Commentary: Is Beyonce still a pop star?

But it’s a far cry from the 1 million first week sales that peers such as Adele, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga achieved in the 2010s. It’s also significantly smaller than Beyonce’s US sales for her self-titled 2013 album, which made 617,000 in its first three days, or 2016’s Lemonade with 653,000.

ACKNOWLEDGING TODAY’S COMMERCIAL REALITIES

With the roll-out of Renaissance, Beyonce herself seems to acknowledge today’s commercial realities. Her previous two albums were dropped without warning, capturing attention through surprise – a strategy that others would copy for the rest of the decade.

And for a full three years, Lemonade was only available to stream on Tidal, her husband’s small streaming platform.

But since Lemonade, streaming has overtaken CD sales as the main source of music revenue. This time around, Beyonce has opted for a decidedly more traditional roll-out, replete with a lead single, Vogue magazine cover and social media posts.

She made her first appearance on TikTok. She’s even selling “box sets” of merchandise for fans to buy, which includes a Renaissance CD – a strategy pop stars have used to juice sales numbers.

It’s too early to know whether these moves will produce Beyonce’s first big pop breakout in a long while. But the album has kept her cultural influence intact, luring the masses into her archive samplings of house, afrobeats and disco music from decades past, shining a spotlight on legendary black musicians such as Grace Jones and Nile Rodgers.

Music site Pitchfork described it as a “challenging, densely-referenced album that runs circles around her similarly minded, Billboard-charting peers”. And maybe that’s enough to call it a success.