From House to Home: Beyoncé’s “Renaissance”

Susana Mosquera ’27 dives into the history of Beyonce’s career to explore her move towards country music in her much anticipated new album, “Act II.”

From House to Home: Beyoncé’s “Renaissance”
Beyoncé returns to her Houston roots with her new country singles. Photo courtesy of

On July 29, 2022, Beyoncé released her seventh studio album, “Renaissance.” The first act of three speculated albums, “Renaissance” encapsulates the vibrancy of disco and house music through its magnificently funky and energetic 16-song run.

House, as a music genre, originates from the Black and queer underground culture of 1970s Chicago. After being ousted from gay clubs for being racial minorities, Black DJs like Frankie Knuckles (considered the godfather of house music) began mixing disco, funk, and German electro-pop. These novel sounds were then exported to underground clubs in the south side of the city, most prominently to a club called the Warehouse. As this new upbeat genre made waves across the city, the mixes began to be informally identified with the name of the club that made it famous  —  hence the name “house.”

Fully embodying the spirit of house music, Beyoncé’s Renaissance world tour, which began in May 2023, paid homage to the culturally rich and unknown legacy behind the creation of house music. The tour, like house music history, was unapologetically Black and queer — featuring a voguing segment and a touching tribute to Beyoncé’s uncle Johnny, who served as a seamster for Destiny’s Child.

On Feb. 11, during a Super Bowl advertisement, Beyoncé announced that her new album, “Act II,” will be released on March 29. At the same time, she dropped the two lead singles of the new album: “16 Carriages” and “Texas Hold ‘Em.” Marking a distinct break from the underground sounds of 70s Chicago that permeated “Act I,” the new singles transport the listener far to the South of the Windy City — welcome to Texas.

The two new songs and an accompanying visual teaser for the album reveal that Beyoncé is taking us to her Houston roots with country music. Despite country seeming to be an unconventional genre for Beyoncé, she is breaking from house and heading home.

Country music, like house music, was shaped by African instruments and Black artists. For starters, the banjo, a staple instrument of the genre, is a descendant of the akonting, a West African stringed instrument. Country also takes great influence from soul music and Negro spirituals. One of its most distinctive characteristics, the fingerpicking style was popularized by African American artist Lesley Riddle. Despite this, it was minstrel shows that brought Banjo playing and “hillbilly music” to white audiences, who in turn commodified the once diverse sound and erased Black artists’ influence.

But Beyoncé is neither a stranger to country music, nor to the controversy over it. In her sixth studio album, 2016’s “Lemonade,” Beyoncé sings “Daddy Lessons,” a country anthem featuring the legendary Dallas country band The Chicks. At the time of its release, the song was taken off the Billboard country charts for not fitting the standard designated for that category. Instead, it was placed in the Billboard R&B/hip hop charts, a controversial decision that tainted the reputation of Billboard. The song was additionally rejected from consideration by the Grammy’s Country Committee that year.

Eight years after its release, “Daddy Lessons” is seeing a surge in streams as anticipation for the new album increases. But much like eight years ago, the tension between the Beyhive (Beyoncé’s fanbase) and country radio stations continues. Most recently, online pressure to have Oklahoma’s KYKC, a local country music radio station, play “Texas Hold ’Em” succeeded after the station’s initial refusal to play the single. Even after 32 Grammys, Beyoncé still has difficulty inserting herself into the molds of the music industry, or, more accurately, the music industry still has difficulty adapting to her versatility. (See Jay-Z calling out the Academy for never awarding Beyoncé Album of the Year, despite her holding the record for most Grammy wins ever.)

“Act II” represents the two most important qualities of Beyoncé’s artistry. First, it shows her resilience as a musical artist. She willingly inserts herself into spaces that have not welcomed her in the past for the sake of creating authentic art. Second, it shows her eagerness to shine a light upon the hidden figures of popular music genres, with her previous and upcoming albums being monuments to her appreciation for those who came before. From the DJs of 70s Chicago to the fingerpicking artists of the 20s, Black art finds a home in Beyoncé’s world. It takes a special kind of grit to disturb the industry and return to country music — with the “Renaissance” project writ large, Beyoncé proves that she has grit. She is that girl. Beyoncé is taking back Black music, presenting it to the world in a new form, in a rebirth — a renaissance.