In case you missed it, Beyoncé’s new album Renaissance is one of her most ambitious albums yet. On this week’s episode of Switched On Pop, we discuss Renaissance with beloved guest Sam Sanders, host of the new Vulture podcast Into It. In Sanders’ words: “it’s trying to do a lot” – but in the best way. The album incorporates seemingly every decade of contemporary popular dance music from Chic’s “Good Times” to Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy.”
Much of the early discourse surrounding the album was marred by a confusing controversy over a small sample (we try to resolve the issue musicologically) – but the references on Renaissance are worth listening closely to, acting as a guide through essential dance music. The album is an homage to the black and queer innovators of dance; with samples and interpolations of songs both niche and mainstream flying by, like a DJ set curated by house music pioneers.
On Renaissance, Beyoncé goes out of her way to cite, credit and compensate her influences, resulting in a triumph of musical curation. Just look at “Alien Superstar”: the song credits twenty-four people, largely due to Beyoncé’s musical nods, rather than an exercise in boardroom style songwriting. Sanders says “the liner notes themselves are showing you that this woman and her team have a PhD in music history.”
Listen to Switched On Pop to hear how Renaissance honors dance music innovators and finds new modes of expression in the genre.
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