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Five on it: Beyoncé’s ‘Break My Soul’ renaissance captures the power of reinvention

Beyoncé's long-awaited return is paving the way for a dance revolution. Plus new music from Rina Sawayama, RAYE, Mura Masa and Lava La Rue.

01 Jul

Ahh, the sweet, sugary relief of a surprise drop. Beyoncé is no stranger to coming back with a bang; after all, she did invent the unprecedented release way back in 2013 with her eponymous fifth album. The no warning, no promo, no marketing method has been emulated multiple times since, to varying degrees of success. Do you remember when Apple sleuth added a whole U2 album to the library of every iTunes user, without their consent? Now you do.

While not quite to the same degree, it has been an age since we were last able to get properly excited about the prospect of a Beyoncé album. Queen Bey knows how to keep us waiting; Lemonade was a whole six years ago, and while we’ve been gifted intermittent singles and a soundtrack album in the interim, the experience is not quite the same. In fact, neither is the sound we’ve come to expect. 

“‘Break My Soul’ is adventurous and experimental for Beyoncé, with its dialled back bass and loose melodies”

2022 was not the year that anyone presumed Robin S.’ ‘Show Me Love’ to be the backbone of a Beyoncé comeback, but the ubiquitous 1993 dance anthem has had a very celebrated lifespan, influencing reams of dance acts since. With ‘Break My Soul’ also sampling Big Freedia’s ‘Explode’, the track’s lyrics speak to “The queens in the front and the doms in the back” as Beyoncé references the queer Black roots of house music. Compared to her recent post-Lemonade singles ‘Black Parade’ and King Richard soundtrack, ‘Be Alive’ – all moody bass and big pop sounds – ‘Break My Soul’ is adventurous and experimental for Beyoncé, with its dialled back bass and loose melodies. The tone marks a new era that sees Beyoncé liberated from both the expectations and presumptions of herself and others. 

Reinvention is the theme on the menu. Rina Sawayama too has shucked off her trademark throwback eclecticism in favour of a more linear pop sound – a curveball if there ever was one. First came ‘This Hell’, practically a leopard-print Shania Twain anthem with a dash of yee-haw to boot, followed by latest single ‘Catch Me in the Air’, a country-tinged ballad that flirts with elements of The Corrs, paying tribute to her relationship with her mother in a single-parent household. Where she previously had to prove her uniqueness by weaving an ambitious web of sound, the success of debut album SAWAYAMA means she can now relax into whatever takes her fancy.

“RAYE is ready to welcome fans to a next chapter”

RAYE is also in the throes of her own new beginning. Latest single ‘Hard Out Here’ marks her first new music since her split from her former record label Polydor after publicly expressing her despair at feeling trapped in a four album record deal where she had not been able to release her debut. The result sees her swap the dance sound that she’s known for in favour of an R&B flavour. Freed from her contracted shackles after seven years, RAYE is ready to welcome fans to a next chapter; in her words “As an independent artist, my story unfiltered and without fear or compromise.” Here’s to the thrill of euphoric new beginnings. 

Beyoncé – ‘Break My Soul’

If there were ever a time to reclaim what empowers you, then the time is now: Beyoncé and Big Freedia told you to do it, after all. Barks of “Release your job, release your stress” give way to “I’m looking for motivation… a new foundation… a new vibration”, before Beyoncé claims the aforementioned for herself entirely. Causing a stir with her addition to the current resurgence of 1990s house music, this change of tack sees Queen Bey bask in unbridled creativity ahead of the release of her seventh album RENAISSANCE.

RAYE – ‘Hard Out Here’ 

As we touched upon above, RAYE has had a tough few years that have ultimately led to a very public separation from her former record label. Having since signed with Human Re Sources, RAYE’s fresh start comes hand-in-hand with a fresh new sound. Making a name for herself with a dance-rooted sound and features on many a club banger, ‘Hard Out Here’ instead brings a moodier, R&B tone to her catalogue. With a swaggering rhythm, soaring production and mumbling vocals, the track sees RAYE take back agency over her sound, telling Radio 1’s Clara Amfo, “It’s been a wild roller coaster of a time… I’m a tough cookie, but I was really broken at one point, I’m not gonna lie.”

Rina Sawayama – ‘Catch Me in the Air’

Recently stating she wanted latest release ‘Catch Me in the Air’ to sound “like it was on an Irish coastline, like a Corrs video”, Rina Sawayama’s exploration into the depths of 1990s and early 2000s pop culture certainly knows no bounds. Propping up her mood board with “people doing yoga on a pier, meditating in the middle of a field, hay bales, etc” to get inspired sonically, it’s no wonder that ‘Catch Me in the Air’ has a liberating buoyancy that feels different to her prior work, continuing the country-pop influence found in comeback ‘This Hell’. The track is in celebration of her mother who raised Rina as a single parent. “I really wanted to write about this weird relationship with single parents,” she says. “You do catch each other in the air.”

Mura Masa – ‘Hollaback Bitch’ feat. Shygirl and Channel Tres

Is that a Nokia ringtone we hear? If it’s one thing Mura Masa is doing well at the minute, it’s throwing it back to the noughties. First there was ‘bbycakes’, his comeback with Lil Uzi Vert, PinkPantheress, and Shygirl (who appears to be a collaborative favourite!) which samples the 3 of a Kind, garage-tinged classic, then recent single Pa Salieu and Skillibeng collab, ‘Blessing Me’. Latest outing ‘Hollaback Bitch’ catches thoughts of the Gwen Stefani classic, but switches out its laidback brattishness for a more authoritative, bad girl twist. Passing the mic to Shygirl for a playfully defiant turn, and enlisting Channel Tres, the track is a splashy house cut that is as hot as it is heavy.

Lava La Rue – ‘Don’t Come Back’

Coming ahead of their upcoming second EP Hi-Fidelity, Lava La Rue’s new single ‘Don’t Come Back’ is a mysteriously captivating ode to tensions in a relationship. Following their recent collaboration with Biig Piig, the sludgy basslines of ‘Don’t Come Back’ nudge the track forwards, winding with sinewy precision around loose melodies and pattering beats. It shows a softer side to Lava La Rue’s often peppy and psychedelic brand of rock. “[‘Don’t Come Back’ is about] being in a relationship where you know that person isn’t good for you. But you can’t help but go back and forth with them,” explains Lava La Rue. “Instead of ripping off the band aid, it’s tearing it off slowly, and scratching at the scabs.”

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