Galactic Diva: Beyoncé’s Celebration of Afrofuturism and Queerness in the Renaissance Tour

Danielle Bagarli at the Renaissance concert.
Danielle Bagarli at the Renaissance concert.
Danielle Bagarli/Submission

At the start of a young student’s experience at Spelman College, they will inevitably encounter the word ‘Antiquity’ in their African Diaspora and The World courses. ‘Antiquity’ in this context refers to the ancient civilizations and societies that existed in the distant past, encompassing the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome, ancient African empires, and various other early cultures that have significantly shaped the foundations of human history.

The channels and seeds of knowledge they will cultivate in these courses will accompany them, often in unexpected ways, leading to new horizons. One contemporary example of how this connection between the past and the present manifests is through the universal enthusiasm that has captivated audiences throughout the entirety of Summer 2023, notably through Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour.

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles is a Black American global entertainer and musician who holds the title for the most Grammys ever won by a single person, which is 32 as of 2023. Knowles’ tour displays themes of Afrofuturism, a concept described as the cultivation of an experience that seeks to liberate by reclaiming science fiction, history, fantasy, and forgotten African ancestry through a Black Diasporic lens.

Renaissance, regarding Black culture, describes a revival in which our history is embedded and transformed through overlapping processes: remembering the foundation or the vines and roots that create a base for the richness that is our culture, absorbing the atmosphere as represented by the zeitgeist, and cycling through the journey repeatedly. Antiquity, Renaissance, and Afrofuturism repeat. This resurgence was imminent, and Knowles’ seventh album was underway in a state where unprecedented times matched a stillness that prompted pondering of societal effects through cultural means. What better to discuss than the state of the world?

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When hearing the name Beyoncé, what topics, songs, outfits, memes, or cultural references come to mind? Cultural associations with her likely “ring the alarm” in many people’s minds before her name has finished hitting their ears

Some of the things that people commonly associate with Beyoncé include her infectious hit single “Crazy in Love”, her iconic performance and costume at 2018 Coachella that celebrated HBCU culture, her 2013 Super Bowl performance, and her surprise album drop that changed music history. Even before the Renaissance World Tour, Knowles created songs that attempted to instill confidence in several generations of Black people, especially Black women, such as in the song “BROWN SKIN GIRL.” Shuffling through her music, artistic vision, engagement with fans, and high-energy performances, it is clear Renaissance creates an interactive and interpersonal experience with fans. As mentioned in Beyonce’s trailer for her Renaissance World Tour film, she states, “The goal for this tour was to create a place where everyone is free, and no one is judged.”

MotherBoard is a refreshing ode to queer culture and Knowles’s southern roots. House music is credited and embraced, coursing through every aspect of the Renaissance album, originating from Black and specifically gay DJs in Chicago who invented the genre.

Other genres, including electronic dance music, disco, pop, and R&B, are incorporated into the Renaissance Album. With elements of disco as a foundation, house music generated subcultures of electronic and modern music, influencing pop and hip-hop. Samples, collaborations, and inspiration from queer activists and musical artists are acknowledged throughout the album, such as Moi Renee and Kevin Aviance, Honey Dijon, Ts Madison, Big Freedia, and more.

Knowles also pays respect to her past, celebrating her Southern roots. This is evident in songs such as “CHURCH GIRL,” the Western aesthetics of her and concertgoers’ outfits, the chrome horse displayed on the album cover, and the trend of glistening cowboy hats in the audience. This act emphasizes that our origins must be unearthed to create clarity and exploration of the future.

Renaissance revitalizes and reimagines the expectations of Black communities and Black women and girls. The Blueprint surveyed Spelmanites on what song on Beyoncé’s album, Renaissance, resonated with them the most and what they considered was their favorite part of the concert.

Overwhelmingly, respondents claimed their favorite songs were IM THAT GIRL, HEATED, and CHURCH GIRL. Spelmanites professed their enjoyment of the concert, depicting it as an “emotional experience” in which they collectively favored the ballroom scene, fashions such as haute couture, visuals, atmosphere, queer expression, composition, technology, art, nostalgia, and sense of community.

One respondent, JaMiya Guy, reflected, “My favorite part of the concert by far was the atmosphere! Upon entering the arena, you could sense that it was indeed a safe space. I thoroughly enjoyed making new friends and watching others become acquainted as well through the common support of Beyoncé.”

It’s understandable then how a lyric such as “Comfortable in my skin,” as featured in the second track of the album “COZY” could reveal itself as a motivating message. A sense of freedom is provided, along with the space to reaffirm Black women’s worth, regardless of the systems in place to suggest otherwise.

One could observe the Renaissance concert as a method of thoughtfully pursuing the liberation of Black women, promoting confidence, self-love, togetherness, celebration, and empowerment.

Opulence manifests as Afrofuturism, Black potentiality, fashion, and creative expression. The textures, themes, and visuals of etherealness, otherworldliness, uniqueness, supernaturality, eclectic styles, and envisioning of the past and future are prominent. Fans went all out with their Renaissance Tour outfits, some even receiving features on Knowles’ website.

The details of chrome, lace, denim, and southern style are synonymous with self-confidence, comfort, and freedom in sexuality. It is delightful to be immersed in a setting with endless Black expression. Within this space, personified through fashion, these fans are empowered to embrace decoration, maximalism, and ornamentation.

Afrofuturism proclaims that Black people are not confined to our past or the rigid comfiness of a predetermined future. This fusion of art and style into lyricism can be noted through what I like to call “Beyoncéffirmations.” Some favorites I’ve observed on Instagram are

“I’m one of one,” “Cozy with who I am,” “I’m that girl,” “Ten ten ten across the board,” “Your face card never declines,” “I’m the bar,” and “I’m on that new vibration.”

As someone who experienced a Renaissance concert, I, too, felt consumed by such an incredible environment. There is an air of connectivity, revival of the spirit, radical imagination, and an effort to add substance to the abstract. Just as our professors have taught us in ADW, to understand our history, we must understand the world and the human diaspora—what a worldly and otherworldly experience.

Our cultural wealth is unwavering. Stacked in the stadium like a coin jar, we are part of a sea of shiny silver coins. We represent wealth, spotlighting the value of culture and how we gleam and beam. A debt that society owes us regarding our labor is a preceding and proceeding value even after our cultural contributions. Are we not excellent? Are we not accomplished?

I feel that we get lost in the validation of our value when the real question is who is in debt to us. We don’t owe the world. Our light shall shine regardless of contortions of the truth or mass misconceptions; however, it is somewhat comforting knowing that our efforts belong to us in the grand scheme of things. Beyoncé is an excellent performer. Everything about the Renaissance era regarding acts, music, interactive entertainment, artistic vision, creativity, and culture begs us to be joyful, imaginative, authentic, take up space, and be a multiplicity of black!

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