Editor’s Note: See Jane Write now publishes articles and personal essays by writers who identify as women, non-binary folks, and our allies. Learn more here.
By: Linda C. Mims
The first time I played Beyoncé’s Renaissance, I was cleaning the kitchen. “Cozy” came on and had me and the broom bopping and twirling under the disco ball. I half expected Donna Summer to bust out in song. Renaissance sounded like my youth and it paid homage to both House and Disco music, which my generation is very familiar.
I expected the Renaissance World Tour to feel like a family reunion, and it didn’t surprise me to see people aged 60 and older in the stadium. Crowds poured into Chicago’s Soldier Field through 20 gates, and while my daughters bought merch, I people watched. Stylish older ladies, with beautiful gray hair and faces beat to perfection, lifted their canes to me in salute. I, sporting a neon purple cane, lifted back. Mature ladies were a novelty in this venue, and tonight we were here to cuff it, cuff it, cuff it for you, baby!
Beyoncé had been our daughter from another mother ever since “Bills, Bills, Bills.” People were smiling their brightest and showing each other love and grace. The outfits were extraordinary, and the compliments were easy and genuine. I felt comfortable mimicking the trend of the young women who just pointed at someone and winked. I started doing that covertly because I didn’t want my daughters to see me and give me the exasperated, “Mommy!”
Mommy had dressed up in beige-linen crop pants, a salmon pink top, and statement jewelry—like I do when I’m going to see Jill Scott or Sarah Jakes. Unlike me, the young crowd “understood the assignment.” Silver was the mandate, appearing in cowboy hats, boots, and eyeglasses with tiny silver dangles in front of the eyes.
Guys were as pretty as girls. Girls were as dashing and handsome as gentlemen! My head swiveled as I ooh-ed and ahh-ed, but they just smiled at me and probably asked, whose mother is that?
Some things had changed since I first saw The Mrs. Carter World Tour at the United Center in 2013. Tickets had been a respectable $200 then. This time ticket prices had exploded. My sister, also in the 60+ age range, saw the August show in Las Vegas with her daughter and friends. She texted me this would be her last time. The seats had gotten smaller! “Ass gettin’ bigger!” Also, my sister didn’t appreciate watching the show on a big screen. Six hundred dollars isn’t POTATOES!
Once we found our seats, the magic world of see and be seen amplified. The beautiful people walked and sashayed as if the arena aisles were runways. Beyoncé’s music had brought together all manner of queer, transgender, disabled, and aged people. Could this be the America of the future? Could Beyoncé run for President?
On with the Show
Finally, after a two-hour wait, the mood shifted. The never-sitting crowd stirred and then stood, transfixed. I was sitting down during this, a little pissed off because my ticket said 7 p.m., and I could’ve made sandwiches and passed them out by the time Beyoncé came out at 9 p.m. That late start with no opening act was inconsiderate and I hope it was the venue or Ticketmaster who was to blame.
The crowd began to jump up and down and go crazy once an image of Beyoncé appeared on the big screen. She drawled, “Hey-y-y, Chicago” and the place blew up. After months of anticipation, all was forgiven. My heart lifted and joined the crowd in mutual love and admiration for Queen Bey. We swayed to “Dangerously In Love,” while the girls in the crowd around me belted out every word at the top of their lungs. It was annoying, but I kept remembering that I was breathing Beyoncé’s air on a balmy, starry night while colorful, spectacular effects lit up the sky.
The music coming through the speakers was clear and wonderful. The humongous visuals were realistic, and I didn’t tire of seeing the gorgeous Queen Bey on multiple screens. She controlled everything as she took us through the set list, changing costumes, leading well-choreographed dances, and performing both old and new songs. She didn’t show a hint of fatigue as she gave us our money’s worth. On top of all that, Blue Ivy came to dance in Chicago. I got a snatch of that on my phone. On the way to the show, we’d discussed if Beyoncé and Jay-Z would let Blue perform and they didn’t disappoint. My daughter saw Jay-Z walk by our seats to go way up in a section more privileged than ours. We were so star-struck!
What Would Beyoncé Do?
As a writer, I kept thinking about how prolific Beyoncé is as an artist. What she does, the way she writes and performs is art. I witnessed it with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City,” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” These songwriters told a story or had a political statement to make. They wanted to give a social commentary on the state of the country. I heard all of this from Renaissance. Some folks will want to separate the lyrics from the music and simply appreciate her ingenious marriage of Disco and House. And yes, “Break My Soul” is a total Studio 54 vibe—lights, spinning floor, and silver ball. But Beyoncé’s got something to say. She still has a way to go, in the opinion of someone my age, but she knows how to get attention, and she can sing a song!
Beyoncé shows us writers that we can grow by venturing out into unfamiliar territory. Writers can choose different genres. Nobody expected a megastar like Beyoncé to bring back disco flavor. If she can do it then, romance writers can try mystery.
Writers, besides using pseudonyms, can take on an alter ego like Sasha Fierce while they’re writing. As life changes, writers may find they relate better to a different audience, age group, or sex. Beyoncé’s writing, over the course of her career, shows it’s okay to adapt and change.
Though she could tell her story with only a three-piece combo, Bey chooses a full orchestra to layer notes and melodies. She employs the call and response between herself and the background singers, and uses the wailing voice of a gospel singer to open “Church Girl.” The sounds and voices of AfroBeats producers P2J and GuiltyBeatz are on the song “Move,” which features both Nigerian and Ghanaian influences. Voices shouting “move out the way” as they march through the song, adds another layer to the song and the album.
Fiction writers can achieve that by adding colorful characters like foreigners or using regional language. Nonfiction writers can use colorful graphs, bulleted lists, charts, and subtitles in articles and posts. Writers can add figurative language that is colorfully descriptive, but unlike Beyoncé, go easy on the MFs. We need to get famous before we can be our real selves.
Renaissance’s lyrics also had a theme. She sang of freedom, release, truth, and happiness—things that sounded too good to be true. She told us to be happy with who we are because we were born to be free. Was she just writing? Who knows, who cares? Proof that you can write it and it will be believed, if convincing.
When the Show Is Over
The show was over, and we headed back to our cars. One of my daughters knew the set list, and she herded us along before the last song in order to beat the crowd. The merchandise stands were pretty deserted, and I could’ve walked right up and bought something. Ladies who had been in heels limped barefoot to their cars. My eldest daughter had brought socks to change into. We still loved on each other and smiled goodbye. Cops leaned on their cars and chatted amiably. There would be no trouble here. Queen Bey deserved the spirit of unity she had put out. My opinion? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event. When or if Beyoncé comes back with Renaissance Part II, III, or IV, I’ll go and so will my sister, my best friends, and a few ladies from the church.
Yes, the church girls were there. We prayed mightily the next day.
When Linda C. Mims isn’t dancing to Renaissance, she can be found writing fiction and nonfiction on topics ranging from A.I. to neighborhood art fairs. Her futuristic, dystopian novel, The Neon Houses, and its prequel novella, The Legend of Ethni LeDoux, are available on Amazon. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.