After six excruciating weeks, Beyoncé’s Renaissance has finally emerged. Her first solo studio album since 2016’s Lemonade, Renaissance boasts collaborations with Grace Jones and Tems, lifts from Donna Summer and Teena Marie, and the seismic lead single “Break My Soul.”
Since its release, “Break My Soul” has been hailed as the unofficial anthem for “The Great Resignation” and spent four weeks in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking thus far at No. 7. “Soul,” which draws inspiration from Robin S.’s seminal “Show Me Love,” set the tone for what turned out to be Beyoncé’s most danceable album yet. Each song on Renaissance flows seamlessly into the next as Beyoncé reclaims her joy through an awe-inspiring combination of gospel, bounce, house, afrobeats, funk, and more.
Anchored by the most nuanced vocal performances of her career thus far, Renaissance infuses the superstar’s new sonic arena with the brassy bombast of 2006’s B’Day. The Grammy-winner’s seventh LP feels like an endless club night — a night that’s, in Beyoncé’s own words, “unique, strong, and sexy.” Renaissance is Beyoncé like we’ve never heard her before, yet the references to her past albums root her latest offering in a feeling of familiarity. Innovation is always the name of the game when it comes to Beyoncé, and Renaissance may be her strongest example yet.
With 15 new songs in addition to “Break My Soul,” Queen Bey has gifted us a hefty chunk of new music to soundtrack our foreseeable future. From unapologetic odes to Black queer Southern culture to relentlessly carnal slow jams, Renaissance nimbly shifts through different moods and energies without missing a single beat.
Below, Billboard ranks every track from Beyoncé’s new album.
Brooding synths and urgent bass bookmark “Thique.” One of the songs that appear in the back half of the album, “Thique” finds Beyoncé and her collaborators sauntering through lyrics that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Chlöe single. “Thique” walks in the spirit of “Bootylicious,” and Beyoncé’s raspy vocal contrasts nicely with the sleek production. This song will make you want to get up and strut and dance, but there are even better things in store on Renaissance.
One of the two non-solo tracks on Renaissance, “Energy” is a raucous collaboration with none other than Jamaican-American singer-rapper BEAM. “Energy,” with its ferocious drums and cutting vocal delivery, provides an inimitable bridge between “Cuff It” and “Break My Soul.” “Cause them Karens just turned into terrorists,” is all but certain to be one of the most talked-about lyrics on the album, but that’s more of a testament to Beyoncé’s ability to weld seemingly disparate thoughts and moods into one unique track. “Energy” functions well as an interlude; it’s (appropriately) a support beam for neighboring songs, and still a grand ole time in its own right.
14. “I’M THAT GIRL”
No stranger to impressive album openers like 2016’s “Pray You Catch Me,” Beyoncé transcends the expected pressures of an album opener with “I’m That Girl.” Instead, “Beyoncé” delivers an ever-evolving manifesto of self-worth. From moments anchored by hypnotic rap flows to the punchy “please, motherf–kers ain’t stoppin’ me” refrain, “I’m That Girl” is confirmation that Beyoncé truly is That Girl™ — as if we needed any further reminders.
Beyoncé rarely does the expected. With “Cozy,” she breathes new life into the standard self-love dance anthem by weaving her lyrics around thumping bass hits by way of ballroom-inspired vocal delivery. As she does elsewhere on Renaissance, Beyoncé leans into the commanding presence and nimble musicality of ballroom emcees. There are thematic echoes of 2019’s The Lion King: The Gift, but the near-constant shapeshifting of “Cozy” keeps it staunchly in the realm of Renaissance.
12. “AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM”
When Beyoncé initially revealed the tracklist for Renaissance, some fans expressed fear that the song would continue down the overtly political path Queen Bey charted with “Formation” and “Black Parade.” If it hasn’t been clear by now, Beyoncé will always do what you don’t expect her to do: On this track, she is America’s problem, because she’s simply too fine for the country to handle. The skittish track uses a sample of Kilo Ali’s “Cocaine” to provide a canvas for some of the best rapping of Beyoncé’s career; it’s an ambitious song that reveals new rewards with every listen.
11. “ALL UP IN YOUR MIND”
Virtually nobody could have seen this coming. Beyoncé is far from the first name that comes to mind when thinking of mainstream artists likely to foray into the vast universe of hyperpop, but she sounds right at home in the genre on the ethereal “All Up In Your Mind” — which even features genre stalwart A.G. Cook as a writer and producer. Easily one of the more eclectic songs on Renaissance, “All Up In Your Mind” contains arguably the most subtly adventurous vocal performance of Beyoncé’s career. Her voice flutters across the track with equal parts vulnerability and control — a hard-earned balance that feels effortless coming from Queen Bey.
10. “BREAK MY SOUL”
In many ways, “Break My Soul” is the thesis of Renaissance. From a structural and musical standpoint, this is easily the most traditional and accessible song on the album. Nevertheless, its traditionalism shouldn’t be mistaken for vapidity. “Break My Soul” is an anthem of reclamation; Beyoncé is reclaiming her joy and inner peace. The freedom and fearlessness that ensure the existence of Renaissance are impossible without the “new foundation” established through “Break My Soul.” Somehow, in the context of the full album, the pounding four-on-the-floor beat and liberated choir of background vocalists sound even better than they have for the past five weeks.
The star-studded list of credits for Renaissance features an Avengers-level ensemble of who’s who in the music industry, so seeing Drake’s name in the credits for “Heated” may actually be one of the less surprising things about Bey’s new album. While Drake’s shadow looms heavily over the first half of the song, the explosive back half features some of the most important moments on Renaissance. Beyoncé nails the tongue-in-cheek braggadocio of the ballroom scene with this celebratory ode to her late Uncle Johnny. Towards the end of her most animated vocal performance yet she chants, “Uncle Johnny made my dress/ That cheap Spandex, she looks a mess.”
8. “ALIEN SUPERSTAR”
When a track opens with an announcement requesting that we “do not attempt to leave the dancefloor,” you know you’re in for a ride. Only Beyoncé could make the union of warbling synths, an intergalactic backing choir, and (another!) nod to “I’m Too Sexy” sound so damn good. In a complete 180 from “Break My Soul,” “Alien Superstar” is arguably Renaissance’s premiere example of the glorious freedom of unconventional song structures. Whether she’s stacking her vocals to the heights of heaven or talk-rapping her way through the verses, Queen Bey is genuinely having the time of her life on this track.
7. “SUMMER RENAISSANCE”
There wasn’t a more fitting way to conclude Renaissance than using the track that interpolates Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love.” In 2003, Beyoncé earned one of her first solo hits with “Naughty Girl” — a track that borrowed an early hook from Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby.” Nearly two decades later, Queen Bey brings her most experimental album to a close with a song that cleverly incorporates its sample into a soundscape primed to flaunt her otherworldly vocal acrobatics. Beyoncé’s voice has deepened and darkened over the years, but it’s never sounded this rich before. Ever.
If 2013’s landmark eponymous surprise album taught us anything, it’s that Beyoncé loves when her songs sound like two or three songs in one. After teasing us throughout the album, Bey goes full ball emcee on “Pure.” Her cavalier delivery is one for the books, but it’s “Honey” that will go down as an overall career highlight. Raphael Saadiq’s soulful brass-laced production is the perfect complement to Bey’s funky, sultry vocal performance.
It may be too early to call, but Beyoncé, Grace Jones, and Tems sound like Best Trio of All Time contenders with “Move.” A mind-boggling fusion of hip house, dancehall, afrobeats, and rap, “Move” finds three generations of Black female artists uniting for an incomparably infectious dance track that drips with sensuality and cockiness. There’s an undercurrent of levity that adds further nuance to the track by brightening the dark percussive nature of the production.
4. “CHURCH GIRL”
Only Beyoncé could get away with transforming a Clark Sisters gospel standard into a twerk anthem. Clearly dedicated to the preachers’ kids who start their weekends in the club and end their weekends in a church pew, “Church Girl” is the kind of uber-specific celebration of Black music that genuinely inspires awe. Beyoncé uses gospel music to bridge the album’s overarching house and bounce influences. If you’ve ever wondered what the intersection of Sunday morning and “Choppa Style” sounds like, look no further than “Church Girl” — an immediate standout in Queen Bey’s discography.
3. “VIRGO’S GROOVE”
Renaissance is the ultimate testament to Beyoncé’s talents in album sequencing, sample reinvention, and genre innovation — but, ultimately, the album’s success is contingent upon her voice. “Virgo’s Groove,” the longest song on the album, owes its carnal sonic escapism to Beyoncé’s expert vocal production; she deftly moves throughout her range across the song. Within the same breath, luscious lows morph into piercing falsetto. Nevertheless, it’s Beyoncé’s manipulation of her tone that truly impresses. Across Renaissance, you’ll hear the rasp of her self-titled album, the gritty funk of 4 and B’Day, and the bright flirtatiousness of Dangerously In Love. On the aptly titled “Virgo’s Groove” you get every shade of Beyoncé’s voice in one behemoth of a song. What more could you ask for?
2. “PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA”
“Break My Soul” all but guaranteed an uptempo dance album, so the existence and function of slower tracks remained a question mark until the night of the album’s release. With “Plastic Off the Sofa,” Beyoncé recruited the likes of Sabrina Claudio and Syd to help craft a blistering slow jam. On this track, Beyoncé is, for lack of better phrasing, singing her face off. Her tantalizing tone pairs perfectly with the seductive bass guitar as she croons, “It’s the way you listen when I’m cryin’, you let me lean in/ It’s the way you want one more kiss after you said you were leavin’.” Is anyone else starting to feel a bit warm?
1. “CUFF IT”
It looks like there’s a new quintessential Beyoncé classic in town. “Cuff It,” fittingly the fourth track on Renaissance, combines all of the hallmarks of Beyoncé’s artistry into one gargantuan display of excellence. Queen Bey pairs a lustful lead vocal with towering background vocal stacks, a soaring hook, all the horns that she can handle, her trademark rap-sung cadence, and an overall cinematic groove that begs for both an accompanying video and eye-popping choreography. Beyoncé has funk and soul coursing through her veins, and there’s a remarkable through-line that runs from “Work It Out” to “Cuff It.” A Renaissance isn’t feasible without studying the past. On “Cuff It,” and Renaissance as a whole, Beyoncé goes back to not only her roots, but also the roots of Black music, to create an absolutely stunning body of work, and “Cuff It” is its best representative.