Last month two of music’s biggest players dropped surprising new works, leaving many fans buzzing. On June 17th Drake released his seventh studio album, Honestly, Nevermind, however the album was not immediately welcomed with all praise—many fans took to Twitter to share their disdain for the artist’s latest genre shift. Before some fans could decide how they felt about the new album, Beyoncé shared a new single from her upcoming album, Renaissance, entitled Break My Soul featuring legendary bounce artist Big Freedia. This unexpected shift from two of the biggest names in music left many speculating if house music was once again on its way into the mainstream. So how did we go from Marvin’s Room to a house show? Like most art works, music reflects the times. With the economy giving people enough to cry about, society is once again craving uptempo trance like hits to forget their worries too.
Looking back on the hits dominating the charts in 2009, one might not assume many were struggling in the aftermath of the 2008 recession. Dance hits like the Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling and Boom Boom Pow were leading on the Billboard charts. Artists like Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj were solidifying their places as part of music’s biggest names, exciting fans with avant grade looks and beats to keep them moving all night long. But while they were dancing all night long, the reality for many was job insecurity and crippling debt. It isn’t hard to understand why songs like Just Dance and I Gotta Feeling would captivate so many. After a hard week, wanting to forget your troubles and dance the night away is something we can all relate to. With the reality of companies filing bankruptcies and many not knowing how they would pay their bills the next day, people did the only thing they could afford to do—dance like there’s no tomorrow.
Fast forward just over 10 years later and it seems we are once again turning to musicians to keep our spirits high. As the economy still grapples with economic effects brought on by the global pandemic and a slew of other factors, leading many facing unemployment and possible homelessness, people are once again looking to music to bring solace from the struggles of real life. Beyoncé and Drake aren’t the first artists to recently adopt House/Electronic style beats. Artists like Keleala, Katryanda, and Bree Runway—to name a few— also feature strong electronic influences in their work. But seeing such heavy hitters as Drake and Beyoncé create songs within the beloved genre signals a possible shift in the kind of hits we hear dominating the media.
Both works seem to be hinting at this almost inevitable shift to electronic inspired music, a genre and community known for centering around freedom and positivity. This shift may not come as a surprise to some. On platforms like TikTok, house, electronic, and hyper-pop sounds have long been popular. Many users favoring them to soundtrack their surreal idealized snippets of daily life. As many face economic limitations, the freedom of music and expression is all that’s left.
In the lyrics to Beyonce’s Break My Soul, we hear Big Freedia chant “release ya anger, release ya mind, release ya job, release the time, release ya trade, release the stress, release the love, forget the rest.” Encouraging the listener to release their burdens and for a moment let their soul be completely free and unburdened—something at times like these we certainly all need.
Words by Isi Buckley