Beyoncé has ushered in the new Renaissance. The long-awaited and highly-anticipated album arrived on Friday (July 29), and to say fans were hyped would be an understatement. Though the new album offered plenty for the BeyHive to buzz about, one thing they noticed was Bey making a reference to husband Jay-Z‘s past cheating, which were focal themes of her last album Lemonade and his project 4:44. Notably, the New York native also spoke openly about his infidelity in a 2017 interview with The New York Times.
The topic has been broached again, however, on Bey’s new Renaissance song “Plastic On The Sofa.” She sang, “Boy, I know you can’t help but to be yourself around me, yourself around me. And I know nobody’s perfect so I’ll let you be, I’ll let you be/It’s the way that you wear your emotions on both of your sleeves, ’til the face you make when I tell you that I had to leave.”
She then confidently reminded Jay that she’s the “only” one. “I’m one of one, I’m number one, I’m the only one,” she sang. “Don’t even waste your time trying to compete with me. No one else in this world can think like me. I’m twisted, contradicted, keep him addicted.”
Sister Solange Knowles also got a shoutout on song “Cozy.” The “Cranes In The Sky” singer went viral in May 2014 after a grainy black-and-white video emerged of her yelling at Jay-Z as Beyoncé stood next to him in silence. No audio was included, but it was evident there was tension — which her sister later addressed in the “Flawless” remix with Nicki Minaj.
“She’s a god, she’s a hero, she survived, all she been through, confident and she lethal,” Beyoncé sang in reference to her younger sister. “Might I suggest you don’t f— with my sis, because she comfortable. Comfortable in my skin, cozy with who I am.”
Some fans apparently got a chance to experience the Renaissance early — much to the chagrin of loyal Bey fans. Two days before the scheduled release, there were social media posts showing CD copies on sale in Europe, and Variety noted that “high-quality flac files” could be found “within a matter of minutes.” The leak may have a minor effect on sales/pre-saves, but in an era where the iPod is discontinued, and streaming services provide greater convenience than loading mp3s on a phone, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Renaissance premiere at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, regardless of this leak.
Renaissance marks Beyoncé’s first solo studio album since 2016’s Lemonade. Since then, she released Everything Is Love, a 2018 joint album with her husband, Jay-Z. In 2019, she put out Homecoming, essential the live album of her 2018 headlining Coachella performance, before releasing The Lion King: The Gift, a companion album to the live-action movie. The Gift featured several new Beyoncé songs, but none of these projects had the same weight as a solo album.
Nor were they as commercially successful. While Lemonade currently stands at certified 3x Platinum by the RIAA, Everything Is Love has only reached Gold status, and the other projects haven’t crossed that threshold. Lemonade remains one of Beyoncé’s best-selling albums, matching 2006’s B’Day in Platinum status (3x). Only her 2003 album, Dangerously In Love, has sold more.
It has been a while since Beyoncé topped the Hot 100 with a solo song (she did help Megan Thee Stallion get a No. 1 with the “Savage” remix), but her success exists beyond the sales numbers. Five years after Lemonade, Candace McDuffie wrote in Glamour how it was a “poignant magnum opus about the dynamic beauty of Black Womanhood.” Such lasting impact cannot be recorded by MRC Data’s Soundscan.
Plus, days before Renaissance’s release, Vulture launched a new culture podcast, Into It, and the first episode detailed how Beyoncé literally changed the music business. Bey did this by surprise releasing her 2013 self-titled album on a Friday, and not on a Tuesday – the day that new music used to be released. Initially, the move was done to combat piracy, something Beyoncé couldn’t do with this release cycle. Still, albums now drop on Friday thanks in major part to her. How the world will change following Renaissance remains to be seen.