As Rolling Stone wrote last month, “For at least the past decade, Beyoncé Gisele Knowles-Carter has been the greatest living artist in the world.”
The African American pop star has reached her eponymous fame as other giant pop stars Madonna, Cher, Britney and Adele.
Her long and highly successful career as a girl group Destiny’s Child (1990-2006) and as a solo artist (2003-present) has been filled with pop-cultural “moments” and record-breaking releases.
As I’ve written elsewhere, Beyoncé’s stardom is an interesting form of world building. World-building, or “globalization,” is the continuous construction and maintenance of astrology through the creation of an intimate, recognizable, and inclusive world around the star–not just a single stellar image.
Audiences participate in Beyoncé’s construction of the world the same way we watch the movie. We know it’s “made-up” but we want to believe it’s real – or at least go along with it on the journey.
Read more: Ten Years of Beyoncé: A decade that caused all this talk.
Our obsession with celebrity centers around the “search” for the “authentic” person behind the made-up character in popular videos.
Beyoncé’s Visual Album (2013) marked the increasingly personal intimate relationship of Beyoncé’s stars, her transition to energetic creativity and ownership of an intimate, distinctive and inclusive world.
The World of Beyoncé is created and maintained primarily through Beyoncé’s music videos and visual albums, as well as through her concerts, shows, public appearances, social media accounts, and website.
Other contemporary pop stars build an “original” star image by sharing intimate details of their lives via social media or biographical albums and music videos.
But Beyoncé’s social media posts are known to be organized and sealed about her private life.
She rarely posts comments about her and prefers fashion-forward photos of herself rather than “original” makeup-free selfies (although she did write a long commentary for her Renaissance album launch – which is a rarity).
Lemonade (2016) was Beyoncé’s most personal album. She addressed the infidelities of her husband, rapper and music mogul Jay-Z, as well as her personal anger at racial injustice in the United States.
Beyoncé’s World isn’t messy, no-makeup selfies, or confession videos of other stars. It’s a more curated, high-end, high-art and high-concept world for fans to participate in.
READ MORE: Black Madonna: Beyoncé presents positive image of ‘good’ motherhood
Beyoncé’s work always causes quite a stir, but her seventh solo album, Renaissance, leaked online 36 hours before its scheduled release. Fans in France were able to purchase the CD versions two days before the scheduled release.
But Beyoncé has a loyal fan base as some of her die-hard fans (called “Beyhive”) thought it was blasphemous to listen earlier than Queen B intended, posting instructions on social media to wait.
If this is the world of Beyoncé, you need to play by the rules of Beyoncé, and Beyhive is the main cornerstone for maintaining these rules.
Being “aware” of the star’s specific visual and musical references (in each individual output) helps fans get into the world-building process – and they definitely want to interpret her art the way she intended.
Her past two solo albums have been surprises: Beyoncé’s digital internet drop, and the politically charged celebration of black women in lemonade. (She has also directed, written, and produced the film/video album Celebrating Black Excellence, Black is King in 2020, to accompany the edition of The Lion King.)
The Renaissance received more traditional marketing construction.
The lead single, Break My Soul, was released on June 21, and the full song list and album cover were posted on her Instagram prior to the album’s release.
While she’s been teasing album photos for months, some have been hoping for a visual album — or a music video for every song on the album — like her previous two singles.
Beyoncé has yet to release any Renaissance music videos, other than videos that contain only the lyrics. This either means the star is about to release a Renaissance visual album or has bigger plans for a longer music movie project.
Read more: Beyoncé’s Lemonade Smoothie: Tell It All or Something Sparkling Art, Soap Opera?
Renaissance is Beyoncé’s first solo album in over five years, and her first full-length dance album.
Much of her success is due to her ability to constantly reinvent herself and her music, borrowing from all genres and collaborating with a range of extraordinary songmakers and music artists.
Covering many genres, Renaissance notes many musical touches and honors the creators of African American dance music and LGBTQI culture + dancehall.
The album includes nods to ’70s disco queen Donna Summer and New Orleans bounce music icon Big Freedia, as well as a collaboration with Grace Jones on the track Move.
The Renaissance traverses disco, funk, techno, hip-hop, house, ballroom, afrobeat and ballroom. Apart from Jones, Beyoncé has worked with a wide range of collaborators including Drake, The-Dream, Honey Dijon, Skrillex, Syd, Hit-Boy, Mike Dean, AG Cook, and others.
While the Renaissance celebrates diversity in dance music, the star has been called upon for her capable slanderous use in the song Heated, and has now announced that she will remove the lyric. It may be Beyoncé’s world, but that doesn’t mean she won’t listen to her fans.
Lemonade came out during a period of great political turmoil in America and directly addressed the Black Lives Matter movement. The Renaissance is less overtly political and more celebration of the post-pandemic opportunity to hit the dance floor. She hopes that will inspire fans to “Run the Pulse.”
Beyoncé World is not only created by the star and her team, but also by fans who connect the dots between her social media, website, the Renaissance, and their real world.
They’ll know not to take this album too seriously, and fantasize about themselves on the dance floor with Queen B.
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