Utada Hikaru Bad Mode Profile

Hikaru Utada's 'First Love' Netflix Series Is Coming, Plus a 2022 Vinyl

After dropping BAD Mode at the top of the year, performing at Coachella, teaming up with Cartier and, most recently, singing "Somewhere Near Marseilles" to sharks while clubbing in an aquarium - a scene plucked straight from my personal fan-fiction - Hikaru Utada has even more for us to get excited about this fall.

As previously announced, there's a Yuri Kanchiku-directed Netflix series coming, called First Love, inspired by none other than Hikaru's massively popular, instant ugly cry-inducing 1999 single from their record-shattering Japanese debut studio album, as well as 2018's "Hatsukoi."

Two years later, it's finally ready...and it's premiering on November 24.

As of Friday (September 23), there's now an official page for the series on Netflix, as well as the first teaser poster, and an official description.

First Love Netflix Utada Hikaru

Per Netflix: "A cross-generational love story inspired by “First Love” (1999) and “Hatsukoi” (2018), two seminal songs by Hikaru Utada. Two teenagers fall in love for the first time in the late 90s; two decades later, one is about to get engaged, while the other is divorced with a teenage son who’s falling in love for the first time."

The show is categorized on Netflix as "swoonworthy," "heartfelt" and "feel-good." Also: TV-MA rating. Hello! Let's celebrate that!

The cast includes Takeru Satoh, star of the Rurouni Kenshin film series, and Hikari Mitsushima, the idol singer-turned-actress who starred in 2006's Death Note adaptation, and more recently performed and danced in Mondo Grosso's "Labyrinth," a 2017 highlight!), as well as lending her captivating voice to this year's "In This World."

The first teaser from the show will be unveiled at TUDUM Japan, Netflix's global fan event on September 25.

But the news doesn't stop with the show.

That's right: on December 9, the 24th anniversary of Hikki's debut, Hikaru Utada will release Dolby Atmos versions of the two songs: “First Love (2022 Mix)," as well as “Hatsukoi (2022 Remastering)," plus a limited edition 7-inch vinyl "First Love / Hatsukoi" containing the two tracks, as well as a cappella versions.

The track was mixed by engineer Steve Fitzmaurice, who's worked with Hikaru since Fantôme.

"The meticulously designed three-dimensional acoustics bring a new and fascinating experience. The analog version of 'First Love (2022 Mix)' is newly mixed by the same engineer and 'First Love (2022 Remastering)' is done specially for this," the official website declares.

And yes, the "First Love" / "Hatsukoi" 7" vinyl is available to pre-order right now. (There's an External Bonus item for the limited press, intriguingly listed as "a coaster.")

This is all very thrilling, and potentially massive: we've all seen how international TV shows on Netflix have become global events in the past few years. The idea of Hikaru Utada's classics taking on new life and reaching new ears is incredibly exciting. Plus, crisp new versions of "First Love" and "Hatsukoi" - and a collectible item to boot, just in time for Christmas. The Hikki Hive is nothing if not thoroughly being fed in 2022.

We will be streaming...the show and the music. Watch party with Kuma-chan?


Madonna Hung Up Tokischa

Madonna Is "Hung Up On Tokischa" & Hornier Than Ever

Madonna Hung Up Tokischa

"Hung up, yo lo que 'toy en nota..."

Her name is Dita. She'll be your culo nuevo tonight.

Madonna is having a moment at the moment. She's never not had a moment in four decades to be fair, but there's absolutely something...afoot.

From the bleached brows and long orange locks, to dancing tabletop during New York Fashion Week, posing alongside La Familia Ciccone and locking lips here, there, and literally everywhere with her latest lover (?), 26-year-old Dominican rapper Tokischa, it's never felt more early '90s Madge since, well, the early '90s.

With the 30th anniversary of Erotica just around the corner, she's giving Dita, "Deeper and Deeper," Sex book, "Justify My Love," Homodonna - all of it.

"Hung Up On Tokischa," out on Friday (September 16), along with the accompanying video on Tuesday (September 20), is the latest Re-Invention (REFERENCE) of a classic, following her seemingly never-ending onslaught of "Frozen" remixes, and the rather unfortunate, late-to-the-party "MATERIAL GWORRLLLLLLLL!" with Saucy Santana.

We've seen it coming for a while now: she premiered the "Hung Up" makeover live already with Tokischa during her chaotic Finally Enough Love Pride performance at Terminal 5 in New York City back in June, later hitting the streets in Washington Heights and causing a commotion (and police complaints) while partying into the early morning.

Unlike the "Material Girl" makeover, "Hung Up On Tokischa" - lazily titled as it is (early rumors suggested it'd be called "Hung Over," better!) - is actually a really fun, good time. It's a fresh interpretation, trading disco for dembow, providing the enduring anthem with a new flavor and proving that "Hung Up" is pure excellence in any genre and language.

Her Madgesty's evidently still taking her Spanish Lesson(s): "Tokischa, ¿que lo qué? Yo quiero un culo nuevo," she declares. "Tokischa, what's up? I want a new ass," basically which, well, some diehards might argue that's the last thing she needs...especially when it comes to her center of gravity. Anyway!

The two playfully trade off on verses, ending in a lusty "Justify My Love"-style outro: "I'm so high, I think I love you / Mmm, ah, vamo' a singar / Te amo mamasita, I'm so high..."

The accompanying music video is part NYC-based found footage horror movie, part Reverse Warholian Sex book expedition, as she lays it on thick, power vers-ing the fuck out of Tokischa.

The two trade tongues every which way, in every orifice, partying on the pavement, terrorizing convenience stores, and dry-humping each other on a candle-lit altar. Right in front of the Virgin Mary!

It's unruly debauchery in diamonds and grills, as brilliantly communicated by the ending credit: "Underdirected by Sasha Kasiuha." (Sasha's been working on visuals for M since Madame X.)

It goes without saying that the Queen of Pop™'s going to do whatever it is she wants to do - and don't ever tell her to stop! This is one particularly chaotic, not-so-Easy Ride at the moment.

Hold tight, and assume the position.


Bebe Rexha Blue I'm Good Video David Guetta

Bebe Rexha's "I'm Good (Blue)" Should Be No. 1 for 50 Fucking Weeks

Bebe Rexha Blue I'm Good Video David Guetta

"Baby, I'mma have the best fuckin' night of my life..."

A wise woman once declared to a most undeserving crowd: “This song was No. 1 for 50 fucking weeks, I work too fucking hard for this bullshit, OK? Call me whatever the fuck you wanna call me. ‘Cause I’m a girl? Yes. I’m a big bitch right now. Go ahead. You’re going to sing the fucking words if you know the fucking song."

And now, you're going to sing the fucking words again, because you definitely know this fucking song.

After David Guetta debuted the track live five whole years ago (!) during an Ultra Music Festival set, our favorite Brooklyn-born bad bitch, Albanian pop goddess, famous person who is not famous, and Legends Only podcast unofficial mascot landed atop the charts with a quickness at the end of August with the newly re-recorded version of her Eiffel 65 "Blue (Da Ba Dee)"-interpolating I'm Good (Blue)."

The song is an obvious earworm, and a clear school dance/wedding/bar mitzvah smash in the making, on the level of Black Eyed Peas' "I Got a Feeling"; a mindless dance-pop party anthem about putting our hands up and dancing all night like it's 2009-2012 all over again.

It's no surprise either, given that Bebe and Guetta are regularly recognized as Employees of the Month at the Bop Factory.

Bebe also sounds legitimately great as always, especially as she hits that "I'm GOOO-oo-oOOO-oodd..." moment. More of those runs, please.

As of Tuesday (September 20), the long awaited, oft-teased accompanying music video has finally arrived...and it's one big party: Bebe on a boat, serving Dannii Minogue's "Perfection"! Bebe in a pool, using her butt as a floatation device! Bebe at Ushuaïa Ibiza, feeling her blue PVC EDM bunny fantasy!

There's not really a plot, per se: it's just relentless partying, fire performer babes, giant martini glass hair-flipping babes, festival babes - and oh look, David Guetta has abs! And Bebe Rexha looks hot, which is ultimately all that matters. (Need the "B" necklace as well.)

Aside from instantly sailing to the Top 10 in dozens of territories around the world, the smash is already a part of history, having hit No. 1 on Spotify, iTunes and Apple Music at the time of Queen Elizabeth II's death. (Thank you, @BebeOnCharts. I know Lizzie would have loved this video.)

In These Unprecedented Times™, in a bleak and uncertain world where big, dumb, fun pop is dangerously nearing extinction, "I'm Good (Blue)" dares to defy the depression. Thank God we've got you, Bebe.


Carly Rae Jepsen Talking to Yourself

"Talking to Myself" Is Carly Rae Jepsen's Best 'Loneliest Time' Bop Yet

Carly Rae Jepsen Talking to Yourself

Carly Rae Jepsen, also commonly referred to by her birth name, Godly Raemmaculate Jepselegend, is back in familiar territory: namely, bop city.

Now, the kick-off of The Loneliest Time, her upcoming fifth studio album (or sixth, if you count Dedicated Side B as a full record), started off calmly enough with the hazy, summery, vaguely Solar Power-adjacent "Western Wind."

Things took a quirkier, campier turn with follow-up "Beach House" - she's so crazzzzzzzy, love her! - a deeply sarcastic ode to a never-ending onslaught of reliably unreliable, emotionally unstable suitors. (M*n. Boo!)

On Friday (September 16), Carly returned with a third offering from the record, "Talking to Yourself," "not NOT a revenge song" - and the closest to capturing the thrill of her most major '80s-leaning synth-pop servings, sonically speaking.

"Talking to Yourself" was composed with "Party for One" and "Now That I Found You" collaborators Captain Cuts, as well as "Cut to the Feeling" co-writer Simon Wilcox.

The instantly catchy cut finds Carly feeling not not vengeful, with some of her most biting lyricism in a while: "Are you reaching for me, making love to someone else? Do you talk to me when you're talking to yourself?" (The keep-you-up-at-night lyrics are very Britney "Shattered Glass," actually...)

There's also the matter of the song's construction itself, complete with a delicious post-chorus - a rarity in a time of algorithm friendly, 2-minute ringtone-pop.

"Talking to Yourself" arrives just days ahead of the start of her So Nice Tour, and about one month before she releases The Loneliest Time on October 21 - which, yes, is also Taylor Swift's album release day for Midnights.

The other album might get the lion's share of the media hype, but this song is further proof that Carly's record is worth plenty of talk itself.


Kelela Washed Away

"Washed Away": The Restorative Reintroduction of Kelela

"Riding out on metal waves / Moving on, a change of pace..."

Kelela made waves five years ago with her debut studio album Take Me Apart, one of the most forward-thinking R&B records in recent memory, inspired by Janet Jackson and Björk. (And truly, the album sounds like the exact meeting point between the two.)

A remix album, Take Me a_Part, the Remixes, came one year later, including contributions from some of the coolest innovators in the scene, including Kaytranada and Serpentwithfeet.

And then, she disappeared.

Four years later, Kelela's back. For real - no PlayStation 5 hacker scam on Twitter this time, promise.

"Washed Away" formally kicks off a new era for the 39-year-old singer, an entrancing first taste of what's to come.

A groove like "LMK"? Maybe not, but don't panic just yet: they're coming.

“I love a banger, but for the first point of contact out of my hiatus, it felt more honest to lead with an ambient heart-check,” she said in a press release upon the song and video's release on Tuesday (September 13).

“I specifically want to speak to marginalized Black folk and highlight the work we do to find renewal in a world that’s built to make us feel inadequate. This song is the soundtrack to the relief we find after going inward.”

The initial offering from Kelela's long-awaited follow-up, produced by Yo van Lenz, plays like a soul-soothing introductory interlude, as her signature restorative voice gently glides across an atmospheric backdrop, carrying us away into the next chapter.

A stunning visual shot in the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, directed by Yasser Abubeker (who most recently worked with Shygirl on "Firefly") further illustrates the artistic rebirth, as she sheds her hair and steps into the water.

Kelela's here to begin the healing, and not a moment too soon.


Tove Styrke Another Broken Heart

"Another Broken Heart": Tove Styrke Makes 'Hard' Go Harder

Tove Styrke Another Broken Heart

The Toves of Pop™ are delivering this year. (As they are wont to do every year, but still.)

While Tove Lo is about to unleash her inner Dirt Femme, Tove Styrke's still mining pop gold only a few months after the release of her fourth studio album, Hard.

The 29-year-old Swedish Idol alum's back with a brand new single, now tacked onto her still-brand new record as an extra track, in the form of "Another Broken Heart," released on September 2.

She co-wrote the song with Wilhelm Börjesson, Emelie Walcott, Oskar Widen and Jason Gill of Katy Perry's "Never Really Over," Ava Max's "OMG What's Happening" and Bebe Rexha and Doja Cat's "Baby, I'm Jealous," among other bangers.

As for the concept of the song? "Another Broken Heart" is about, well...a broken heart.

"'Another Broken Heart” is about heartbreak," Tove further clarifies.

"A friend of mine got dumped and that was when I wrote it. I love the dramatic strings together with this beat. It feels both naive and grand at the same time, which I think really suits the song.”

The song's a dreamy, danceable bout of brink-of-devastation synth-pop, full of cinematic strings, a surging pulse and Styrke's signature vocal chops.

That chorus is immediate melancholy bliss, and the second verse especially hits - "Sometimes I feel like you're not really here with me / And you just stick around because it sucks to leave," oof - as Tove teeters between desperation and self-destruction. (Relatable!)

"I've got one more trick tucked in my sleeve," she pledges. And she wasn't lying: Hard now absolutely goes even harder.


Ava Max Million Dollar Baby

"Million Dollar Baby": Ava Max Bounces Back From Heartbreak

Ava Max Million Dollar Baby

"She's a million dollar baby, nobody can explain it..."

The good news: Amanda Ava Koci - better known the world over as Ava Max - is back to Save Pop™ with a brand new single as promised, called "Million Dollar Baby."

The bad: you better chew it up good like a stick of Extra gum, because it's going to have to tide us over until the release of Diamonds & Dancefloors in 2023.

That's right: the album's been delayed by three months, from October 14 to January 27, 2023. The Lord works in sweet but psycho ways. (Perhaps the delay will also allow for a reexamination of that album cover because...oof.)

In any case, the 28-year-old Milwaukee-born singer-songwriter, lava survivor, Sam's Club entertainer and Extra Gum spokeslegend is back with her highly anticipated new single on Thursday (September 1).

And the Cirkut, LOSTBOY and David Stewart-produced track is, to absolutely no one's surprise, yet another immediate pop bop to add to the ever-expanding Max catalog of smashes, complete with a catchy pulse and reliably catchy, radio-friendly melodies. ("A mirac-oh-oh-oh-HOOOH!")

The respectably 3-minute long post-breakup banger is basically all about Ava getting her groove back.

“When I was creating this record, I was going through a really hard time in my life – heartbreak and just a lot of sadness,” she explains.

“I titled it ‘Million Dollar Baby’ to remind myself of my self-worth and wrote the lyrics to show that you can overcome and achieve anything when you put your mind to it. The line ‘She broke out of her chains, turned the fire into rain’ shows the journey this song took me through – from feeling weighed down by sadness to breaking free and feeling like myself again.”

@avamax She’s a miracle 💎@LeAnn Rimes Cibrian ♬ Million Dollar Baby - Ava Max

"In the dark of the night, she got danger on her mind..."

Being the clever Interpolation Queen that she is, the "My Head & My Heart" singer's kept the trend going strong with her newest offering, interpolating the melody of LeAnn RimesCoyote Ugly soundtrack classic, “Can’t Fight The Moonlight." (There's also a muh-muh-muh-muh-my" melody, which just might draw some comparisons to the early output of a certain Italian girl from New York City.)

Curiously, while Ava's already teased on TikTok that she and the country star-slash-former foe of Brandi Glanville already met up, even dancing table-top side by side in a recreation of the 2000 millennial gay classic, all of that is nowhere to be found in the accompanying Andrew Donoho-directed music video.

If anything, the clip pays homage to Britney's "Gimme More" video (and/or a touch of Hustlers), as brunette Ava watches blonde Ava in action on stage (sans lopsided wig, sadly), eventually joining forces backstage to create a Super Ava...or something like that.

"Million Dollar baby" is the latest release from Ava's now-delayed sophomore record Diamonds & Dancefloors, following lead (buzz?) single “Maybe You’re The Problem."

And while yes, it would have been lovely to have an album's worth of bangers to keep us dancing on through the spooky season (she remains one of the very few mindlessly fun dance-pop bop purveyors still in existence in 2022), we Maxxinistas will simply need to settle in and wait for the New Year. Allowing Taylor Swift to breathe this quarter? So kind of her.

Album of 2023 incoming.


Britney Spears Elton John

"Hold Me Closer": Britney & Elton's Song Means More Than the Music

Britney Spears Elton John Hold Me Closer

"Hold me closer, tiny dancer..."

It's been a while.

It's been quite the past couple of years, actually. (Understatement of the century.)

The last time we heard from Britney - musically speaking, anyway - was six years ago, in the form of Glory and its two singles: "Make Me..." with G-Eazy, and "Slumber Party" with Tinashe.

Technically, we got new (old) music two years ago with the album's re-release, as part of the fan-led #JusticeForGlory campaign that sent the album to the top of the iTunes Charts, resulting in "Mood Ring (By Demand)" right in time for Pride, followed by a repackage later in the year, including "Swimming in the Stars" and "Matches" with the Backstreet Boys.

A few more years - and the termination of what she's since described as an exploitative, abusive, legally-imposed structure controlled by a team of leeches who will soon face their day of reckoning in court - later, she's back with a new song: "Hold Me Closer," a collaboration with Sir Elton John.

This isn't just about a single release at all, of course. It's a lot more significant.

"Hold Me Closer" marks Britney's first release post-conservatorship - her own decision, her own doing, on her own terms.

"My first song in 6 years 🎶 !!!! It’s pretty damn cool that I’m singing with one of the most classic men of our time…@eltonofficial 🚀!!!! I’m kinda overwhelmed…it’s a big deal to me!" she wrote.

It's fitting that she's leaned on several industry legends in the past few months for support - like at her wedding, which featured an Avengers-esque array of Queens of Pop Culture, including Madonna - since so few people actually know what it's like to exist at her level of fame.

To re-enter the musical arena with Sir Elton John by her side feels like an appropriate soft landing: she's back - maybe not fully just yet, but testing the waters, with a tried-and-true icon by her side.

Forget how the song even sounds: hearing her voice again at all is an emotional experience in its own right. The significance of reclaiming of her career by even agreeing to do this feature cannot be overstated.

And, lucky for us, the song is also actually genuinely good.

"Hold Me Closer," co-produced by Andrew Watt and Cirkut, is the spiritual sibling of Sir Elton's massively successful Dua Lipa team-up "Cold Heart," which surged to the Top 10 in most territories around the globe last year, and gave him his first U.K. No. 1 hit in 16 years.

While "Cold Heart" was more of a megamix - containing elements of "Rocket Man," "Sacrifice," "Kiss the Bride" and "Where's the Shoorah?" - "Hold Me Closer" is somewhat more focused, centered mostly around the chorus of an iconic hit (1972's "Tiny Dancer"), with parts of "The One," from his 1992 album of the same name, for the verses, and some of "Don’t Go Breaking My Heart."

Britney's voice sounds as pleasant and pretty as ever, maybe more joyful and bright than it has been in a long time, as she coos her way through familiar melodies and wraps her breathy voice around the dreamy piano, disco strings and starry-eyed lines: "I saw you dancin' out the ocean, running fast along the sand / A spirit born of earth and water, fire flying from your hands..."

Of course, it wouldn't be a Britney production without some "bay-beh," and ample Spearitual ad libs tossed in ("yea-ee-ah...," "ho-ooo-ohh..."). It's heartwarming to hear her signature sonic touches at play.

And that delivery is all her doing: in an interview with The Guardian, Watt explained the recording process.

“She’s unbelievable at layering her voice and doubling, which is one of the hardest things to do. She really pushed herself, vocally...she’s so good at knowing when she got the right take. She took complete control...she kept going: ‘Nope, again, again, again,' he said, until she had an “amazing idea."

“She wanted to listen to the music a bunch of times and she started doing all her incredible ad libs that make the record so her. 'Tiny Dancer' with her voice is special enough, but then she went through and did all these amazing runs," he went on to say.

“The song meant so much to her, and you can hear it in her vocal performance. She’s singing her ass off.”

That's not to leave out the praise for Sir Elton - "Uncle Elton," as he affectionately offered in the article - for providing the material to make this happen, and who has managed to find a way to make his classic hits relevant once again alongside beloved pop voices. That success is by no means a given, but he's done it extraordinarily well, as his ear for pop radio freshness and taste for talent is as strong as ever.

Everything about "Hold Me Closer" feels like a warm, much-needed hug to close out the summer: even the single's artwork, featuring throwback photos of the two icons, evokes an instant nostalgia.

The end result is something instantly recognizable and immediately accessible to the general public, suggesting it could potentially be one of her biggest hits in years.

“It’s hard when you’re young. Britney was broken. I was broken when I got sober. I was in a terrible place. I’ve been through that broken feeling and it’s horrible. And luckily enough, I’ve been sober for 32 years and it’s the happiest I’ve ever been. Now I’ve got the experience to be able to advise people and help them because I don’t want to see any artists in a dark place," Elton told The Guardian.

"I’m just crossing my fingers that this will restore her confidence in herself to get back into the studio, make more records, and realize that she is bloody good.”

This is all truly uncharted territory: it's a transition period for Britney. Aside from that tell-all memoir, now delayed due to a paper shortage (?), it's unclear what she plans to do next: whether she wants to continue to be the pop superstar that she is, or if she plans to try something entirely new (Goopney?), or if she plans to go off the grid entirely. (She does love to delete her Instagram every other month, after all.)

There's obviously no shortage of speculation and scrutiny surrounding Britney's personal life (the mantra "leave Britney alone" remains more relevant than ever), and there's bound to be more upon her return to the music scene. The truth is that no one can tell Britney how to heal from the extremely unique trauma she's been dealt in her lifetime, what that healing looks like, or when it's the right time to work again, if at all. That's her prerogative - for real this time.

Like many of her fans - a Day 1 since '98, an ancient elder millennial - I just want her to be happy.

If making music is what she's truly into doing right now, then by all means, let's support her and stream it till the world ends, and she and the Rocket Man are swimming in the stars together, gliding sky high across the charts.

"I’m learning everyday is a clean slate to try and be a better person and do what makes me happy," she wrote hours before the song's release. "Yes, I choose happiness today. I tell myself every day to let go of the hurt bitterness. And try to forgive myself and others to what may have been hurtful."

In the face of unspeakable cruelty and betrayal, Britney remains the embodiment of resilience. That she's singing for us at all is nothing short of a miracle.

It's really good to hear your voice again, Britney. I love you.


TRI.BE Leviosa Kiss

TRI.BE Make Magic With 'LEVIOSA' (Interview)

TRI.BE Leviosa Kiss

Meet TRI.BE.

That stands for "tri" - as in triangle, the most perfect shape (their shape favoritism, not mine!) and “being," And when you add that all up, it leads to their slogan: “We are perfect as we are.” We love a confident septet of all-singing, all-dancing superstars, don't we?

The seven member troupe - temporarily down one member, as JinHa recovers from health issues - is quadrilingual, with members SongSun, JinHa, HyunBin and SoEun hailing from Seoul, while Kelly and Jia from Taipei, and MiRe from Tokyo. Together, they speak and sing in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. (Take that, Girls Planet 999!)

With prolific producer Shinsadong Tiger (S.Tiger) at the helm, who's worked with everyone from HyunA to T-ARA to EXID to Momoland, as well as EXID alum LE, the new girl group's steadily paved a path for themselves in the notoriously overcrowded Korean market and beyond, progressively charting higher with each new release as they establish their own signature sound and style.

After their formal debut last year with Tri.be Da Loca, followed by Conmigo and debut EP Veni Vidi Vici, the girls are back in action and taking flight with the first taste of new music in 2022 with their third single album, the magic spell-themed LEVIOSA (out August 9), complete with a "high-teen concept" just in time for the back to school season, yellow bus and all.

“Don’t be jealous of the confidence that others hold; make your own magical moment and shine!” the girls declare of their peppy, powerful "KISS" of a comeback, produced by S.Tiger and ELLY, THE HUB team, Frankie Day and Charlotte Wilson.

I spoke to TRI.BE about LEVIOSA, the highs and lows of idol life, girl group inspiration (and relatives!), and pop star-approved TV picks. Check it out...

First of all, how is everybody feeling now? I know there were unfortunately some scheduling cancellations due to COVID among the members.

TRI.BE: Thank you for your concern, we’re all better now! We were very sad because we were really looking forward to attending those events; we did get some rest though!

Fans are also wishing the best to JinHa, who is not participating in this comeback. Can you give an update about her condition, and how she is doing as well?

TRI.BE: JinHa is doing well, thank you. She’s getting a lot of rest and is taking her time but also preparing to meet our fans again soon so we hope everybody can cheer for her to get better too.

Tell us about your comeback track "KISS," and the recording process for the song. Are there any favorite memories?

SongSun: When we first received the track, the parts weren’t divided yet so we had multiple trials with different distributions to see which part would suit each member the best. I think that’s what helped us to fully link with the track and make it our own.

Kelly: I had a really hard time recording for “KISS," mainly because the notes are pretty high! Practice was the only way to go so that’s what I did and I think I’m good with my parts now.

HyunBin: “KISS” conveys the message that we should all create our own magical moments of confidence. I remember taking multiple tries for my rap part to get the ‘feeling’ right, which mainly came from the pronunciation and emphasis on certain syllables. It was a very educative process for me!

Jia: I had to give off a feeling that I’ve never done before so S.Tiger really helped me out by giving me specific directions. I managed to finish my part quicker than I had expected.

SoEun: S.Tiger’s directions for my part was to sound “a bit more crazy” and that was a lot harder than I thought. Especially for my “ha ha ha ha” part, I ended up imagining making fun of Kelly to get the feeling right!

MiRe: Our choreography went through a lot of changes and versions, so it was difficult learning the moves for “KISS." I’m very happy with the results though!

Why was it selected as your next lead single?

TRI.BE: “KISS” was selected as our next lead single because the overall feeling of the track matches well with our current image and identity. TRI.BE holds a mischievous and energetic image and “KISS” is exactly the track that allows us to show that on stage! With a catchy hook, we were able to add in a catchy choreo as well so it was quite the perfect match.

The B-side track "In The Air (777)" is a lot of fun, too. How would you describe making the track, and what do the lyrics mean to you?

TRI.BE: “In The Air (777)” represents all 7 of the TRI.BE members. Not only does it portray a magical experience of flying in the are but it also emphasizes that TRI.BE is a group of 7 and will remain 7 forever. To us, it’s almost like the second fan song after “TRUE” since the lyrics are encouraging and heartwarming. We actually got emotional when recording for the track because of the lyrics and the encouraging vibe; some of the members teared up when we were doing the group chant!

What was the inspiration behind the title of LEVIOSA for the single album?

TRI.BE: The rough idea actually did first come from the famous “Wingardium leviosa’ spell from Harry Potter. We decided to go with LEVIOSA because the concept is casting a magic spell on the audience, where our listeners can feel enchanted and have a magical experience when listening to our music and watching our performance.

How would you describe the visual concept for this comeback?

SongSun: I would say familiar but new. The high-teen concept is familiar in KPOP but the mischievous vibe we added to it should come as new to our fans!

Kelly: "On and off" would be it. We’ve got both the “in-school” looks and “out of school” looks to show contrast, just like how we’re very different on and off stage.

HyunBin: I think it’s very eye catching! We’ve got new looks and this is a concept we’ve never done before so I think it’s quite captivating.

Jia: We’ve not members that have new hair colors and new styles so it’s very refreshing.

SoEun: Different! Even myself, I’ve never tried blonde hair before.

MiRe: This is the first time I’ve tried long hair and I’m happy to see our members rocking new visuals! Overall, it’s quite a refreshing change considering the long break we’ve had.

This is your third single album. What have you learned from your debut and previous comeback that helped you prepare for this one?

SongSun: Our past releases were all about being confident in who we are. I think that really helped in showcasing our message for this release, which is creating your own magical moments of confidence.

Kelly: I used to get very nervous about getting on stage but I’m a lot more comfortable when performing now. I’ve also learnt a lot about how to communicate with our fans better too!

HyunBin: I’ve really practiced and honed my rap and vocal skills throughout our past releases. We’ve also been monitoring the feedback from our fans to see why they like and improve them.

Jia: I had a hard time locating cameras when performing on stage but now I’ve gotten much better at doing so. I also think I’m a bit more professional when the cameras are rolling!

SoEun: Learning how to communicate with our fans better really helped this time because this is our first time meeting our fans in person!

MiRe: I’ve always felt that facial expressions are super important so I put in extra practice into getting the right expressions this time.

I wanted to go back to before the debut. Tell me more about the process of auditioning and getting into the group. What was it like, and what did you learn while training?

SongSun: For me, it was a long period of time that felt like it would never end. I went through numerous tests and had to keep myself motivated to constantly practice and improve myself. Endurance is probably the biggest thing I’ve learnt.

Kelly: I joined the trainee team after taking an audition at my dance academy. It was pretty tough since I had to adapt to a completely new environment but I’ve improved much more as compared to my old self. Especially my vocals!

HyunBin: I’ve been taking auditions since I was in 6th grade! I don’t even remember the amount of auditions I’ve been to but I started to gain insight on what I needed to do in order to pass round by round. It was difficult finding a team that was looking for what I possessed but once I passed, I kept practicing to improve myself. Skills as an artist is one thing but really learned how to keep myself going.

Jia: It was difficult coming to a new country, adapting to new surroundings and training to become an idol at the same time. I was very lost in the beginning but our members really helped me pull through by helping me with my Korean.

SoEun: I remember practicing the same track over and over for days, even weeks. We had multiple recording sessions to test our vocals and live performance lessons too. I even remember how hard it was creating my own signature!

MiRe: I first started dreaming of becoming a KPOP idol after getting to know BLACKPINK. Ever since, I’ve been working hard to become the idol I’ve always wanted to be and I’ve learnt so much about the Korean culture and language.

TRI.BE Leviosa Kiss

Shinsadong Tiger is the legendary producer you worked with on your debut. What is something specifically you've earned from him, or something special about how he works?

SongSun: He really listens to our opinions. He’s never shut our ideas down before hearing them first and gives us a lot of advice on how to find the right “feeling." I think that helps us maintain and develop our unique traits.

Kelly: S.Tiger is always the one directing us for our recording sessions and he focuses on details that we usually miss. It’s quite the learning experience for us!

HyunBin: S.Tiger knows how to bring out the unique characteristics of a person without straying far from the track’s concept. I think that’s how I’ve been able to keep myself being “me” and not having to change my style into something I’m not. He’s a very comfortable person to work with but also a person who is super keen on details.

Jia: His guidelines really help to keep us on track when practicing. He pinpoints the specific details we need to work on and that really comes through when we record.

SoEun: He’s very nice in the studio and makes us feel as comfortable as we like. There were times when I asked if we could turn the lights off so I could concentrate better and he didn’t mind at all. It might not be a big favor but it’s these kind of small things that make us feel comfortable working with him.

MiRe: He knows what each member needs to improve on how to improve it. The advice he gives is very crystal clear and his insight on what can add a punch to the track is very deep. I learn a lot every time we have a recording session with him.

You also worked with EXID's LE on your debut! Did you learn anything interesting from her about the girl group experience, or about recording?

TRI.BE: She always advises us to be more unique and comfortable. LE doesn’t want us to “stick to the norm” and advises us to work on setting each of ourselves apart. She demonstrates the rap and vocals herself and gives us a lot of tips when recording; her guide versions of our tracks are almost like our textbooks when we prepare for new tracks!

SongSun's cousin is Girls' Generation's Yuri! Have you talked to her about their upcoming comeback, and has she given you any advice about being in a girl group?

SongSun: We were very fortunate this time because both of our comebacks overlapped! It was my first time to meet her backstage and we agreed to have everybody come together for a meet and greet if we get the opportunity. She really liked our new track “KISS” and I told her I love “FOREVER 1," so that made me want to work even harder to show her better performances.

Which other girl groups, past or present, do you look to for inspiration, if any?

SongSun: My role model is Girls' Generation. They’ve been delivering numerous concepts over a long period of time, and it’s amazing to see how they can maintain their game so well!

Kelly: I’ve always been a big fan of BLACKPINK. They’re both my idols and my role models.

HyunBin: ITZY! They’re well known for their performances and that’s the kind of identity I would love to have too.

Jia: I also look up to BLACKPINK. Their stage presence is really something to learn from.

SoEun: BLACKPINK. The smallest gestures they do fit into their concepts so well, which shows how much they prepare and practice.

MiRe: BLACKPINK as well! I dream of being as charismatic and as cool one day.

What is something that sets TRI.BE apart from other groups and makes you unique?

TRI.BE: Definitely the friendly vibe we give off. We’re not afraid to show what we’re like in our daily lives and we think that is something our fans love to see. Although our strong and synchronized performances are one of our strong traits, the energy we give off when we’re off stage is very different from what we emit on stage; the fact that we’re not afraid to show this contrast is something we think that makes us unique!

One of the very cool things about your group is you're quadrilingual. Do you share one group chat together? Is everyone learning different languages all the time?

TRI.BE: Of course! We have our own little group chat and we’re ALWAYS chatting. It’s a very noisy space and we like uploading funny photos of our members instead of pretty selfies. We’re always chatting and laughing together, sharing almost every minute of our lives. We mainly communicate in Korean altogether but also teach each other words or phrases in different languages so it’s like a daily language school. Everyone is working to improve their English because we really want to communicate with our international TRUE better too!

What is something fans might not know about pop idol life?

SongSun: KPOP idols can be shy too! There are a lot of times when we’re excited to talk to our fans but too shy to share everything so don’t be disappointed if we seem too quiet! We’re just being shy.

Kelly: To us, fans are everything. I wish our fans would also know that!

HyunBin: KPOP idol life can seem fancy and busy but we do feel a lot of pressure and anxiety too. We’re the same people!

Jia: Maybe that KPOP idols don’t get a lot of sleep?

SoEun: Same as Jia, KPOP idols are always sleep deprived!

MiRe: I agree. We’re always sleep deprived but I wish our fans would know that we love them more than they think we do! You keep us alive.

I would love to know more about your individual music tastes! What is everyone's favorite artist, and which album is everyone currently listening to?

SongSun: I love listening to R&B artists such as Kwon Jin-ah, Ben and Taeyeon.

Kelly: I’m really into Kehlani nowadays. “Good Thing” by Zedd and Kehlani is on repeat for me!

HyunBin: I’ve been playing Chungha’s “Sparkling” on repeat nowadays but I enjoy listening to calm and soothing music in my free time.

Jia: I’m a big fan of SHINEE! They were and are my role models, probably the biggest reason I wanted to get into KPOP myself.

SoEun: I am always listening to Ariana Grande’s “Santa Tell Me." I usually enjoy listening to seasonal music that I can relate to.

MiRe: I’m in love with BIBI’s music right now. I’m also a big fan of R&B so I listen to a lot of R&B music!

And does anyone have any good TV show recommendations? I'd love to know what TRI.BE is watching.

SongSun: I recommend Knowing Brothers! It’s fun to see new guests come out every week and it’s a very entertaining show.

Kelly: I’m more into drama nowadays. I highly recommend Extraordinary Attorney Woo!

HyunBin: I’m a big fan of The Story of the Day when the Tail was Bitten! It’s a TV show that handles mysteries and I always watch episodes in my free time.

Jia: I recommend Running Man – I’ve been a fan of the show since I was young.

SoEun: I’m also really into Extraordinary Attorney Woo right now. The storyline is amazing and the main character is so cute!

MiRe: I love watching animations and my current favorite is The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. It’s really funny so check it out!

Where do you hope to see yourselves in five years?

TRI.BE: Honestly speaking, all of us share the same dream. We see ourselves going around the world, meeting and performing for our TRUE all around the world! Hopefully by then we would have picked up some more languages and have an easier time expressing our love to our international fans too. Five years from now, we hope TRI.BE is in the midst of a world tour, discussing where to visit, how to address our fans and what songs to perform! We really can’t wait to meet our fans all around the world in person one day.

LEVIOSA is out now.


Renaissance Beyoncé

Beyoncé & Madonna's "Break My Soul (The Queens Remix)" Is a Full Gay Panic

Renaissance Beyoncé

"Queen mother Madonna, I love ya..."

It's been 84 years since I last typed these words, but this is an emergency situation that has unearthed a stan panic buried deep within: sit down, shut the fuck up, and stop your entire fucking life.

Beyoncé is giving the LGBTs exactly what they never knew they needed.

At 5 p.m. on Friday (August 5), while everyone was busy clocking out at work - if you haven't already followed her lead and quit your job, that is - Team Beyoncé casually updated her official website with just one more remix of her lead single, "Break My Soul."

It's called "The Queens Remix," and it features...Madonna.

Yes, that's right: MADONNCÉ.

Beyonce Break My Soul Queens Remix

Apparently taking the Renaissance album campaign's commitment to honoring the past very seriously, Bey's opted out of the streaming services for this remix (for now), and forced us all to time-travel to 2006 and download the song in .MP3 form for $1.29 from the official shop. It's also apparently only available to purchase for the next 24 hours. (She will be going straight to jail if it's not uploaded on DSPs soon afterward, mind you.)

But trust: it's truly worth all 129 pennies.

UPDATE: It hit streaming at midnight. THANK GOD.

The nearly six minute mix heavily incorporates Madonna's iconic 1990 classic "Vogue" - entirely fitting for the queer culture-inspired Renaissance. And while Madge didn't supply new vocals, likely because she was busy terrorizing the streets of Manhattan late at night, Bey's provided plenty of her own.

From the very first "ooh la la...," it's an instant, mind-melting masterpiece.

It's not just a few extra adlibs here and there over the "Vogue" beat from Bey, either: like stan fiction come to life, Beyoncé recorded her own version of the "Vogue" spoken rap, referencing her own inspirations, serving up the names of many of our favorite Black female icons. (That's especially notable, given the original version's all-white Old Hollywood roster.) It's an absolute dream come true.

"Rosetta Tharpe, Santigold, Bessie Smith, Nina Simone / Betty Davis, Solange Knowles / Badu, Lizzo, Kelly Rowl' / Lauryn Hill, Roberta Flack / Toni, Janet, Tierra Whack / Missy, Diana, Grace Jones / Aretha, Anita, Grace Jones / Helen Folasade Adu, Jilly from Philly, I love / you, boo / Don't just stand there, get in to it / Strike a pose, there's nothing to it / Vogue."

The double Grace Jones shout-out. Janet. Toni. Sade's full government name. Jill Scott's in tears. It's too much. It's too MUCH.

And it doesn't even end there, as she works her way through even more Queens and the various legendary ballroom houses: "Mother of the House, ah / Michelle, Chlöe, Halle, Aaliyah / Alicia, Whitney, Riri, Nicki / House of Revlon, House of LaBeija / House of Amazon, the House of Aviance / The House of Balmain, the House of Ninja / The House of Lanvin, House of Telfar / House of Ladosha, House of Mugler / The House of Balenciaga, the House of Mizrahi-i-i-i-i."

The Destiny's Child inclusion with Kelly Rowlegend and Michelle, My Belle, further fueling my Act III reunion fantasy...no. ["America Has a Problem" voice] NO.

IT'S. TOO. MUCH.

The mile-a-minute references are already sort of kicking young Stan Twitter's ass. We're going to need the official lyrics stat before anyone else's feelings get hurt from mishearing their fave's name, Parkwood Entertainment.

With the new lyrics, Beyoncé leans in even further with the encouragement, lovingly offering herself up as the lightning rod for all the outside hate (and repressed self-loathing) to protect us in a rather powerful statement: "I, mother of my house, vow, to keep my f-ing mouth to myself / You make me smile, I vow to love thy hater / I believe in you, you can do it / Release, repressed, suppressed, regressed, redirect all that anger (To me) / And give it to me (To me), give it to me (to me), give it to me..." Mother, indeed.

Not only is The Queens remix of "Break My Soul" a full-on Legends Only affair that perfectly encapsulates the era's mission statement - a tribute to the innovators who've paved the way - but the production itself is absolutely sick ("c-c-cunty..."), especially as it goes all the way off in the last minute or two. It's feels essential for the inevitable tour, and demands a live performance immediately.

After delivering what is easily one of the best albums of the year, she's gone ahead and provided us with yet another gift: a legacy-saving distraction from Madonna's "Material Girl" remix, which also dropped today. She is simply too generous.

Now, if Beyoncé could just also give it to us on streaming so I can stop shouting at people to purchase a .MP3 like it's the early '00s (or if someone Mission: Impossible-style breaks into Parkwood Entertainment HQ tonight and hits "upload" to DistroKid), that would be fabulous.

Until then, see you at Club Renaissance...and on your iTunes local library.

Click here to buy the song, and check out the lyrics inside.


Renaissance Beyoncé

Beyoncé, 'Renaissance': Queer Joy & Sexual Salvation on the Dance Floor (Review)

Beyoncé Renaissance

"Uncle Jonny made my dress..."

During the dance break of the extended mix of B'Day's "Get Me Bodied," released as the album's fifth single in the summer of '07, there's a moment where Beyoncé begins rattling off a minutes-long string of commands for the dance floor: "pat your weave, ladies," "pose for the camera," "do the scissor leg, touch your heels, touch your toes."

"Walk across the room like Naomi Campbell," she continues. "Snap for the kids, snap for the kids, snap in a circle three times, snap for the kids."

At the time, it didn't register in my just barely out-of-the-closet 17-year-old brain as anything other than another dance step in the increasingly complicated game of Simon Says. (Err, Bey Says.)

But at one point, as a burgeoning blog boy, I remember stumbling on early posts about the song, specifically from Black gay men, and quickly learned that those snaps were actually queer-coded nods to her gay fans, arriving well before the wave of LGBTQ-minded self-empowerment anthem era of pop music.

Renaissance, Bey's seventh solo studio album, released on Friday (July 29), plays like an extended, explicit mix of that breakdown; an hour-long snap for the kids. It's a grown, emboldened, unapologetic love letter to the queer community, especially the Black pioneers, and specifically her late uncle, Jonny.

Beyoncé's ongoing relationship with the LGBTQ community is well-documented, and rooted in personal experience. As Mrs. Tina Knowles-Lawson explained once the album dropped, Beyoncé's late uncle, who died when she was 17 years old due to AIDS-related illness, helped to raise her and her sister, Solange.

"Solange and Beyonce worshipped him. He helped me raise them. And influenced their sense of style and uniqueness! He made Beyoncé's prom dress...he is smiling from Heaven at Bey right now! Saying you did that Ms. Thing!!"

Decades later, Beyoncé would emotionally refer to her uncle as "the most fabulous gay man" she's even known while accepting the GLAAD Vanguard Award in 2019.

“He was my godmother and the first person to expose me to a lot of the music and culture that serve as inspiration for this album," she wrote in the liner notes for Renaissance. This album is because of him.

Beyoncé Renaissance

Renaissance comes nearly one decade after her world-stopping, industry-changing surprise self-titled record Beyoncé, an artsy visual project exploring romance and sexuality, six years after Lemonade, a deeply personal narrative tackling themes of infidelity and racial injustice, and three years after The Lion King: The Gift, an ambitious collaborative project that found Beyoncé working with African talent to create an ode to the continent and its people.

This time around, two years after the eerie stillness of lockdowns, Beyoncé just wants to get out ("we back outside") again and let go.

“Creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world," she explains.

"It allowed me to feel free and adventurous in a time when little else was moving. My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, release, feel freedom. It was a beautiful journey of exploration."

A tantalizing tease from British Vogue kicked off the era at the start of the summer, with a photo shoot full of disco balls and white horses, conjuring visions of Bianca Jagger and Studio 54. Early descriptions of the music suggested a return to the "clubs of my youth" from 50-year-old editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, centering the album roughly in the late '80s to early '90s.

Then came the release of "Break My Soul" at midnight on the summer solstice (intentional, perhaps?), a house-inspired, Robin S "Show Me Love"-adjacent emancipation anthem for the clubs, which found Beyoncé cosplaying as a 9-5 worker who just quit her soul-crushing job (maybe don't follow her lead so fast during this recession), ready to find her own motivation, build her own foundation, turn up and "release the wiggle" during a night out on the town.

As opposed to the past few NDA-signed, watertight Beyoncé album campaigns, Renaissance arrived with advance warning: “act i RENAISSANCE July 29," she wrote in her bio, revealing that she'd been teasing the album title since at least last year. Then came the (instantly sold out) mystery box pre-orders, a track list, a full producer list pulled from Apple Music thanks to eagle-eyed BeyHive members, an artwork reveal, and even a full album leak days before. (What is this, 2011's 4 all over again?)

Renaissance also came without any music videos - a purposeful move, as Parkwood Entertainment explains, to provide fans with "the opportunity to be limitless in their expansive listening journey." (For now, anyway: the visuals are scheduled "for a later date.") Granted, there's still plenty we still haven't discovered, even with the album now officially in hand, including what Act II and Act III will look and sound like.

But for now, there's Act I.

Beyoncé Renaissance

Renaissance is a renaissance of the traditional album listening experience.

In a world of barely two minute-long ringtone pop singles, chucked out on a Friday and forgotten by Monday, Bey makes the case that the album format is still a worthy, valuable and artistic endeavor, and that songs can still be rich and dense, stretching on for several minutes without losing the TikTok-brained listeners' gradually dwindling attention span.

As Questlove rightly pointed out in his first impression amid the earliest reactions: "I listened 7 times. Which is 8 times more than the last time I listened to anyone's record from start to finish." The record is best served as a start-to-finish affair for maximum enjoyment, which leads to another crucial takeaway...

Renaissance is also a renaissance of exquisite sequencing.

The art of selecting an album's track order, and creating the fade-ins and outs, is a lost one in the streaming era. But when it's done well - like Madonna's non-stop mix of Confessions on a Dance Floor, or Kylie's extended mix of Disco, more recently - it can elevate the work to another level.

The transitions on Renaissance are immaculately done, enhancing the experience, from the first gradual BPM rise between "I'm That Girl" to "Cozy" to Big Freedia's explosive lead-in to "Break My Soul" from "Energy." It's like a live DJ mix, making the album feel like one long set. It never gets boring, thanks to the constant shape-shifting wall of sound.

To that point, Renaissance is a renaissance of innovators.

As hoped from the early fanfare and miles-long production credits, Renaissance spills over with samples, features, interpolations and references aplenty, specifically to hip-hop, bounce, R&B and house originators from the early '90s onward. (And yes, while Robin S and Kevin Aviance are elated to join the party, not everyone involved is as thrilled.)

This is an album of tributes, both overt and subtle, turning the listening experience into a full-on scavenger hunt for the liner notes-obsessed nerds: Donna Summer, Teena Marie, The Clark Sisters, Right Said Fred, Moi Renee, MikeQ, TS Madison, Kilo...the names go on and on. (And if you'd like to listen along, WhoSampled lets you hear all the exact moments.)

In Bey We Trust to treat the legends with dignity: not just anyone can get the inimitable Grace Jones, an actual Icon, on the track.

It's packed to the brim with powerhouse songwriters and producers, including tried-and-true longtime collaborators like The-Dream and Tricky Stewart ("Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It))," to the newer wave of hit-makers like NOVA WAV, BloodPop and PC Music's A.G. Cook ("All Up In Your Mind"), to taste-makers hailing from the dance floor, like trans DJ-producer Honey Dijon and Horse Meat Disco collaborator Luke Solomon ("Cozy," "Alien Superstar").

Beyoncé Renaissance

"Please, motherfuckers ain't stopping me."

Throughout the record, Bey makes ample allusions to the enduring spirit of the Black queer community, including "Cozy," a joyous expression of self-empowerment featuring a clip of superstar Ts Madison's "Bitch I'm Black" monologue. And despite coming up against a wave of bleak anti-LGBTQ legislation as of late, Renaissance is no pity party.

Bey joyously weaves together the colors of the Progress Pride flag throughout her lyrics, from "pussy pink" to Blue ("like the soul I crowned") to "Black, white and brown," creating "rainbow gelato in the streets."

"Alien Superstar," which kicks the vintage crystal off the bar with a Prince-Vanity 6 kind of funky footing, is similarly an ode to otherness.

"Unique / That's what you are," Bey happily proclaims, channeling Danube Dance - otherwise known as the late, great Peter Rauhofer - and his 1991 track with Kim Cooper. She includes a clip of Barbara Aan Teer’s 20 minute speech, called “Black Theatre": "All of these things we do in a different, unique, specific way that is personally ours."

On the Syd and Leven Kali-produced "Plastic Off the Sofa," while delivering "Love to Love You Baby"-like sugary-sweet coos, Bey offers an us-against-the-world ode to a lover who's had it rough growing up ("I like it rough," she assures): "We don't need the world's acceptance," Bey promises. "The rest of the world is strange, stay in our lane / Just you and me and our family." Sounds pretty LGBT to me!

By the label-heavy "Heated," Bey is referencing her beloved late relative by name ("Uncle Jonny made my dress / That cheap Spandex, she looks a mess") before she starts deep-diving into ball culture references ("Ten, ten, ten across the board"), confidently talking her shit and calling out fair-weathered fans atop fan clacks, providing endlessly quotable lines like "Drinkin' my water, mindin' my biz / Monday, I'm overrated, Tuesday, on my dick / Flip-flop, flippy, flip-floppin'-ass bitch."

Renaissance relishes in outta-my-way, I'm-the-only-one attitude and an overwhelming sense of confidence, from "I'm That Girl" onward. The ball culture references are aplenty throughout: "Category: bad bitch, I'm thе bar," she cockily declares on "Alien Superstar."

She gets downright cunty, literally, sampling the legendary Kevin Aviance's '90s bitch track "Cunty (The Feeling)" on "Pure/Honey," as well as MikeQ's "Feels Like" with Kevin JZ Prodify and Moi Renee's now-viral 1992 single "Miss Honey."

"Check my technique," she cooly orders. It's the most outright display of F-word revelry ("Bad bitch, bisous"), and the biggest hat tip to ball culture on the record, as she walks, turns, poses, and serves.

In a time of Pose, RuPaul's Drag Race and Legendary, the subject matter might not be especially new to some mainstream audiences, but it does still feel fresh, and especially satisfying to hear Beyoncé directly getting in on the fun herself.

If the past few Bey records dealt with relationship highs and lows, Renaissance is the sound of the much-needed Girls, Gays & Theys Night Out to blow off some steam. ("I'ma let down my hair 'cause I lost my mind...")

As the dust clears from the album's one (and maybe only) sweat-soaked single, Bey delights in dance floor blasphemy - much like one of her idols, Madonna - going from gospel to thotty rowdiness ("bad girls actin' raunchy, church girl, don't hurt nobody") on "Church Girl."

"She ain't tryna hurt nobody / She just tryna do the best she can / Happy on her own with her friends, without a man," she sings.

She happily explores her faith and freakiness side by side: "You could be my daddy if you want to," she teases. Oh father, indeed. (A "Sexy Daddy" throwback, perhaps?)

Renaissance Beyoncé

Renaissance is Bey's horniest record to date, by far.

There's so much explicitly uninhibited lusty bliss throughout, including the Teena Marie-sampling disco delight "Cuff It," co-written with the almighty Chic icon himself, Nile Rodgers featuring percussion from the legendary Sheila E., which plays like the long-awaited sequel to Beyoncé's "Blow," woozy on desire ("can I sit on top of you?") and bold promises that only Bey could make: "Bet you you'll levitate / Bet you you'll meet God." And you know what? I bet she's absolutely right.

The reference-rich album doesn't just bring artists besides Beyoncé to mind: it also occasionally feels like a nod to past versions of herself. The instantly perfect, music snob-acclaimed "Virgo's Groove" is a gorgeous 6-minute opus that bridges the astrological gap from her solo debut's "Gift From Virgo," and features harmonies towards its end that elicit happy tear-filled Destiny's Child nostalgia, a la "Emotions." (Let us put the energy out into the universe now, and manifest that Act III is a DC3 reunion.)

It feels like her Erotica in moments too, with those "Justify My Love"-like purrs and moans ("touch me, love me..."), and some of her most explicit, "Where Life Begins"-like come-ons yet: "Kiss me where you bruise me / Taste me, that fleshy part / I scream so loud, I curse the stars." God damn, God damn!

Renaissance is about paying respects.

When the legendary Miss Grace Jones comes in hot like a Hurricane on "Move," Bey makes room ("Grace...Grace Jones," she purrs), allowing the Jamaican icon to clear the path ("Move out the way!") alongside Nigerian talent TEMS. "Queen come through..."

The first few seconds of the NOVA WAV co-produced "Summer Renaissance" instantly makes it clear that the track's title has another meaning: the unmistakable melody of Donna Summer's classic "I Feel Love" comes trickling in, evolving into a pounding house beat, as Bey delivers those iconic moans. (Are you even a pop icon if you haven't referenced "I Feel Love"?)

And while a bulk of the record honors the past, the production is consistently future-facing, as on the BloodPop and A.G. Cook-assisted "All Up In Your Mind," which has a similarly dark and aggressive energy as Kanye West's Yeezus, as she stops just short of a felony to pursue a suitor across stabbing synths: "I try to get all up in your mind / It stops at a crime that I wanna make you mine."

The Hit-Boy co-produced "Thique," similarly, brings a modern trap-tinged energy, supplying some of what will surely be among the most Instagram caption-ready lyrics, as she slowly drags her voice across hi-hats, thoroughly putting the power in power bottom. ("He thought he was loving me good, I told him 'Go harder.'") There's also ample room for queer-friendly interpretation, as she switches up the pronouns throughout: "Thought she was killing that shit, I told her 'Go harder.'" There something you want to tell us, Bey?

Given her more political-minded output in recent years, from "Formation" to "Black Parade," "America Has a Problem" suggested from the title alone that she'd be tackling this broken country's myriad issues. But, nope! Grinding on Kilo's song of the same name from the early '90s, the only problem Beyoncé's concerned about this time is...well, Beyoncé. As perfectly summarized in a viral tweet: "The fact we all thought 'America has a Problem' was gonna be political when Beyoncé basically said...'I'm the baddest bitch in America, and I'm THEE problem!'"

Renaissance Beyoncé

Like many of the standout pop records that would go on to define the grim political climate of the past two years - Dua Lipa's Future Nostalgia, Lady Gaga's Chromatica, Kylie's Disco, Jessie Ware's What's Your Pleasure? - the record supplies the much-needed spirit of escapism, rooted in dance music past and present.

Renaissance is laser-focused on having fun, fucking shit up, and feeling herself - and that commitment to pursuing pleasure and sexual liberation is an act of rebellion in and of itself.

With its six-songs-in-one kitchen sink-style production, samples galore, delightfully raunchy lyricism and onslaught of delectable, disco horse-filled visuals (with videos still on the way, no less), Renaissance overflows with new sights and sounds to discover upon each spin.

Vocally, there are few (if any) artists who use their voice as an instrument quite like Beyoncé does, and this album is no exception. It feels obvious to say, but her voice is as dynamic as ever on Renaissance, from delivering those effortless runs and harmonizations, often taken for granted as complex stacked background vocals, to experimenting with gruff growls and playful yelps. She leaves no part of her gift unexplored.

This album just doesn't sound quite like anything we've heard before, despite being built on things we've heard before. ("Unique!") And while it's too soon to call Renaissance the album of the year, it's hard to imagine an album will provide a more sonically overwhelming experience on first listen.

Few songs on Renaissance make sense as traditional radio singles, but by now, it's clear that Beyoncé is not aiming for Top 40 radio success. She's vibrating on another frequency, existing in a different echelon - a legends only affair, like Prince, Michael Jackson and Madonna - operating on her own time, working against the grain.

That kind of power, a position of near-royalty in pop culture, also comes with an unenviable platform ("I didn't want this power," she sings on "I'm That Girl.") As a result, any move she makes is heavily questioned, criticized and downplayed. Her notoriously well-maintained boundaries with public access to her personal life, a track record of consistently one-upping herself artistically, coupled with the responsibility of being a role model to billions, holds her to an untenable, impossible standard of perfection.

On the flip side, being in that position allows ample opportunity for Bey to spread the wealth. Renaissance is clearly an opportunity for her to share the spotlight with a sizable army of deserving pioneers who have rarely, if ever, enjoyed the same view from the top.

The album might be full of braggadocious boasts and cocky declarations, but Renaissance is, if anything, a loving tribute to an expertly curated array of creatives who've paved the way, and those who've carried the torch alongside her into the next generation, providing a constant reminder that the Black queer community has led the way time and time again in popular culture, while rarely getting their flowers for doing so.

Renaissance is relentlessly fierce and aggressively sexual, imbued with a specifically queer spirit that's been channeled throughout her career - from "Get Me Bodied" to her drag queen-adjacent alter-ego Sasha Fierce, a la "Diva." This is her most explicit expression of that influence to date. She's been about that life (thank you, Uncle Jonny!) and owned it. Opulence. You own everything.

“Thank you to all of the pioneers who originate culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long. This is a celebration for you," she acknowledged in the liner notes.

"Applause, a round of applause," Beyoncé commands in the album's final moments, as "Summer Renaissance" draws to a close and gradually takes off into outer space. All these years later, we're still following her dance floor orders.

And ooh, it's so good, it's so good, it's so good...

 


Tove Lo 2 Die 4

"2 Die 4": Tove Lo's 'Popcorn'-Sampling Tune Is One Tasty Treat

Tove Lo 2 Die 4

Well...at least one Queen of Pop is actually releasing their long-awaited, much-teased track called "2 Die 4." (You're welcome to join the party any day now, Addison...)

And by Queen of Pop, I mean Queen of the Clouds.

That's right: following the release of several 2022 standouts already - including Euphoria soundtrack smash "How Long," "No One Dies From Love," and "True Romance," Tove Lo - Tohv Low, Too Vuh Loo, Too Vay Loo, Too Vay Low, whatever fits your fantasy at this point, I guess! - is back at it again with another serving off of her fifth studio album, Dirt Femme.

And it is, in fact, to die for.

Fellow talented Swede Oscar Görres - AKA OzGo - produced and co-wrote the song, who also did "Flashes" on Lady Wood (and "Hard to Forget Ya" on Britney's Glory, among many other feats.)

The concept of "2 Die 4" is, you know, about meeting someone 2 Die 4.

"You don't look like in your photo," she begins. Classic Grindr hookup plight, am I right?

"You're prettier than that." Oh. Never mind...

"Look alive and come with me, you're to die for everyday / Drag you out at midnight to dance in headlights and making out in the rain!" Tove yearns, her voice becoming increasingly desperate before the shadowy slow burner finally bursts into the classic sample: 1972's "Popcorn" by Hot Butter, based on an instrumental composed by Gershon Kingsley in 1969, which went on to be re-made by one of the greatest musicians of our time: Crazy Frog.

“With ‘2 Die 4,’ I wanted ‘instantly iconic’ energy. I've never sampled anything before, and this feels like the perfect first moment," she explained in a statement.

"Lyrically I wanted it to be that ‘pick me up when I'm feeling down’ song. At first, it's like a warm hug, then you shake it off, let out a scream and start dancing!”

The accompanying clip - "scene," if you're nasty - was directed by collaborator Kenny Laubbacher.

“I wanted to make something nostalgic, sexy and iconic. The character for this scene is Wonder Woman with big dick energy, and I just love it. Now, if you know what’s good for you, go listen on repeat.” Well, then. You heard the woman!

At a time when the girls are giving us some solid servings of interpolation, samples and nods - from Ava Max to Charli XCX to Beyoncé - it feels only fitting that Tove gets in on the fun with a throwback-inspired tune, too.

Cheers to yet another smash from the tried-and-true Scandipop trailblazer, and further evidence that Dirt Femme is coming in hot as an Album of the Year contender this October.