Beyoncé’s Break My Soul – making house music all night long

by Ben Hogwood

Last week we saw the return of Beyoncé with her first new music in three years – and as so often happens with artists of her standing and calibre, it didn’t take the direction everyone was anticipating:

In fact, Break My Soul is something of a history lesson in dance music, and could have been released at any time in the last 35 years. That is definitely not a criticism, as the music sounds fresh out of the studio, but in using a sample of classic house music the former Destiny’s Child singer has put the focus firmly on recent American music history.

The principal sample on Break My Soul is the Robin S classic Show Me Love, in its 1992 Stonebridge club mix form:

Several records have sampled it of late, including Craig David on My Heart’s Been Waiting For You (where he also namechecks the song in the lyrics) and Charli XCX’s Used To Show Me, both taking the main hook of the track for their inspiration. Beyoncé has been a bit more subtle, lifting just a short snippet from the middle of the riff.

Other records come to mind when hearing Break My Soul for the first time, over and above Show Me Love. Firstly, there are some very similar vocal techniques used in the early Chicago house classic Jack Your Body, the genre-defining track from Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley – which also happens to be in the same key:

Detroit, too, is not far off where influences are concerned. I was put in mind of this Gospel-flavoured treat from Terrence Parker a few years back:

There is no suggestion that Beyoncé, or her writers (principally Tricky Stewart and The-Dream) have copied any of these records, more an observation that they have respectfully mined a long-standing tradition of house music influence, using its heritage to create something that could only be a Beyoncé song.

It will be interesting to chart the direction of the album, as house music gains an ever-greater hold on this year’s new American music.

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