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Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” Is Exhilarating

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Zia: I’m not really a nightclub kind of gal, but I would roll up to one in a cute dress and some chunky heels just to dance to Renaissance. Beyoncé’s albums have a way of beautifully capturing the zeitgeist in which they are released, and this one is right on the money. The world has had a very hard two, three years for a number of reasons, and we needed a collective reason to just let go and be free, even if only for just an hour and two minutes. You can hear the amount of work and attention to detail she put into this, and it makes me even more hype for the next two parts of this project.

Alexa: Estelle encapsulates it best: What an exhilarating and full-bodied album. It sounds corny to say, but it really does sound like Beyoncé herself had a blast making this record, and it’s a gorgeous, celebratory departure from the ultra-masterful but heavy message of Lemonade. I’m looking forward to listening to this album as I cake myself in eyeliner ahead of a night out with friends, already sweaty from summer humidity and pleasantly nauseous from an Aperol spritz I drank two hours prior.

Also, sorry to bring Drake’s name into the chat, but while listening to this album I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between Renaissance and Honestly, Nevermind. Both albums move the two artists into a more house-inspired direction. Both are made by industry powerhouses who’ve dominated music history for so long that they no longer have anything to prove to anyone. But one of them used that creative freedom to let loose and create a glowy, innovative new style, and one of them made the song “Texts Go Green.”

Haha, Alexa. What are your initial favorite songs?

Estelle: I first listened to this in full without looking at the tracklist, and the sequencing is so seamless it’s initially difficult to tell when one song ends and another begins — which is to say, I really freaking love the whole thing. The sequencing is perfection. Must throw in a word for “Church Girl,” which feels like throwback Destiny’s Child pop cheekiness. Plus, it’s representation for horny youths who think about boning during Mass.

I love it when Beyoncé goes somewhere unexpected, so when I got to the “All Up in Your Mind” / “America Has a Problem” / “Pure/Honey” run I lost my mind. The A.G. Cook internet pop of it all, the farty, grinding bass — I wanted to be in the club immediately. I also loved seeing her step away from simplistic political messaging. I actually have a huge soft spot for songs like “Run the World” and “Flawless,” but instead of generically inspiring lyrics in this shitty global moment, we have a song called “America Has a Problem,” and the first line is “Heard you got that D for me” … Pulitzer!!!!!!!!

Amber: “Alien Superstar” was the first that made me be like, OK, Ms. Knowles-Carter, new sound unlocked! It feels like three songs in one; we’re vogueing at a ballroom competition, we’re at Kanye’s proposal to Kim Kardashian with a 50-piece orchestra playing Lana del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful,” and we’re soaring through space on a rocket ship to a whole other world. Then it’s straight into “Cuff It” and we’re levitating until we see stars?!? Incredible. “Heated” and “Thique” will both be on heavy rotation in my living room club. Also loved “Cozy,” I know it’s going on when I’m having a bad day and need a bit of “Comfortable in my skin / Cozy with who I am / I love myself, goddamn” energy. Will it replace the video of Beyoncé performing Love on Top while pregnant with Blue Ivy as my personal pick-me-up? TBD.

Zia: The way “Cuff It” faded into “Energy” and then into “Break My Soul”? Sensational. My soul ASCENDED. I’m already a sucker for songs that fade into each other but this was something special. At one point I didn’t even realize the song had changed because the transitions were that smooth. And given the album’s strong house vibes, it was a perfect way to pay homage to the genre.

Alexa: “Cuff It.” “CUFF IT”!!!!!!!!!

Any obvious clunkers?

Amber: “Plastic Off the Sofa.” The only thing going for this track is that it gives you a breather in between the bangers, time to sip water and get back to the dance floor.

Alexa: Gonna respectfully disagree with Amber and say that the hook on “Alien Superstar” sounds identical to that song that goes, “I’m too sexy for my shirt,” so much so that I looked up whether Beyoncé was forced to give Right Said Fred a songwriting credit. Also, I adore “Plastic Off the Sofa,” so I guess that Amber and I are simply nemeses.

Zia: “Move” didn’t do too much for me. It felt like a standard track thrown into the DJ’s mix that you step-touch in the club to. Not to say it’s a bad song, but it didn’t bring what the other songs brought.

Estelle: I respectfully decline to answer this question.

This album has a lot of guest writers, from Drake on “Heated” to Syd from the Internet on “Plastic Off the Sofa” to Jay-Z of course. Who do you think brings the most to the album here? I’d be remiss to also not mention the controversy over Beyoncé and co. sampling Kelis’s 2003 megahit “Milkshake” without Kelis’s permission on “Energy,” one of my favorite songs on the album.

Alexa: For me, the accusations by Kelis are a fascinating reminder that the Beyoncé we see and celebrate is not always the same person calling the shots in the studio about her creative work. (This, by the way, is fine! People aren’t their public images! Is your Instagram profile the realest version of yourself? Unlikely!) Beyoncé’s gone to great lengths in the past to emphasize her magnanimous relationship with her collaborators, which makes this tension with “Milkshake” feel less like an oversight on Beyoncé’s part and more like a legal decision made out of overconfidence. I’ll be interested to see how Beyoncé and her team react to these accusations, if they do at all.

Separately, I try not to acknowledge Jay-Z on principle, but I do have to say I appreciate his contributions on Renaissance as a songwriter rather than as a featured artist. After his public thrashing on Lemonade, it feels intentional that he didn’t have an opportunity to quip about how hard it is to be a husband and a father on an album clearly made for women to dance their ass off to in the club.

But I feel like the real collab stars of this album are the producers: Honey Dijon’s house and electronic fingerprints feel like they’re all over this record, and “All Up in Your Mind” doesn’t feel like it would be possible without A.G. Cook’s iconic pulsing synths. Introducing these producers into Beyoncé’s roster of collaborators pushes her sound into new, really refreshing territory.

Estelle: It’s difficult for me to think of writers as opposed to other collaborators, like the musicians she’s sampled here, because this record is so obviously in conversation with classic tracks and other genres and even an era in full. But I think Beyoncé and Big Freedia are a match made in heaven; I’m always delighted to hear the NOLA legend’s incredible voice add that bounce texture to Bey’s silky pop. Renaissance proves how great a fit The-Dream is for her in this moment — he cowrote a good chunk of these songs, and that’s part of why it just feels like such a sensual, velvety, dance floor mirage.

The controversy over the Kelis interpolation is an unfolding news story that we’ll be watching but at the very least it’s a sobering reminder of how hawkish the music industry is and how hard fought publishing rights and ownership can be.

Where do you rank this album compared to her others?

Estelle: I respectfully decline to answer this question too, except to say that I always feel like I’m in good hands with a Beyoncé solo joint. Every album changes your idea of what she’s capable of while retaining an ironclad sense of her identity and skill. Narrative, control, and progression drive her musical output, so I always trust that we’re going somewhere new. And we really did! Renaissance is so full of cool shit. I feel like I haven’t heard her do some of these things with her voice before. I feel like we haven’t heard some of these melodies or sounds or flourishes from her before.

Amber: Lemonade remains to me her opus, but this album is such a light to that shade — both in that it’s not a literal examination of her cheating husband, but also musically it seems more like she’s just searching for the sounds that get her wiggling. In so many ways this feels like the inevitable next step after The Lion King: The Gift, the 2019 soundtrack Beyoncé produced and curated, which was a group project of artists led by the queen yet was about a Disney movie. She’s still got the collective of artists, but now she’s in charge of the story.

Zia: Any ranking I give will inevitably lead to ~discourse~, so I respectfully decline to do so. But I will say that Beyoncé is at her best when she has the space to be creative, experiment, and just have fun. The fun element, I think, is the most important here. I feel like in the music industry, artists sometimes get caught up in trying to make the perfect album that checks all of these predetermined boxes and the real freedom and artistry of music gets lost in the sauce. That is not the case here. You can hear the joy and release coming off of Bey in waves and it all just works. So while I won’t rank her albums, I do think Renaissance is one of her best projects. It holds up to its predecessors and is definitely going to be in rotation for years to come.

What do you think Beyoncé was trying to accomplish with this album in particular?

Estelle: She wanted us to “release the wiggle.” Yeah, I’m wiggling. To return to her sense of purpose as an artist, it’s clear she tried to push herself while invoking the familiarity of the past — both in terms of musical history and her own aesthetic. Overall, the approach is different from Lemonade, which was such a personal album: so full of fury, with lyrics and vocals that were sometimes spotlit and intimate, and other times high-flying and showy. This feels more like a collective experience, both in how it was made and how it’s supposed to be experienced. It’s also pure escapism, highly (but not explicitly) calibrated with the devastation of our moment — sure, we had the “release your job” moment with “Break My Soul,” but Renaissance is not an attempt at social commentary. It’s relentless, undeniable vibes designed to gas your serotonin receptors.

Amber: Renaissance feels like such a reflection of the times though — we’re in year three of a horrific pandemic that has killed over 1 million people in this country alone, laws against LGBTQ people are being introduced across the country daily, and Beyoncé is like, “We need some fucking joy in here, let’s pay tribute to Black gay elders and get dancing.” — “liberated, living like we ain’t got time,” as she sings in “Heated.” I mean yes, she also wants to remind us that no one else is on her level — opening the album with “These motherfuckers ain’t stopping me” is a choice! — but it also feels like a collective call to action to find joy as an act of resistance, even if you can’t ever forget that she is the one leading it.

Alexa: I think I’m going to need to listen to this album 40 or so more times before I have a coherent answer to this question. However, I will say that in terms of Beyoncé’s branding and public image, this album feels like the final destination for yearslong buildup she’s been doing to solidify her status as an untouchable, godlike fixture in pop culture. I think back to the stretch of releases, from Beyoncé to Lemonade to Homecoming, and the gradual increase in imagery and lyrics asserting herself as not just that bitch, but the bitch. Renaissance feels like the natural next step in her openly marking her territory as the defining artist of our era.

Zia: I’ve recently been diving deep into stories about Frankie Knuckles, Loleatta Holloway, and the other pioneering singers and DJs of house back in the ’70s and ’80s. I am consistently blown away with what they were able to create back then at such a tumultuous time for Black Americans and LGBTQ people. The influences of house music can be found in so many different genres of music, so it’s fitting Beyoncé would pay respect to the foundation of what so much of her music is based upon. Plus, as the genre grew in popularity, house’s Black roots were largely forgotten and never properly attributed, and I think it’s so important that someone on her level is putting the genre back in the spotlight, this time with strong reference to its style, origin, founders, and its newest generation.

Which song do you most want to see a music video for?

Estelle: “Move.” The song is a really clear directive. I need Beyoncé to spiritually top me. There’s so little of the summer left.

Alexa: Beyoncé, do the brave thing and make a short film for “Virgo’s Groove.” Bring back the roller skates from “Blow,” add a group choreography scene involving at least 70 people, include a slow-motion shot of someone applying lipstick at an ornate Jazz Age–esque gala.

Zia: “Cuff It” for sure. As soon as I heard this song, I knew this was gonna be an instant classic. It makes me nostalgic for early 2000s pop Beyoncé but still keeps the sexy adult energy. To me, “Cuff It” is like the hot older sister to “Blow” from Beyoncé. And ever since she posted her drop-day Insta post, I am CRAVING some Donna Summer–esque disco visuals.

Amber: “Thique”! I want thick thighs on yachts.●



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Michelle Obama mourns sad death of filmmaker Julia Reichert

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Hannah Hargrave



Michelle Obama has paid tribute to Oscar-winning filmmaker, Julia Reichert, who died at the age of 76.

The former First Lady took to social media to share news that Julia had lost her battle with cancer and passed away on 1 December her home in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

MORE: The Queen’s secret health battle revealed in new book 

Michelle and her husband, Barack Obama, posted a message on the page of their Higher Ground Media production company. 

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Alongside a photo of Julia, they wrote: “Last night we lost a true giant. A trailblazing filmmaker, Julia Reichert dedicated her life to documenting socially and historically significant stories that gave voice to so many, particularly the working class and women.

“Collaborating with her on the Oscar-winning documentary American Factory was an honor and privilege that we will always cherish at Higher Ground. 

MORE: Michelle Obama reveals her daughters ‘couldn’t stand each other’

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“We know that Julia’s talent, humanity and commitment to mission-centric storytelling will continue to inspire current and future creators worldwide, including all of us.”

Michelle and Barack worked with Julia 

Fans rushed to share their sadness and commented: “So sorry. what a giant talent. deepest sympathies to her friends and family and colleagues,” and, “She was amazing”. There were strings of heart emojis and praying hands as they paid tribute to the star. 

REVEALED: King Charles’ sweet link to late Queen during official duties

READ: Queen Consort Camilla and Princess Kate wore the same Queen brooch at banquet – find out why

Steven Bognar, her husband and collaborator, confirmed the death and said his wife had been receiving treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a form of urinary cancer for years.

Julia lost her battle to cancer 

Julia’s success was a surprise to her as she admitted her career was unexpected: “I had no idea I would be, quote unquote, a filmmaker,” she said in an interview with Yellow Springs radio station WYSO. “I just knew I loved photography. I loved getting better at it. I loved learning about taking pictures. And I really loved the radio.”

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Billie Eilish performs remotely during star-studded Earthshot Prize ceremony

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Tania Leslau



Billie Eilish kept it simple for her remote performance at Prince William’s Earthshot Prize awards ceremony on Friday evening, wearing a comfortable grey sweatshirt as she sat at her piano to sing ‘My Future’.

LOOK: Princess Kate is a tour de force in surprisingly flamboyant suit

The Grammy-award winner was part of a stellar line-up that included Annie Lennox, Ellie Goulding and the Beyoncé-backed R&B duo Chloe x Halle that performed during the event.

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Billie prerecorded her performance of ‘My Future’ from her home in Los Angeles, and she was joined by her brother Finneas.

The Prince and Princess of Wales were greeted with a standing ovation as they took to stage for the start of the ceremony, which referenced the colonists who came to Boston 400 years ago. Elizabeth Solomon, a member of the Massachusetts tribe at Ponkapoag, asked attendees to “respect the lands and waters”.

LOOK: Pippa Middleton turns heads in Karen Millen coat that’s selling out quickly

Dubbed Prince William’s “Superbowl moment,” the glitzy ceremony drew an A-list crowd at the MGM Music Hall at Fenway in Boston. Among those presenting awards were Oscar-winning actor Rami Malek, Home Alone and Schitt’s Creek star Catherine O’Hara and environmental activist and Big Little Lies star Shailene Woodley.

Earthshot Prize council members Sir David Attenborough and Cate Blanchett will both provide voiceovers during the ceremony, which will be presented by UK broadcaster Clara Amfo and US actor Daniel Dae Kim.

Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F Kennedy, whose “Moonshot” speech about space travel inspired the Earthshot prize, will also take part with her son Jack Schlossberg, JFK’s only grandson. 

The ambitious, decade-long, global Prize programme aims to discover and scale up solutions to the planet’s biggest environmental challenges.

Among the ideas competing this year are a cleaner-burning stove initiative in Kenya and a bubble barrier made in the Netherlands to prevent plastics entering oceans.

William described the finalists as “innovators, leaders, and visionaries” and said they proved there are “many reasons to be optimistic about the future of our planet”.

READ: Princess Beatrice looks sultry in satin on festive night out with husband

He went on to say: “They are directing their time, energy, and talent towards bold solutions with the power to not only solve our planet’s greatest environmental challenges, but to create healthier, more prosperous, and more sustainable communities for generations to come.”

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Watch T.J Holmes and Amy Robach joke about their ‘great week’ after romance reports

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Rebecca Lewis



GMA anchors T.J Holmes and Amy Robach have broken their silence, joking that they have had a “great week” after reports of an affair between the two.

TRENDING: Amy Robach’s husband removes all pictures of GMA anchor after T.J Holmes affair

“You know, it’s too bad it’s Friday. It’s been a great week” said 45-year-old T.J live on air on Friday morning. “I just want this one to keep going and going and going. Just enjoy it! Take it all in.”

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WATCH: GMA anchors T.J Holmes and Amy Robach break silence on their ‘great week’ after romance emerges

Amy then began laughing and added: “Speak for yourself. I am very excited about the weekend — and I’m sure everyone else is too. We all love our Fridays around here. Some of us do, at least.”

Their public banter about the romance came after the Daily Mail published pictures of Amy and T.J. in upstate New York on a romantic getaway together. 

MORE: Dylan Dreyer is glowing as she shares very happy update

In the pictures T.J. could be seen grabbing Amy’s bottom as they removed groceries from the car, and another snapshot showed them holding hands in a vehicle in the city.

Hours after the report broke, both of the anchors removed their personal Instagram pages.

The pair have been co-anchors for years

It has since been claimed that both Amy and T.J split from their respective partners in August and no romance between the pair began until then.

They returned to TV screens on Thursday after the reports surfaced, leaving fans – who thought they may have taken the day off to navigate news of their extra-marital connection – shocked.

Both Amy and T.J are now estranged from their families

Amy had been married to actor Andrew for 12 years. She has two daughters, Annie and Ava, from her former marriage to Tim McIntosh, and she has also been a stepmother to Andrew’s three sons.

T.J tied the knot with his wife, Marilee Fiebig, in 2010 and they have a daughter, Sabine. T.J. is also father to two other children, daughter Brianna, and son Jaiden.



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