Since the beginning of June, the BeyHive has been buzzing. Recently, diehard Beyoncé fans have noticed mysterious updates from her official website, including the cryptic question “What is a B7?” The unrivaled singer-songwriter even removed her profile picture on social media accounts, sending fans into a frenzy and guessing that her next album was soon to come.
Now, the wait is over. Last Thursday (June 16), Beyoncé’s seventh album Renaissance was announced, along with mystery box sets on her website with their own respective ‘Pose’ and a surprise British Vogue cover story written by author and journalist Edward Enninful. The writer, who last profiled Beyoncé for British Vogue in December 2020 during her Adidas x Ivy Park “Drip 2” launch, had a chance to preview Renaissance while visiting The Carters’ family home in Los Angeles. Enninful teased that the album was filled with “soaring vocals and fierce beats,” that would turn listeners’ attention to “cultures and subcultures, to our people past and present, music that will unite so many on the dance floor.”
As fans piece together the potential soundscapes of Renaissance, the release of the album’s first single “Break My Soul” has confirmed that Beyoncé is headed towards a dance-fueled era. Co-produced by Beyoncé, The Dream and Tricky Stewart, the track features an obvious inspiration from 1993 house-pop Robin S. classic “Show Me Love,” also paying homage to New Orleans bounce with a sample of Big Freedia’s 2014 track “Explode.” Along with “Soul,” fans have also speculated that the four ‘Pose’ box sets represent Renaissance being a four-part album, paying tribute to different eras of dance music.
However, the unveiling of ‘B7’ is different from Beyoncé’s previous releases in the last decade – she’s returned to a long album rollout, instead of the surprise album standard she set in the prior decade. In 2013, her eponymous album amassed 617,000 albums sales in just three days after its entirely unexpected overnight Friday release, going on to sell 2.38 million in album sales and 5.87 million in total equivalent album units. It also marked Beyoncé’s second album release on Parkwood Entertainment – the first being 4, which boasted 1.59 million in album sales and 4.08 million in total equivalent album units, but arguably didn’t have staying power like Beyoncé. The surprise album release helped reinvigorate Beyoncé’s career, while setting a new model for generating instant buzz through sneak-releases for top artists for the remainder of the decade.
Beyoncé’s last four album releases, Beyoncé, Lemonade, Homecoming, and The Lion King: The Gift have featured a surprise visual album – but with show-stopping visuals and marketing behind Renaissance, fans could anticipate something even greater. With the hype around Beyoncé having a longer album rollout, the Renaissance is in full swing. Here’s a list of five reasons why she might have gone the longer route this time.
Going against the new norm
Many artists have tried, but few have replicated the success of an unannounced album drop like Beyoncé. Since her 2013 eponymous album, some artists have recreated the attempt, but faltered without the same level of connection with their fanbase or anticipation over new music to build from. With other artists going the surprise album route post-Beyoncé, the rollout strategy has become diluted.
So instead of repeating what’s expected and continuing the same nontraditional streak as her last four solo albums – along with her 2018 Everything Is Love collaborative album with husband Jay-Z – Beyoncé has opted for a strategic rollout this time around. Separating from the pack while generating hype around Renaissance, Queen Bey is allowing fans time to refamiliarize themselves with her through singles, her British Vogue editorial and ‘Pose’ box sets.
Putting the emphasis back on physical sales and bundles
On Beyoncé’s official website, four ‘Pose’ box sets were up for grabs, but as of Monday (June 20), ‘Pose 1’ and ‘Pose 4’ are sold out. With orders being shipped on July 29th “upon album release,” each box set costs $39 for a t-shirt, CD, mini-poster and 28-page photo booklet. Beyoncé has given fans a month to preorder box sets before the album’s arrival, mindful of fans affected by inflation. While her album and touring plans were halted amid the COVID outbreak, she spent the pandemic launching her Adidas x Ivy Park collaboration, harnessing the loyalty of her longtime fans and achieving record-breaking sales for the athleisure line.
As artists have found success with the return of vinyl releases and merch bundles, the decline of digital sales in the age of streaming has made purchasing digital albums nearly irrelevant. Physical releases have become more of a sales driver and Beyoncé is taking it back to the boombox and Walkman era with a Renaissance CD – and as box sets are being prepared for shipments, additional merch could be unveiled soon.
Dropping hints about the album through editorials
Although Beyoncé broke the internet with her British Vogue editorial, she founder saved the full interview for the July issue’s physical release. The article follows rollouts from contemporary pop acts like Future and Adele, who have been featured in publications like GQ, British Vogue and Vogue prior to the release of their latest albums. While Beyoncé has since released new single “Break My Soul,” her British Vogue feature was an introduction to ‘Act 1’ of Renaissance, with the singer-songwriter donning elaborate hairstyles and outfits. In the full British Vogue article, fans are likely to learn more about Beyoncé’s new era, as she continues to build buzz for her latest transformation.
Prepping fans for a return to live performances
In 2021, it was rumored that Beyoncé had scrapped plans of a groundbreaking world tour for a virtual live show, which also did not come into fruition. Beyoncé last performed live in 2018 during her On the Run II global tour with Jay-Z, their debut collaborative album Everything Is Love having a surprise release while the two had a stop at the London Stadium. Beyoncé’s last televised performance was during the Oscars 2022, though her last completely live performance came back in 2020 at Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s Celebration of Life memorial at Staples Center. During an interview with Harper’s Bazaar last year, Beyoncé teased the title of her seventh album while opening up about her stresses of being on the road, although she hadn’t toured in three years at the time.
With concert venues opening back up and Beyoncé having teased that her new music will be a shift from “isolation and injustice,” it’s likely that Renaissance will spark her first tour in four years. If she doesn’t tour, then a residency could be held instead, as Beyoncé will be able to showcase her extravagant Renaissance experience — with fans already being acclimated to her new music due to a longer rollout.
Extending the album’s shelf life
The surprise releases of Beyoncé and Lemonade made for statement albums, but the anticipation of Renaissance can possibly extend what may become Beyoncé’s last release for a while. To date, Beyoncé’s 2003 debut album Dangerously in Love has been her most successful in terms of album sales, with 5.14 million credited to physical CD sales. At 8.19 million, the double-LP set I Am…Sasha Fierce is Beyoncé’s highest in album equivalent sales, with both that album and Dangerously in Love adhering to a traditional rollout, with singles and music videos before full release.
All of Beyoncé’s albums have satiated fans with classic material, but with Renaissance just one month away – as with the album’s title and reportedly retro-minded vibes – Beyoncé could be nodding towards an innovative throwback release to when she first became the biggest pop star on the planet.