Beyoncé released a brand new music video for her new single “Formation” hours before her highly anticipated halftime performance at Super Bowl 50 and it is easily my favorite thing that Beyoncé has ever done.
My first pass at “Formation” was watching the visuals through with no sound. The video, directed by Melina Matsoukas, invites the viewer into a world that is concurrently past, present, and future New Orleans. In this space of blackness, that is both real and imagined, there was a nod to African regality, the Moors, natural beauty, black Indians, the nation of Islam, and Hurricane Katrina. There was a deliberate presence of black bodies; the same black bodies that are constantly being critiqued and fetishized, dead or alive. To that point, two of the most powerful images I saw was Beyoncé’s daughter, Blue Ivy, running around with two little black girls, all wearing proudly their crowns of curls. Secondly, the imagery of the young boy in a black hoodie dancing without fear in front of a line of police officers in riot gear was so powerful. Wherever you stand on the margins of blackness, the discomfort and defenselessness one feels as a black person around police is undeniable. Fully aware that it is open season on black bodies, it makes the visual of the police officers surrendering to his existence that much more meaningful.
My second pass at “Formation” was listening to the lyrics. I won’t pretend to know that much about New Orleans staples but two individuals, Messy Mya and Big Freedia’s, voices can be heard at the beginning of the video. What they mean to the city adds another dimension I’ve yet to deconstruct. What I do know is that the Illuminati conspiracy was put to bed early: “Y’all haters corny with that Illuminati mess.” Beyoncé embraced her heritage with a genealogy roll call. Her child and her husband were addressed with what ended up being my favorite lines: “I like my baby hair, with baby hair and afros. I like my Negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils.” And so on and so forth…just get into it. Get into celebrating what makes you, you.
I absolutely love that this video is packed unapologetically with black imagery via its immersion in New Orleans culture. I love that the lyrics affirm and acknowledge her pride in her blackness. The subtleties and intricacies of “Formation” visually and lyrically make me so proud of her and her team/tribe and so proud to be a member of the MelaNATION. This is art. This is a powerful installment that you can visit whenever you want.
Any myth of a post-racial society was quickly debunked after her halftime performance of “Formation”. Read any comments section of anything pertaining to this video or performance and you will see why it means so much for her to proclaim her pride of being a black woman. This was a very strategic move on Beyoncé’s part and she did what only SHE could do on the biggest stage that SHE was invited to. SHE paid homage to Michael Jackson in lyric and in dress. Her dancers dressed in Black Panther Party attire to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the BPP’s “formation”. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, she made black history.
The arts have always been an important aspect of any civil rights movement so I wonder why there is so much resistance, especially among fellow black bodies. Why is it palatable for Billie Holiday to point out the “strange fruit” in the trees? Why is it okay for James Brown to proclaim he’s “black and proud,” but when Beyoncé does it, it’s a problem?
At the end of the day, you don’t have to be a Beyoncé fan to recognize how impactful this moment is. The outrage, while unwarranted, was expected. If it doesn’t resonate with you…it’s not for you…so move on. No, no, no…don’t stop to share your thoughts on this subject matter because nobody cares. You are more than welcome to join the uninformed and unconscious outrage choir. I believe if you have no helpful suggestions/solutions for the cause at hand (the cause being the progression of humanity) then just keep your negative thoughts to yourself.
Beyoncé said it herself post-performance: “I wanted people to feel proud and have love for themselves.”
Now… “Let’s get inFORMATION.”