Six years after her last full solo album, the game-changing Lemonade, Beyoncé is back with “Break My Soul,” the lead single from her upcoming seventh studio album Renaissance, out July 29. After revolutionizing the industry by pioneering the big-budget surprise drop—a strategy that had so much impact that she helped to shift the new music release day to Fridays—Beyoncé has once again proven that we are nothing but pawns in her game, operating under her whim happily.
But Beyoncé just couldn’t resist playing with our resting heart rates just one more time, dropping “Break My Soul” three hours before midnight eastern time on Tidal, being so kind as to throw Jay-Z a few extra $12.99 subscription fees before commanding the rest of the summer as her own. The Tidal release was followed an hour later with an official lyric video which confirmed what the 15 people who use Tidal had just found out: Beyoncé is sending the world’s population to work on Tuesday morning half-asleep, getting their bag with bags under their eyes from dancing through the night.
“Break My Soul” is an absolutely massive return to the club for Beyoncé, featuring wall-to-wall throbbing synths and irresistible vocal runs that thankfully stretch well past the four-minute mark. The song opens with queer icon and Queen of Bounce Big Freedia’s unmistakable voice and high-octane energy assuring the listener that she’s about to explode.
And if that wasn’t enough to get you lacing up your six-inch platform heels and ordering an Uber XL to the nearest bar, then the familiar sample of Robin S.’ legendary House classic “Show Me Love” will do it for you. Elder millennials are shaking. Beyoncé said, “Happy Pride, Gen X!”
That twinkling House bassline may be one of the most recognizable in the entire genre’s history, but Beyoncé is no stranger to taking samples and putting her own indelible spin on them. The interpolation on “Break My Soul” twists, turns, and transforms over Beyoncé’s rasping, determined vocals and a pounding House piano, fading in and out and layered with reverb as Beyoncé launches herself into another triumphant chorus.
Lyrically, the song is a classic House track: it’s filled with as much jubilation as it is desperation. Here, Beyoncé finds the space to drop all of the artifice and celebrity to slink onto a smoky club floor looking for the same thing that we all want: an escape.
She craves a new motivation, a hint of salvation, a little bit of love, and a whole lot of strength. “You won’t break my soul/I’m telling everybody,” she decrees with a firm period tacked onto the end. It’s not directed at anyone in particular, but rather everyone and everything. It’s a new philosophy at a time in history when scrolling Twitter for one second is sure to put you face to face with a new, unexpected horror. Each repeated refrain of the chorus is an affirmation for the future. “Break My Soul” is as much gospel as it is dance.
And, okay, yes, it’s a little insane to hear Beyoncé singing about quitting her 9-to-5 job—something she knows absolutely nothing about, but who cares? On “Break My Soul,” she is a woman for the people, our resilient leader guiding us through the plight of everyday mundanity. In these four minutes and thirty-eight seconds, Beyoncé is not Beyoncé. She’s every single one of us who is just trying to make it through the day.
“Break My Soul” is so brilliant largely because it sounds like one long, referential club mix, as if 16 different samples were all layered onto one track, making for the most fierce and walloping DJ set you’ve ever heard.
You can thank Tricky Stewart and The-Dream for keeping the summer’s best Pride party going well past this month. The collaborative duo helmed one of Bey’s biggest hits, “Single Ladies,” and are poised for another one just as inescapable. It’s not just Beyoncé, Big Freedia, and Robin S. It’s the gospel choirs, the touches of organs, and the gleaming disco synths as well, all working together to turn a night of debauchery on a dark dance floor into the light of a new day that holds a little more promise than the last.
Its club kid nature results in a song that’s just begging for multiple listens. That’s also makes it slightly repetitive, with a somewhat atypical verse-chorus structure. But that’s ultimately part of its charm. It’s made to be played on repeat over and over through the night. Some people won’t like that, and “Break My Soul” will be divisive, just like any decent pop comeback should be. Anything that results in the public leaning hard one way or another is far too boring. And Beyoncé doesn’t do boring (well, unless you count “Halo”).
The song has only been out for a few hours and it has already proven contentious among fans, but Beyoncé wouldn’t have it any other way. She knows that controversy and doing the unexpected are far better for a project’s longevity than a set cultural consensus. And with surprise releases out the window for the Renaissance era, there’s no doubt Team Bey has a whole plan in place.
The worst thing that can be said about “Break My Soul” is that it casts a long shadow over Charli XCX’s fantastic “Used to Know Me” from March, which also sampled “Show Me Love.” But when Beyoncé wants to pull focus? World, stop.
If “Break My Soul” is any indication of the sounds that Beyoncé will be exploring on Renaissance—and the astounding disco-inspired photos from her recent profile in British Vogue suggest that they are—then we have no choice but to prepare ourselves for the sweatiest, craziest, most ass-shaking and floor-filling stretch of late summer glory since “Déjà Vu” kept both the clubs and the TRL Studios packed 16 years ago. Leave it to one of the greatest of all time to give us a little taste of the past while propelling us into a bright new future.