The cachet of Beyoncé’s “Club Renaissance” listening parties threatened to rub off over the weekend as fans vibe-checked the exclusive but seemingly lethargic affair.
On Friday, the first of two events—held in celebration of Beyoncé’s seventh studio album, Renaissance, which dropped back in July—took place at Skylight’s Forgotten Edge warehouse in Los Angeles. Model and singer Shaun Ross was among the famous faces enjoying himself in the crowd, and at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning, he posted on Twitter: “Club renaissance LA too good.”
The comebacks and callouts were swift.
“Looks so boring,” said one person. Another chimed in: “why would u post this?”
In Ross’ video, the loud, thumping house beat behind Bey’s “Break My Soul” set the atmosphere as synchronized red lights swirled around the dance floor. People had definitely turned out for Club Renaissance, but it appeared to be missing the propulsive, no-holds-barred energy of the Grammy-nominated album. People were mostly, well, standing around.
Speaking with The Daily Beast, Ross defended the event and said he’s “very proud” of his friend and former collaborator Beyoncé (he had a memorable appearance in her 2013 music video for “Pretty Hurts”).
“The video they saw was at the beginning of the party,” he says. “No one knew what was happening. We were figuring it out. We were inside of an experience. A lot of people are judging something off of a 15-second clip of me sitting down in a chair and just showing a part of the ambiance.”
He added, “People can stand in their space and enjoy the music. I always loved the song ‘Alien Superstar,’ so I was loving what the lights were doing when the song came on. I really could sit back and get into it and really, truly feel it.”
It may have felt that way from the inside, but the Beyhive continued to take issue with the setting of the party, one of just a few that have been held around the world in promotion of the album. Among a certain sect of partygoers, Los Angeles has a reputation for clubs that close at 2 a.m. (early by nightlife standards) and crowds that aren’t so keen on being photographed letting loose.
One of Ross’ followers attempted to add some context, explaining that Friday’s event was designed mostly for “influencers, celebs, album collaborators etc.” Ross agreed, tweeting out a reminder that the rich and famous aren’t as impressed by clubs like us regular folk.
“In this industry, it’s not that we’re ungrateful. We see this stuff on the daily,” Ross tells The Daily Beast about some partygoers’ seemingly apathetic attitude about being at the exclusive event. Some, however, saw that explanation as dismissive of the Beyhive, the most ardent members of which are regular people with no media or entertainment connections. A new wave of criticism kicked off.
For Club Renaissance, the lack of fervor may have something to do with how it was promoted. On Friday, models like Ross and Lori Harvey rubbed elbows with artists like Syd and Victoria Monet, as well as content creators like Denzel Dion and Rickey Thompson. “A lot of executives were there,” Ross adds.
“Celebrities might be a little more stuffy because they’re used to the atmosphere compared to the regular patron,” says Colson Dempster, the founder Pretty Run the City, a New York City-based marketing group that has promoted various events, including album release parties for the likes of Meek Mill, Tory Lanez, and Mary J. Blige. “They’d be more impressed because they’re not used to that lifestyle, [but] you gotta do both. You gotta get the regular people there and get the influencers there.”
The amount of glitterati versus the amount of fans who attended Friday’s event remains unclear. Amazon Music and Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment, which organized the parties, did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily Beast. Free tickets were sent out via email on Thursday, according to the music blog Consequence of Sound, but it’s unclear whether regular fans who were lucky enough to score tickets were also directed to Friday’s party.
Jay Cleary, the founder of Nufunk Concerts in Toronto, explains that inviting media to cover an event—while also leaving space for regular guests—is something of a catch 22, which could have contributed to the Club Renaissance backlash.
“As a promoter, you’re constantly trying to build the relationship with the media so the media feels like they’re part of this incredible event because there’s all these hot people there,” Cleary says. “But also, the media aren’t the type of people that dance. They usually don’t give a shit. I think it’s a great example of how that backfires. You can’t typically play a smoke-and-mirrors game, because the audience can tell.”
Then again, videos purportedly taken at Saturday’s Club Renaissance party appear more lively, as do social media anecdotes from the international iterations of the event (though that could be because Bey decided to grace some of those ones with her presence; Los Angeles wasn’t so lucky). In a video from Saturday’s event posted by DJ R-Tistic, who presided over both Club Renaissance nights in L.A., a much more enthusiastic crowd can be seen passionately singing along and dancing to the record.
Ross says the overall vibe gave fans a taste of what may be coming in future Renaissance visuals and tour dates: “It gave old-school, Berlin underground vibes-meets-NYC in the early ’90s, late ’80s,” he says. And while Beyoncé herself has yet to announce any future Club Renaissance parties or live shows, needless to say her fans will be expecting more.