Beyonce has released her highly anticipated seventh studio album, Renaissance.
It’s the 40-year-old pop superstar’s first offering in six years, following 2016’s critically acclaimed Lemonade.
The sprawling 16-track album showcases a variety of genres, including catchy disco, afrobeats and house influences.
Rebirth is prefixed as Act 1, and Beyonce later confirmed it was part of a trilogy that was recorded during the pandemic.
The singer posted a lengthy statement on her website, echoing one previously posted on her Instagram page and thanking her family for their support and inspiration.
“This three-act project was recorded over three years during the pandemic. A time to be still, but also a time that I found most creative,” the statement read.
“Creating this album allowed me to dream and find escape in a frightening time for the world. It allowed me to feel free and adventurous in a time when nothing else was moving.
“My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgement. A place to be free from perfectionism and overthinking.
“A place to scream, to break free, to feel freedom. It was a beautiful journey of exploration.
She continued, “I want to especially thank Rumi, Sir and Blue for allowing me this space, creativity and inspiration.
And a special thank you to my handsome husband and muse who held me through those late nights at the studio
“Thank you to all the pioneers who started the culture, to all the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long.
“It’s a party for you.
“Mom, I love you. To my dad…my first teacher, you inspire me in every move I make. I love you.”
She added, “To all my fans: I hope this inspires you to pull out the wiggle. Ha! and feel as unique and strong and sexy as you are.
The official release comes less than 36 hours after the album was reportedly leaked online, prompting outraged reactions from fans.
Members of the singer’s fan club – known colloquially as Beyhive – urged people not to share links or listen to the record until Friday.
Minutes before the album was released, Beyonce posted a thank you to fans on social media for their “love and protection” and for calling out “anyone trying to sneak into the club early.”
“It means the world to me. Thank you for your unwavering support. Thank you for being patient,” she wrote.
“We’re going to take our time and enjoy the music. I will continue to give my all and do my best to bring you joy.
Beyonce, who scored three number one albums and five number one singles in the UK, had only released one single before release day – the house music-influenced single Break My Soul.
Other tracks on the album include I’m That Girl, Cozy, Alien Superstar, Cuff It, Energy, Church Girl, Plastic Off The Sofa, Virgo’s Groove, Move, Heated, Thique, All Up In Your Mind, America Has A Problem, Pure/Honey and Summer Renaissance.
The new music comes after the artist deleted all of his social media accounts in June, leading to speculation that new music was on the way.
After confirming that Renaissance would arrive on July 29, Beyonce was revealed to be the star of British Vogue’s July issue.
Later, she shared a striking piece of art showing her astride a luminescent horse, wearing nothing but silver jewelry wrapped around her.
Listening parties called Club Renaissance will take place on Thursday around the world, organized by the record company Sony Music Entertainment.
Since releasing Lemonade in 2016, Beyonce has been busy releasing Everything Is Love, a joint studio album with husband Jay-Z, credited as The Carters, as well as the visual album Black Is King.
She also made history last year when she became the most decorated female artist at the Grammy Awards.
She has won four awards out of nine nominations, making it 28 in her career, surpassing the 27 won by bluegrass-country singer Alison Krauss.
Beyonce and Jay-Z welcomed daughter Blue Ivy in January 2012 and in June 2017 she gave birth to twins Rumi and Sir.