Renaissance: Beyonce’s love letter to the Black queer community
by Riggs Zyrille Vergara, Publishing Editor
After what felt like a decade of waiting for the Queen Bee’s comeback, Beyonce has finally released Renaissance, a 16-track incomparable music journey that has its roots in ballroom, vogueing, and Black trans and queer culture that will entice everyone to the dance floor.
Last year, Beyonce revealed that she is working on her seventh studio album in the cover article for Harper’s Bazaar. She said that “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… There’s nothing like the amount of love, passion and healing that I feel in the recording studio,” she added.
Almost a year later, we can see that love permeates through the Act 1 of Renaissance. Before her release, Beyonce published a note on her website thanking people who were a big part of the album’s creation. A notable one is her Uncle Jonny who she calls her “godmother”. Beyonce writes, “A big thank you to my Uncle Jonny. He was my godmother and the first person to expose me to a lot of the music and culture that serve as inspiration for this album. Thank you to all of the pioneers who originate culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long. This is a celebration for you.”
Jonny is a person who’s been impactful in Beyonce’s life growing up. The pop star and her mother Tina Knowles have talked publicly about Jonny many times. He was Tina’s nephew and even helped her create costumes for the Destiny’s Child girls back in the day.
Jonny was gay and HIV-positive. Beyonce talked about his struggle with HIV/AIDS when she accepted the GLAAD Vanguard award back in 2019. She said, “He was brave and unapologetic during a time when this country wasn’t as accepting.”
“Witnessing his battle with HIV was one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever lived. I’m hopeful that his struggle served to open pathways for other young people to live more freely. LGBTQIA rights are human rights,” the Grammy winner added about her gay uncle.
Renaissance being a certain type of disco and house album fits perfectly with Beyonce’s tribute to her gay uncle as so much of this genre is shaped by the Black queer community. Listening to the entirety of this album, it may seem just a heightened club or house album that has so many layers in its mastering, instrumentation and vocals. But if you are someone who is even slightly familiar with the ballroom culture and the art of vogueing from the classic documentary Paris is Burning or the reality competition series Legendary, you can see the similarities of these tracks to the music in this culture dominated by the Black queer and trans community.
Many of her tracks are even sampled from many legendary drag queens and queer artists. An article from Out Magazine outlines all the samples from the sixteen songs and how this is another layer of Beyonce’s tribute to the community. The song “Pure/Honey” alone samples from three notable queer artists. This includes samples from the 1996 song “C*nty” by well-known drag performer and club musician Kevin Aviance, “Feels Like” by ballroom producer and DJ MikeQ and finally, from the ’90s drag and house music legend Moi Renee and other Black queer artists.
With the current reception of the first act of Renaissance, people are definitely excited for the two more incoming acts of this album. But aside from the high energy and craziness we can bring to the dance floor with these tracks, Beyonce has made sure that we can celebrate with her the historical life and love of Black queerness.