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Beyoncé comes out as… anti-capitalist?

Break My Soul, the first single from her forthcoming album, has an unambiguously anti-work message

Six years since she dropped Lemonade, Beyoncé sent the Beyhive into overdrive once again with the announcement of her seventh studio album, Renaissance, which is scheduled for release on 29 July.

The singer had planned to release the album’s first single, “Break My Soul”, at midnight EST on the night of 20 June, but ended up dropping the single a few hours earlier on Tidal.

The music is reminiscent of 90s house and samples “Show Me Love”, chiming with Edward Enninful’s remark that listening to the album “transported” him back to the clubs of his youth. But it’s the lyrics which have caught most people’s attention.

With lyrics like “'Now, I just fell in love / And I just quit my job / I'm gonna find new drive”, you wouldn’t be alone in thinking that Beyoncé has been diligently scrolling through r/antiwork and dusting off her copy of Capitalist Realism. “Work by nine / Then off past five / And they work my nerves / That’s why I cannot sleep at night” – so true queen!

The anti-capitalist message hasn’t gone unnoticed, either. “in beyoncé's latest hit single "break my soul," she says she "just quit her job." this sentiment shows her solidarity with the working class releasing themselves from roles that do not adequately compensate them, and her support of the great resignation. in this essay i will” one fan joked on Twitter, while another quipped ‘Beyonce bout to raise the unemployment rate. Ugh her mind.”

Back in 2021, Beyoncé herself hinted that her next work would have a focus on post-pandemic liberation. “With all the isolation and injustice over the past year, I think we are all ready to escape, travel, love, and laugh again,” she told Harper’s Bazaar. “I feel a renaissance emerging, and I want to be part of nurturing that escape in any way possible.”

All of this is great! I too want to “release my mind” and “release my stress”. But these right-on, power-to-the-people type refrains are… at odds with Beyoncé’s actions, to say the least. Mere months ago she crossed a picket line at the Chateau Marmont to attend an Oscars after party and in 2021 modelled a blood diamond in a Tiffany campaign. She’s also worth half a billion dollars – and although it’s not very productive or meaningful to say “rich person bad!”, the fact remains that it’s a lot easier for Beyoncé to “quit her job” than it is for, say, a single mother on minimum wage.

On the other hand, Beyoncé has arguably always held up a mirror to society, rather than functioned as an agent of change. It’s undeniable that the anti-work movement has soared in recent years, and maybe as a cultural kingpin Beyoncé just wants to reflect this shifting culture in her work – without seriously intending to trigger a revolution. And maybe… that’s OK? It’s also worth noting that Black women are often held to a higher standard than white women when it comes to living totally morally coherent lives, and besides, aren’t we all a bit hypocritical anyway?

I don’t know. Will I be listening to this song on repeat and handing in my notice at work? No. But will I still dance to it and shriek “You won’t break my soul!!!!” if I hear it in a club? Probably, yes.