Six years later and Queen Bey is reborn.
Beyonce released her seventh studio album, Renaissance, on Friday after announcing the record in mid-June. A club-nostalgic blend of disco, dancehall and electronic music, the hour-long album runs for 16 tracks, giving fans of the pop superstar a bang for their buck.
Renaissance, which follows Beyonce's 2016 studio album Lemonade, is the first act of a three-part project, according to the singer's website. It's a departure from the visual-forward style of Beyonce's two previous albums, which were accompanied by short films and album-length music videos.
The album artwork, revealed last month, depicts Beyonce sitting atop a holographic horse wearing a sparkling body jewelry piece.
Having recorded it for the better part of three years, mostly during the pandemic, Beyonce told fans that the album was a creative escape for her during a challenging time — and that she hopes listening to it is a freeing experience.
"Creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world," the 40-year-old popstar wrote on Instagram in June. "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."
CBC News breaks down the long-anticipated release — collaborators, criticisms and all.
Canadian producers on two tracks
Beyond contributions from Drake, NOVA, Skrillex, Pharrell and The-Dream, Renaissance is interpolated with hits from the likes of Diana Ross, Robin S. and Grace Jones.
In a statement on her website, Beyonce thanked her children and her husband Jay-Z, who she referred to as her "muse."
When the album's first single BREAK MY SOUL was released in late June, fans noted that — between a sample of Robin S.'s 1990 club classic Show Me Love — the empowering lyrics were equal parts liberating and exhilarating.
The rest of the album, sonically diverse as it, is confidently steeped in that sentiment.
CUFF IT is a funky disco track in which Beyonce proclaims she wants to go "where nobody's been," while VIRGO'S GROOVE, the album's six-minute centerpiece, is an ecstatic ode to the "love of my life."
MOVE is a delightfully bossy, no-nonsense number that unites Beyonce with Grace Jones and Afrobeats artist Tems, while SUMMER RENAISSANCE samples from Donna Summer's 1977 disco hit I Feel Love.
The album's Drake-produced song, HEATED, gives credit to three other top Canadian talent: Toronto's Boi-1da, one of the country's most prolific record producers; as well as Sevn Thomas, who has worked with Rihanna, Travis Scott and Nicki Minaj; and Mississauga's Neenyo, whose previous credits include songs with Drake, Future and PARTYNEXTDOOR.
Third track ALIEN SUPERSTAR lists Montreal producer Dave Hamelin, who counts Jessie Reyez, Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip among past collaborators, as a contributor.
CBC News reached out to these four producers but did not hear back.
'It's not a collab. It's theft'
One artist says that she wasn't consulted before Beyonce sampled her song.
R&B singer Kelis took to Instagram on Friday to express disappointment that her 2003 hit Milkshake was sampled on the album's fifth track Energy without her permission.
The track was co-produced by Pharrell and Chad Hugo, who — under the moniker The Neptunes — have been a producing duo since the early 90s.
Pharrell and Hugo frequently worked with Kelis. She says that they and Beyonce should have asked for her permission before using the song.
"My mind is blown too because the level of disrespect and utter ignorance of all three parties involved is astounding," Kelis said on Instagram. "I heard about this the same way everyone else did. Nothing is ever as it seems, some of the people in this business have no soul or integrity and they have everyone fooled."
"It's not a collab, it's theft," Kelis later commented on her post.
Renaissance hit a small bump in the road two days before its official release when it was leaked online. Many fans abstained from listening and Beyonce thanked them for respecting the album's intended release date in a statement on her website.
"I can't thank y'all enough for your love and protection," she wrote.