Beyoncé, the archetypical Virgo perfectionist, doesn’t do anything without intention. So the fact that the just-released cover art for Act I: Renaissance depicts the singer atop a crystalized horse just weeks after she appeared on the cover of British Vogue similarly perched atop a red horse must mean something. Right?
The horse imagery has immediately drawn comparisons to two notable cultural fore-bearers. The first is the famous image of famed disco-era socialite and “It” girl Bianca Jagger entering Studio 54 atop a white horse to attend her own birthday party. It’s one of the most enduring images of nightlife excess in popular culture. Referencing it would make sense, given that the first single, “Break My Soul,” was a house music-sampling bop, and many expect much of the rest of the album to follow suit.
But others have also compared the image to various paintings of Lady Godiva. Legend had it, Godiva rode naked through the streets to protest the high taxes her rich husband placed on his tenants. Many have read the lyrics of “Break My Soul” as something of an anthem for the overworked. So, thematically, it would seem to track.
Meanwhile, some on Twitter seem to genuinely believe that Beyoncé is slowly referencing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. But the singer did once famously tell the haters they’re “corny with that illuminati mess. So, we’ll err on the side of caution and assume she’s not purposely conjuring dark-sided imagery.
Of course, there is a simpler answer to all of this: Beyoncé just really loves horses, and also sees them as a symbol of her hometown of Houston, which has a thriving equine culture.
While she’s never been listed among the most notable “Celebrity Horse Girls,” if you look back on her career you’ll notice a noticeable pattern of horse imagery.
It started in the early years of her solo career at one of her first big shows before a hometown crowd in Houston. In 2007, she headlined the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the biggest rodeo in the entire world, and came out atop a horse.
In 2011, her video “Run The World (Girls)”, her first single off 4, opens with Beyoncé riding a horse through an apocalyptic desert.
Horses would later appear in her video for “Daddy Lessons” from Lemonade, and throughout her Black Is King musical film.
In addition, Beyoncé has also posed with horses for editorial in both Harper’s Bazaar and Essence throughout the solo era of her career. A video of her riding a black horse in a wedding dress was used as imagery during the “On The Run II” tour. Also notable: the single cover for the Beyoncé-assisted remix of Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage” featured an image of a single horse.
Oh, and who could forget? She also did an entire rodeo-themed collection for her Ivy Park line.
Interestingly, despite unconfirmed rumors that she once bought Blue Ivy a pony, there’s been no evidence that Beyoncé herself personally owns horses. Husband Jay Z, for his part, is on record that he does not ride. “I can ride a Porsche. It got horsepower,” he recently answered.
Although we’re not 100 percent sure what the disco ball horse on the album cover symbolizes, it’s a safe bet that there will be more horses to come.