Black Is King—like most our bodies of labor in Beyoncé’s catalogue—got here on the excellent time. The 85-minute visual album, now streaming on Disney+, reimagines the story of The Lion King set to songs from the soundtrack, The Lion King: The Gift, she produced final yr. But—once more, like most our bodies of labor in Beyoncé’s catalogue—its that means is way deeper than a easy retelling of a Disney film.
“My hope for [Black Is King] is that it shifts the worldwide notion of the phrase Black, which has all the time meant inspiration and love and power and sweetness to me,” the singer defined in a pre-recorded message for Good Morning America. “Black Is King means Black is regal and wealthy in historical past, in function, and in lineage.”
The timing is prescient. Blackness—and what it means to be Black—has been pushed to the forefront of the cultural dialog following the loss of life of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis this previous May. Protests admonishing police brutality have ignited world wide, and June was stuffed with protest songs and messages of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter motion. At the identical time, we additionally noticed how Black ladies are nonetheless simply disregarded and unprotected. The loss of life of activist Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau and the taking pictures of Megan Thee Stallion are simply two merciless reminders. Now, greater than ever, it is very important reaffirm not simply our worth however our humanity as nicely.
Beyoncé’s discography and profession has all the time centered and advocated for Black feminine empowerment. Whether it’s having an all-Black feminine band, embracing the time period feminist, or unabashedly talking her fact on 2016’s Lemonade, the singer has unquestionably knowledgeable the best way society at massive views Black womanhood. For her 2018 Coachella efficiency, which later turned the 2019 Netflix special Homecoming, she brilliantly introduced the HBCU tradition to the mainstream. Black Is King, nevertheless, exhibits the richness and depth of Blackness on a world scale.
Shot in areas like Ghana, Johannesburg, London, and Belgium, the visible album is each private and common. Familiar faces from her life are there alongside the African forged portraying the Lion King characters. Husband Jay-Z is memorable in “Mood 4 Eva,” giving off main “Everything Is Love” vibes. Pharrell’s cameo in “Water” feels contemporary, but soothing. “Brown Skin Girl” is an empowering mixture of Naomi Campbell, Kelly Rowland, Lupita Nyong’o, and Bey’s daughter, Blue Ivy, smiling from ear to ear. Throughout Black Is King, we additionally hear Black males tackle the misconceptions they frequently face, in addition to what being a king means to them. (“That’s what really being a king is—taking care of your responsibilities…taking care of people that’s king shit to me.”)
From the second we see Beyoncé—ethereal in a flowing white robe, adorning a younger Simba in tribal paint—it was clear that Black Is King could be an unforgettable visible expertise. But the overarching theme is not simply concerning the extravagant costumes, stunning surroundings, or intricate choreography. (Although, these are superb.) It’s greatest summed up by the queen herself: “To live without reflection for so long might make you wonder if you even truly exist.” Black Is King holds a mirror to the dynamic nature of Blackness–one for all of the world to see. The result’s actually outstanding.
Candace McDuffie is Boston-based author with bylines in Entertainment Weekly, Vice, Forbes, Vibe, and extra.
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