Part 3/4! Beyoncé’s latest solo album, Renaissance, drops on July 29th so to get everyone prepared, Pop Pantheon will be releasing a series of four episodes on the work and legacy of Queen Bey, each with a different guest!
In our third installment, DJ Louie is joined by author of Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound, Yale University’s Dr. Daphne A. Brooks, to discuss the latest decade of Beyoncé’s solo career. Louie and Dr. Brooks begin with the quagmire that pop stars- and particularly black female pop stars- face as they enter their mid 30s in the fickle, ageist pop cultural landscape and how various icons of the genre like Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Tina Turner and Janet Jackson have re-engaged audiences during this period of their lives and careers. They then discuss Beyoncé’s culturally transformative 2013 self-titled 5th studio album, how the surprise release and inclusion of visual components for each song solved the problem of finding a hit single, created a singular shared cultural experience, and forever changed the way pop stars would release music, the rich musical textures which filtered black musical tradition through mordern electro-R&B, and the ways in which this record depended Beyoncé’s artistry and self-revelation, as well as her feminism and activism. They then unpack her 2016 single “Formation”, its confrontational video and performance at the 2016 Super Bowl, and how the song functions as both a call to action and certified rump shaker for the ages, before diving into her masterwork of that same year, her sixth album, the audiovisual magnum opus Lemonade. Louie and Dr. Brooks break down how Lemonade reimagined the feminist ideal of the “personal as political”, using Beyoncé’s own story of domestic disruption to narrate a broader story about American history, how it effectively reclaimed genres like rock ‘n roll and country for Black women, and the innovative ways Beyoncé mined her own pain to radically heal herself, her marriage, her people and the nation through this project. Finally, Louie and Dr. Brooks dive into Beyonce’s latest three side projects, 2018’s collaboration with Jay-Z Everything is Love, 2019’s live concert film Homecoming and 2020’s Lion King companion-piece Black is King, all of which have helped enrich and deepen her artistry and activism and served as a victory lap for her storied career and what, when we look back on it in 50 years or more, Beyoncé’s enduring legacy will be as the greatest and most important pop figure of the 21st century thus far.
Stay tuned for next week’s installment, in which we’ll be giving first reactions to Beyoncé’s new record Renaissance, her seventh studio album and first in over six years!
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