As a bonus track on Homecoming: The Live Album, Beyoncé has delivered a cover of the cultural favorite, which was originally released by Frankie Beverly and Maze in 1981.
Sometimes songs transcend themselves, becoming bigger than the sum of their parts and forming wider cultural identities in the process. “Before I Let Go” is certainly one of those songs, having been long associated with cookouts in African American communities and graduation parties in the U.S. It’s been variously described as a black national anthem, and end-of-the-night cert for club DJs and a street standard the whole family can enjoy.
For Beyoncé to cover such a well-loved piece, therefore, is a bold move and one that people might be torn by, were it not for the track’s sheer infectiousness. However, the singer went one better still, including a horn section from Cameo’s “Candy,” another funk classic with a strong place in African American communities, and the kind of call and response inclusiveness that is instantly recognisable.
“Before I Let Go” opens with the sound of a crowd roaring and a DJ calling out to them. Beyoncé has placed herself within a recognisable and nostalgic environment for vast swathes of U.S. society. Releases like this don’t come around very often.