Beyonce has got our hashtags going crazy once again. In 2013 she dropped the self titled “Beyonce” album. It blew up the internet. Garnering praise for its artistic vision, and criticism for its sexuality and frankness. A Duality that Beyonce has embraced fully. She is a creative visionary, in touch with her blackness and sexuality. Not to mention the “guts”. She pushes the envelope with reckless abandon, letting work ethic and creativity blaze her trail in music history.
Yesterday Beyonce hit us with a new video and song. A full explosion of body vibrations, as well as imagery that was meant to shock. The movement and expression of black bodies have always created waves of controversy. From Little Richard to James Brown, to Cam Newton.
I am torn by this video.
Formation is by all means a great video, and the track is a banger. I just do not understand the connection between the imagery and the lyrical content.
The video begins with an old computer giving a warning that says “Explicit Lyrics” followed by images of post Katrina New Orleans. This immediately made me think “protest song” until she began singing. I’m going to catch back lash for this but.
I feel that she is using post Katrina New Orleans, Black Indians and the culture of a great city as a prop. A prop to show how much she swags. There are moments of pride and protest. But unless you are doing deep research, or googling the lyrics I do not think the message is explicitly clear at all. I would say the overall message I get from the song is that Beyonce has hella swag, and is rich and famous. Note ( I am a huge Beyonce fan)
- People saying she is in the Illuminati
- Wearing Jay-z’s chain
- The clothes she wears
- Taking her man out to Red Lobster after good sex (QUE!)
- Her Swag
- Likes her baby in Afros, and men with Jackson 5 Nostrils. (Blue Ivy, and Hova)
- Her Alabama and Louisiana heritage.
None of these topics seem to match the intense visual that is being presented. You see N.O Police cars succumbing to floods, black boys getting the police to put THEIR hands up.
There are images of old creoles from New Orleans dressed in antebellum style clothing. A nice nod to Black History. Another scene where she is dressed up like a voodoo queen ( a la Angela Bassett in American Horror Story) these are dope images. Produced with a lot of creativity and skill. However, when I see the imagery and listen at the same time I am conflicted.
I am aware of how she and Jay donated to bail out protestors, and that she is representing and shining for black culture in this video. I am also aware that she does not have to conform to any standards that I set for her music. She is no joke, and performs at a high level which I respect. It’s just….
I thought that this could be everything I wanted in a song. Old New Orleans, thumping hip hop and a cultural relevance that speaks to me. The video has all these things. The lyrics to ME could have had more clarity. You see odes to black lives matter in passing, and police brutality, but no words on those matters.
There is a bridge section where she sings “I see it, I want it, I stunt yeah, little hornet. I dream it I work hard, I grind till I own it”. Now that is something to make you say “Yaaaas” to.
This was really the only uplifting portion for black people I could find within the body of the song itself. Maybe upliftment and unity were not the point of this record. But the visual tells me otherwise. On the other hand
The video is exquisitely done. It drew me in emotionally right away, and I want to see it again, again. It created a visceral raw reaction in my gut, which is my meter for deciding if something is good.
Is it an ode blackness? Certainly. Is it a banger? YES! Is she going to blow up the Super bowl stage tonight? , most likely YES! I just think that we should take the song for what it is. A dope track that has some stunning imagery, I do not think it is “The Blackest thing ever” or stunningly revolutionary.
You want to talk about a revolutionary new album that discusses systemic racism, and the perils of slavery, that uplifts black people, and makes a brazen statement. While at the same time ripping flows that connect to black people today, with production that beats through your chest.
INDIE 500 by Talib Kweli and 9th Wonder.
Every Ghetto- Talib Kweli and 9th Wonder
Although I have critical thoughts on this song. It is my job to have them, and I do not want to take anything away from Beyonce, or from black people expressing themselves fully. Because that is what I strive to do and what we all deserve. Take the time to listen to this. Your brain will thank you.
I spoke of “duality” and black culture at the start of this piece. Navigating the lanes between being yourself as a black person and still having to live in a white world. This duality makes it extremely difficult to really be your full creative self. Beyonce is navigating those curves with precision. Expressing her blackness, and all her ideas while still having commercial success. Very difficult to do.
Tonight you will see two extraordinary Black people on the biggest stage in the world. Cam Newton and Beyonce.
Cam Newton, is an outstanding quarterback and NFL MVP who has recently been in the news for is “blackness” I mean for his dancing. Cam has to deal with this duality each time he steps on the field, and he is doing it and doing it well. I can almost guarantee Cam will make a huge statement with his football plays and celebrations tonight. Also
Beyonce will be performing and an entrancing our eyes and ears with her “blackness” tonight. If she gets up on the Super Bowl stage with those images and makes a statement. That will be something to stand up about. She has the biggest stage in the world tonight. Will she use it?
In the end I love Black people and Black culture, and I just want it to be represented with pride and understood with clarity. It will take work, but everything worth having takes sacrifice and effort.
“Ain’t Gonna Let nobody turn me around”
I tried posting the video with this several times, but it kept getting taken down for copyright issues. Check it out on YOU TUBE.