switched on pop

The House Music That Beyoncé Built

Illustration: Iris Gottlieb

The world stops with a Beyoncé drop, and with her latest single, “Break My Soul,” she has frozen us all in place again. The dancy, house-inspired lead single off her upcoming album, Renaissance, sees her going in a new musical direction. She has teamed up once again with Tricky Stewart and The-Dream — who together brought us “Single Ladies” — and used another prominent sample from queer icon Big Freedia (whose vocals gave an extra kick to “Formation”), this time using her bounce record “Explode.” Typical hallmarks of house are found all over the song, from piano stabs to the use of the Korg M1 synthesizer. The song, which was released over Juneteenth weekend in the middle of Pride Month, is a cathartic dance-floor ode to liberation.

And though there’s an undeniable buzz suggesting that Beyoncé is “bringing house music back,” she is not the only one: From Charli XCX to Drake, it does feel as if the genre is having a big pop moment. But from its original creation by Black and brown artists in the late ’70s, out of the ruins of disco, to its steady buoying by a fan base of queer and trans communities of color, the genre “has always been here,” says Jason King, chair of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music.

There are decades of history in “Break My Soul,” and in this episode of Switched on Pop, we unpack house music and how Beyoncé’s latest sits within it.

The House Music That Beyoncé Built