Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Beyoncé: Renaissance [Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia, 2022]
I first heard the album of the year on a clogged Merritt Parkway in the rented Corolla that conveyed my family to our overdue vacation on the Connecticut shore. By the time I'd bought it at the Westbrook Wal-Mart two days later ("What's a CD?" the clerk asked), the Bluetooth-enabled car stereo version had sufficed to knock me out, and not because I instantly grokked its range of reference to the queer-identified dance effects my daughter hipped me to. I'd just had my spirits lifted nonstop by one shrewdly differentiated pop smash after another, and back in New York it connected even louder on a real sound system. Despite one that begins "I just fell in love/And I just quit my job" and stray references to "45" and "Karens just turned into terrorists," this is not a conventionally political album. It's Beyoncé as the "sexy bitch" and super-rich Basquiat owner she is, buttressed by an array of house, rap, and disco legends both cult and famed who add crucial flavor here and there--I've never enjoyed Grace Jones more. Erotically explicit, knowledgeable, and felt, with "Plastic Off the Sofa" as lubricious a married sex song as you could hope to hear, it's clearly designed as an antidote to pandemic weariness and historic despair. "Have you ever had fun like this?" Bey asks. She recommends it, and believes her finest album will generate that precious gift big-time. A+