The song is Bey’s lead single from her seventh solo album, “Renaissance,” and it’s just right for her stressed-out, post-pandemic audience. “Damn they work me so damn hard, work at nine o’clock and then after five,” she sings atop an excited instrumental reminiscent of the hysterical terror known to anyone who has devoted themselves to too many projects, then found herself gasping as the deadlines came crashing down around them.
As always, Beyoncé has her finger on the pulse of America, and in the great tradition of burnout anthems, she has conversely produced a song bursting with energy. Like Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure,” there’s no suggestion that you stop to rest. With a sound designed for heaving clubs at 2 a.m., “Break My Soul” recognizes what a nightmare it is to work under overwhelming pressure and provides a rhythm to keep you awake as you do so.
But despite a level of wealth and celebrity that completely isolates her from the real world, Beyoncé seems to have understood that her residents are tired of the grind. The fantasy that we are only a certain number of sleepless nights away from realizing our ambitions has been curbed, and we don’t want to be brought to action by the rare nature freaks or privileges who chase their dreams and actually capture them.
This is why burnout music should be animated and challenging. Wandering urges to slow down and take care of yourself would be unbearable if for many of us laying down tools to rest isn’t a viable option. You can tell within the first 10 seconds of “Break My Soul” that Beyoncé – and no doubt everyone who has worked with her – was sweating blood over this record. Even if she’s moderated her philosophy on paper since “Formation,” one suspects that, in reality, producing music for a fanbase accustomed to nothing but hits still requires a gritty willingness to work until the job is done. done.
Anyone who listens to “Break My Soul” will understand that Beyoncé lives an enchanted life. She says she “quitted” her job, and we know that if she really did, she would already have enough money to fund a thousand pensions.
But burnout songs are not manuals. They are expressions of frustration created, by necessity, by people with far more energy and resources than the people intended to hear them. It would be agonizing if Beyoncé made a record about being tired that actually sounds tired, complete with serious suggestions that we all just have a bubble bath. Who has time? We’ll get through it — so bring on the caffeinated, adrenaline rush, and we’ll yawn and stretch and try to come alive.