Renaissance, Beyoncé's first album in six years and first since her world-conquering Lemonade (which we named the 8th best album of the 2010s), is finally here. We don't wanna rush judgement on one of the most widely-anticipated albums of the year, but it's hard not to have some immediate thoughts on something you've been waiting this long for, and here's one: it's really fucking good.

"Creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world," Beyoncé said in a message posted to her website. "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." Renaissance does indeed feel like escapist art, and Beyoncé sounds freer than ever on it. Having made plenty of explicitly political art over the past decade, releasing an album this joyous in the face of *gestures at everything* feels like a political act in and of itself, and a lively album like this might be just what the world needs as we slowly return to the possibility of communal gatherings. "I hope you find joy in this music. I hope it inspires you to release the wiggle," Beyoncé adds. Judging by the universally positive reaction that lead single "Break My Soul" has gotten so far, I have a very good feeling that it will.

As "Break My Soul" hinted, dance music is a clear influence on this album, and that Robin S-sampling lead single isn't the only thumping track on Renaissance that seems destined to move dancefloors. The closing one-two punch of "Pure/Honey" (which samples "Miss Honey" by '90s drag legend Moi Renee) and "Summer Renaissance" (which samples Donna Summer's "I Feel Love") is just as blood-pumping, and songs like "Cozy" and "Move" (which features rising Afrobeats star Tems and the legendary Grace Jones) are fueled by pounding bass too. Most songs also segue directly into the next, giving Renaissance the feel of a seamless DJ mix. But just like on the string of classic albums Beyoncé released in the previous decade, you can't reduce this to one style of music. She goes pure funk on "Cuff It" (which samples Teena Marie's "Square Biz") and "Virgo's Groove," flirts with dancehall on "Energy" (which features Jamaican-American rapper Beam), brings back some self-titled Yoncé vibes with the airy alt-R&B of "Plastic Off the Sofa" and the murky waters of "Thique," embraces trap on "Church Girl," and soars over weirdo futuristic electronics on the A.G. Cook and BloodPop-assisted "All Up In Your Mind." Her powerhouse singing voice is as versatile, dynamic, and towering as ever, and Beyoncé the Rapper shows up on a number of songs too.

Lyrically, Beyoncé cruises through love, self-love, joy, freedom, sex, confidence, dancing, and other feel-good themes that fit the album perfectly. Even the song "America Has A Problem" is not necessarily the protest song you might've expected it to be (or at least not on the surface). (There are some topical lines though, like "Them Karens just turned into terrorists" on "Energy.") The whole thing feels like a weight being lifted from your shoulders, which is something a lot of us could use right now. It's like no Beyoncé album before it and, as has been the case since 4, it's like nothing else currently on the radio. (The dance element shares some traits with Drake's Honestly, Nevermind, but as a whole album, this is in an entirely different ballpark.) As with most Beyoncé albums, Renaissance is probably gonna unravel itself over time, and it's probably full of references and concepts that we haven't caught onto yet. But for right now, we're finding joy in it and releasing the wiggle.

Renaissance is out now via Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia Records. Stream it below.

SEE ALSO: 20 great songs that mix hip hop & dance music not by Beyoncé or Drake.

Tracklist
1. I’M THAT GIRL
2. COZY
3. ALIEN SUPERSTAR
4. CUFF IT
5. ENERGY (FEAT. BEAM)
6. BREAK MY SOUL
7. CHURCH GIRL
8. PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA
9. VIRGO’S GROOVE
10. MOVE (FEAT. GRACE JONES, TEMS)
11. HEATED
12. THIQUE
13. ALL UP IN YOUR MIND
14. AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM
15. PURE/HONEY
16. SUMMER RENAISSANCE

Beyonce Renaissance
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