We have just witnessed a historic event! Beyonce introduced us to her 2016 alter-ego, Activist Beyonce. She left the announcement to non-other than Yonce (aka 2014 Ratchet Beyonce) in a little song you might have heard about. It's called "Formation."
I can't say I'll miss Yonce. She was that fun friend you love to hang out with once in a while when you really wanted to party. But- if you hung out too much she could lead you down a road of horrible decisions and Tara Reid level hot-messiness.
In "Formation," Yonce and Activist Beyonce made a huge commotion over saying how great it is to be Black, a woman, and Beyonce. They also were like, "Don't forget about our fallen brothers and sisters, though. They don't have it so great. Let's get in formation and fix this."
Some people didn't like it. Some people didn't like the way the message was delivered. I will say, wherever you stand, the video was dope AF. If you get passed whatever issues you have with it, there are some great gems at play between the clothes, the architecture, and Black history, and how they're used to tell the story of Bey's message of social justice.
1. "What happened in New Orleans?"
What an opener! You know what you're getting yourself into with this one. If you don't want to talk about the injustices that happened during and after Katrina, you should kindly close out of the browser that is playing this video. It's going to get real. So real, that the entire video is shot in 100% gritty realism.
Queue the image of the fallen architecture:
2. "My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana. You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bamma"
Most of the lyrics of the song obviously promote Beyonce being "unapologetically Black" as many people have pointed out. She also saying that her Blackness is nuanced like everyone else's. It's no coincidence her team set the video in a plantation house, in New Orleans, a city that has such a colorful past of slavery, large European immigrant populations, free Blacks from Africa and the Caribbean, Native Americans, who all mixed together and often worked together in a way that didn't happen in the rest of America.
Architecture: They're definitely in a plantation house. This hallway is decked out in French wallpaper and candelabras and Victorian bookshelves and mouldings, which references the different cultures that made up New Orleans during this past era. Beyonce et al are stomping all over that MF-ing hallway!
Look 1: Beyonce just Beyonceified (appropriated?) a Victorian dress and painted it red! *Note that in New Orleans (and other places in the US), free people of color dressed just like other free people. It's likely that Beyonce's ancestors wore fabulous Victorians and Edwardian dresses! No appropriation here.
3. "If he hit it right, I might take him on a flight on my chopper, cause I slay
Drop him off at the mall, let him buy some J’s, let him shop up, cause I slay"
Bey has ghetto fabulous beginnings. I mean, Destiny's Child came out in the late 90s. There's nothing wrong with that! Again, she's just paying respect to her origins.
Architecture: Parking lot. Compared to a lot of other developed countries, America has nothing but parking lots. True story. Our shared car culture is captured in this scene with Bey being a freedom-loving American hanging out of her pimped out ride.
Look #2: Late 90s/early 2000's reference here! White fur coat, overly accessorized, long braided weave. It's sooo old school Bey!
4. "I see it, I want it, I stunt, yellow-bone it.
I dream it, I work hard, I grind 'til I own it"
Architecture: Plantation porch. Bey and her crew of Black mystics and free masons are occupying this porch! If you know about the secret socities and mysticm in the South, then this probably jumped out to you. Well, they've taken over! They've made it, most likely from all their hard work.
Look #3: Beyonce is channeling a Creole goddess. (Clearly my favorite look). Everyone is dressed to the 9s. The scene has echos of scenes from Toni Morrion's books that are often shrouded in Southern mysticism.
5. The formation scenes! You have the debutants, the swimming pool drill team, and the parking lot denim crew. Again, Bey is showing the nuances of "Black America". She can be Black and come from old money, be a fierce dancer, or stay parking lot pimpin...or she can be or do none of those things. We can still all come together and get in formation.
There are so many more fun references in the video, but these were some of the most apparent. I haven't had that much fun watching a video since....Michael Jackson.
...yeah, MJ for sure! It's bold, and if there's one thing I love, it's bold. (and social justice).
Oh, and how could I forget Humble Beyonce in the peasant dress, willing to drown with the establishment she seeks to take down!
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