J. and producer Honey Dijon. “Cozy” additionally features a writing credit score for Curtis Alan Jones, often called Cajmere or Inexperienced Velvet — one among Chicago home music’s best producers.

That locale is vital right here. Chicago is home music’s birthplace, and Chicago home, particularly, usually strikes with a closely pronounced swing, accentuated by octave-jumping staccato bass patterns. The canonical instance is Adonis’s “No Way Back,” from 1986, and the bass line of “Cozy” performs like an inversion of it. The tune is sort of mnemonically recognizable as early Chicago home with out merely sounding like homage.

On “Alien Superstar,” the cadence of the hook (“I’m too elegant for this world/Endlessly I’m that lady”) is credited to an interpolation of Proper Stated Fred’s dance-floor novelty smash “I’m Too Sexy.” Taylor Swift borrowed the identical half (additionally with credit score) on her 2017 observe “Look What You Made Me Do,” and Drake sampled the 1992 tune on “Approach Too Attractive” from 2021.

There’s one other direct callback on “Cuff It”: The bass line is immediately recognizable because the progeny of Bernard Edwards’s monster riff from Chic’s “Good Times,” a No. 1 hit in 1979, and Edwards’s associate in Stylish, Nile Rodgers, will get credit score for writing and taking part in guitars right here. (On bass and drums: Raphael Saadiq.) As Ken Barnes identified in his liner notes to “The Disco Years Vol. 4: Misplaced in Music,” a compilation on Rhino Information, rewriting Stylish turned a sort of nationwide pastime in the course of the early Eighties, not least by way of early hip-hop and post-disco R&B. This model of the one, two, three (relaxation) is as indebted to the various “Good Instances” rewrites as the unique: the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and Vaughn Mason’s “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll,” for instance.

“Power” options writing and manufacturing from Skrillex, an EDM-festival celebrity by way of the early 2010s recognized for his drops — dramatic buildups that resolve right into a contemporary beat — however since his heyday, he’s largely labored behind the scenes. (See Justin Bieber’s 2015 smash “Where Are Ü Now,” which he made alongside Diplo.) “Power” appears to function on wires; it’s taut minimalism, with the supplest layering of sub-bass tones.

The tune additionally has writing credit for Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, the songwriting and manufacturing duo the Neptunes, recognized for his or her work with a large swath of singers and rappers beginning within the Nineteen Nineties. On Thursday, earlier than the discharge of “Renaissance,” the singer and songwriter Kelis spoke out on social media, saying these credit have been for a pattern of one among her songs (it turned out to be an interpolation of “Milkshake,” from 2003), and that she hadn’t given permission for its use. Kelis wasn’t a credited author or producer on many of the early albums she made with the Neptunes, and didn’t have credit on “Milkshake.” In a 2020 interview with The Guardian she mentioned she had signed an settlement with the duo when she “was too younger and too silly to double-check it.”

The same state of affairs arose with the album’s lead single, “Break My Soul,” which is indebted to the central Korg motif from Robin S.’s pop-house hit “Present Me Love.” However whether or not her 1992 remix was sampled was initially unclear, and for the primary week of the tune’s launch, the credits shifted. (The most recent model says the Beyoncé tune “incorporates parts” of “Present Me Love.”) The Robin S. tune’s afterlife has been strong: Its riff confirmed up within the Brooklyn producer AceMo’s 2019 “Where They At???” that includes John FM, which turned a key underground dance anthem earlier than and in the course of the pandemic, in addition to in latest releases from Charli XCX and Daddy Yankee.

One other key to “Break My Soul” is the shouting of exhortations (“Launch your wiggle!”) by the New Orleans bounce artist Massive Freedia, whom Beyoncé had earlier sampled on “Formation” (2016). Bounce is a New Orleans-bred dance-music fashion that’s dizzyingly quick, bass intensive and heavy on name and response; twerking emerged in response to it.

Beyoncé glances again to the late ’90s once more on “Plastic Off the Couch.” Whereas the majority of the tune is lush digital balladry, there’s a second in its coda that might have come from “glitch” experimental-electronica, the place the tail finish of a vocal run, closely overdubbed, is subjected to a intentionally audible edit. It’s a hair jarring however principally humorous — an audible wink to the listener, one aspect of contemporary pop’s high-tech manufacturing laid naked. (For an instance from the ’90s, see Oval’s album “94diskont,” or the compilation “Clicks + Cuts,” launched in 2000.)

Traditional disco asserts itself on the album’s halfway level. “Virgo’s Groove” options layers of undulating percussion, synthesizer and bass that updates the manufacturing work Quincy Jones did with Michael Jackson — a form of companion piece to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” “Transfer,” the following observe, features a function from Grace Jones — disco royalty, simply in case anybody questioned the place Beyoncé could also be coming from.

Simply as notable on “Transfer” — and much more noticeably on “America Has a Drawback” — is the swarming low finish recognized within the dance world because the “Reese bass.” The time period is a reference to a 1988 file, “Just Want Another Chance” by Reese, one among many aliases utilized by Kevin Saunderson, one of many first producers recognized with Detroit techno within the mid-80s.

In a lot the identical method that “Chicago home” refers not solely to a method and its birthplace but additionally that swinging octave-hopping sound, “Detroit techno” tends to indicate consideration to element and an aura of stressed invention. The heavy-fog low finish of “Simply Need One other Probability” was usually repurposed by London bass-music kinds like jungle, drum & bass, U.Okay. storage and dubstep — what the author Simon Reynolds has referred to as the “hardcore continuum” of Black British musical kinds from city areas that took root on London pirate radio.

Beyoncé’s use of the heavy, undulant Reese bass on “Transfer” and “America Has a Drawback” additional locates the album within the Black dance-music continuum. “Drawback” additionally opens with orchestral stabs, à la Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Power’s landmark electronic-rap observe “Planet Rock” — or, much more aptly given the title and lyrical theme, Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation.”

“Heated” options Beyoncé in commanding neo-dancehall type over a slinky, wood-block-heavy groove. On the finish of the tune, she mentions tapping out tracks along with her fingers on the MPC, an instrument designed by Roger Linn that arrived in 1988. The MPC, made by Akai, isn’t performed with a keyboard, however as a substitute incorporates a sq. grid of pads that set off totally different sounds, and it has grow to be a widespread compositional and efficiency instrument.

“Thique” feels like one thing that may have been throughout dubstep dance flooring within the days earlier than Skrillex, when the subgenre’s distended bass and variable tempos have been primarily the province of British producers. Positive sufficient, the tune’s writing and manufacturing credit embrace an artist influenced by these musicians: Chauncey Hollis Jr., a.ok.a. Hit-Boy, who produced a dubstep-inflected hit on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Watch the Throne” (2011).

The Plasticine sounds of “Thique” segue into the much more closely artificial “All Up in Your Thoughts,” co-produced by A.G. Cook, the primary thoughts behind the London label and artwork collective PC Music, which arrived within the mid-2010s with a sound constructed on fashionable exaggeration: tones that weren’t simply excessive in a machine-music method, however intentionally squeaky. (Sophie, the producer recognized for exhilarating hyperpop who died in 2021, got here from this camp.) “All Up” is futurist robo-pop, with a sub-bass line that appears to be snorkeling beneath the audio system quite than emanating from them.

“Pure/Honey,” subsequent to final, is one other sub-bass monster: The primary half, propelled by a nasty kick drum, is a shocking approximation of techno at its steeliest, or possibly its most “pure.” The “honey” comes on the 2:11 mark, a bulbous neo-disco groove with feathery horns that remembers early Sylvester. The observe runs partially off a pattern of a Kevin Aviance tune subtitled “The Feeling” — one of many key recordings in a queer home sub-style often called “bitch tracks.”

The album’s ultimate observe, “Summer season Renaissance,” options Beyoncé singing, “It’s so good, it’s so good, it’s so good, it’s sooooo good” over a really acquainted pinballing riff — sure, the finale interpolates Donna Summer season’s “I Feel Love,” the 1977 disco hit with an all-synthesizer backdrop and pulsating rhythm that anticipated the longer term sound of dance music. However the primary melodic phrase from “I Really feel Love” sounds prefer it’s being performed on the Korg keyboard that anchors “Break My Soul,” subtly tying two eras collectively in a 3rd one.

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