Beyoncé, Drake and the revival of 90s house music
LONDON – “I’m on that new vibration,” sings Beyoncé on her new single, Break My Soul. “I’m buildin’ my own foundation.”
The foundation of her new sound actually dates back to the diva house movement of the 1990s, with its deep grooves, soaring melodies and insistent four-four beats.
She even shares the writing credits with Allen George and Fred McFarlane, composers of the timeless house classic Show Me Love for Robin S.
Weirdly, Break My Soul neither samples nor quotes their song. It simply uses the same bass sound, a preset on the infamous Korg M1 keyboard. But Beyoncé has always been careful to acknowledge the black creators who have influenced her. Sending a few royalty cheques to the creators of Show Me Love (or to their family in the case of McFarlane. who died in 2016) is a very Beyoncé gesture. The release of Break My Soul comes just a couple of days after Drake’s similarly club-inspired new album, Honestly, Nevermind.
Tracks like Falling Back and Massive also draw on the hypnotic bass and chunky piano chords of 90s house, with Drake enlisting an all-star cast of house and electronic music producers like Gordo, Rampa, Black Coffee and Alex Lustig.
Part of the answer is, almost predictably, the pandemic. Like Lady Gaga and Dua Lipa before them, Drake and Beyoncé are eulogising the redemptive power of dance in an unrecognisable world.
“I just quit my job… they work me so damn hard,” mutters Beyoncé in her lowest register, referencing the Great Resignation. A prominent sample of New Orleans bounce musician Big Freedia then urges listeners to “release the stress” and “release your mind” before a gospel choir turns up for the song’s ecstatic climax.
“With all the isolation and injustice over the past year, I think we are all ready to escape, travel, love, and laugh again,” Beyoncé said in a recent interview about her forthcoming album. “I feel a renaissance emerging, and I want to be part of nurturing that escape in any way possible.”