One thing about Beyoncé, she’s always going to start a conversation. This time, at the center of the discourse surrounding Queen Bey is “Break My Soul,” featuring Big Freedia, the first single from her seventh solo album Renaissance dropping next month. The ‘90s house-meets-bounce record is a bonafide earworm: The beat tingles up your spine, begging you to quickly find a dancefloor as the lyrics allow for a bit of mental release from these depressing times.
Sure, some critiques of the song are valid (let’s be honest, a billionaire suggesting people should quit their jobs during an impending recession is a little more than out-of-touch), but as the song unofficially declares summer 2022 one of sweet, let-your-hair-down liberation, the music shifts the conversation from the typical chatter to a much larger point: This isn’t a resurgence of the genre at all. The queen’s undeniable star power has merely brought Black house music — which has long existed — to a larger audience.
Its origins are clear: House music was born in the early ‘80s in The Warehouse, a small Black gay club in Chicago. The movement began as a response to the death of disco and caught a real mainstream run in the ‘90s with songs like Robin S.’s “Show Me Love,” CeCe Peniston’s “Finally,” and Crystal Waters’ “100% Pure Love.” As music does, the sound birthed several subgenres (deep house, techno, etc.) and caught fire in other cities that put their own footprint on it, most notably Detroit, New York City, New Jersey, and Baltimore.
That’s what makes Beyoncé’s new hit immediately recognizable. It's reminiscent of those era-defining classics that drum up nostalgia with a touch of New Orleans’ bounce. What cannot be overlooked, however, is the Black artists who have moved the genre forward in the last decade or so, including Dawn Richard, Azealia Banks, Channel Tres, Austin Millz and Kaytranada, among others.
I’m praying that this house moment puts money in pockets of Black Women whose voices went without proper credit for years and faces were never seen.— Scottie. (@ScottieBeam) June 22, 2022
Sending love to the family of Loleatta Holloway.
“Been saying we belong in this dance/ electro lane for years,” Dawn Richard tweeted after Drake dropped his unexpected house-inspired album, Honestly, Nevermind, just a few days before Beyoncé’s single. “Hopefully the culture shows more love now and supports the artists who have been in this lane and the new ones coming.”
On previous projects, both Beyoncé and Drake have dropped house-drenched records. Still, they’re merely adopting the sound (as will others who will quite predictably follow their lead). And just like Drake, we all need to move out of the way of artists who are house culture; those who embody it, shape it and pour into it consistently. There’s nuance and distinction between genres like house, ballroom and dance that should be respected as new music fans step into this space. “Advice to #BreakMySoul fans: You can't master decades of club music in days,” music critic Craig Seymour tweeted. “But respect the history & don't speak dismissively of the music. It's not here for a fun moment. It has sustained some of us for years, literally giving us life.”
This isn’t a resurgence of the genre at all. The queen’s undeniable star power has merely brought Black house music — which has long existed — to a larger audience.
It’s fitting that this callback to when folks felt most alive is happening during Pride month. This acknowledgment and celebration of the LGBTQIA community’s impact on music history is not only imperative but also begs the rest of us to sit back and take notes on how we should approach this new wave of house. It’s not a trend. And credit should be given where it’s due.
Like always, Beyonce is doing the Lord’s work: People want to let loose and dance again in that I-don’t-care-who’s-watching kind of way, and she has gifted us the soundtrack — and whether you rock with Honestly, Nevermind or not, so has Drake. Now what? Well, take what you love about the songs and leave the rest. Dive deeper into house or don’t. But get used to this mainstream embrace of the genre because as these massive music stars push this sound front and center, this vibe shift is exactly what many of us need right now. And the most important thing is that house music — Black music — is getting much-deserved recognition.
All we need to do is shut up and dance.