I don’t know how to feel about Beyoncé.
Recently Bey broke the Internet again with her new song “Formation,” and in true form, social media reacted with dichotomous fervor, either in support of, or against the Queen.
What’s more is that the comments following the video cascaded past the typical homage to her assets; it seemed this time she crept into the arena of black activism, which really had me on the edge of my seat.
Now, it is important to note that I am neither a Beyhater nor a Bey Stan. I’ve listened to her music since Destiny’s Child, and I uphold a healthy admiration for her unmatched talent. Her voice is velvet, her moves rival the greatest in the industry, and her showmanship (or womanship) is simply mesmerizing. I still, however, am not convinced of her lyrical authenticity. I was so ready to be inspired by her audacity with this song; however, with each passing second, I found myself slowly creeping up the roller coaster, waiting for the climax.
Yes, visually, she showed up. With her symbolic float on the Katrina cop car, her baby au natural, the hooded boy battle-dancing cops into submission, and “Stop Shooting Us” plastered on concrete walls. Still, there was something about the actual lyrics that felt reactionary and shallow. Anticipating a historical display of activism, I was left thinking: there are plenty of great artists that have been making ‘conscious music’ for years. Bey’s late-to-the party attempt at activism simply pales in comparison.
In 2001, Nas was telling us that [black] schools where [he] learned should be burned, and that physicians are prescribing us medicine that is poisonous. That woke me up. In, 98’ Lauryn Hill was urging us to think twice before “giving it up” to an unworthy suitor. That made me reflect.
After watching the “Formation” video, although I was entranced, I wasn’t inspired. After the video, I didn’t want to take political action; I wanted to learn her dance moves. After the video, I didn’t want to boycott discriminatory establishments; I wanted Cheddar Bay Biscuits. After watching the video, I wasn’t inspired to join a local protest; I wanted Blue Ivy’s hair secrets. I couldn’t tell if she was selling sex, black power, Givenchy, or hair weaves.
Following her invigorating Super Bowl performance, I read comments that compared her musical prowess to Michael Jackson’s. While she isn’t quite deserving of the King’s title, she is pretty darn close. However, when Michael Jackson wanted to speak out for black folks, he didn’t throw out subliminal messages, he said, “All I’m trying to say is that, they don’t really care about us.” Plainly. He didn’t mix political statements with corporate advertisement.
This is not to say that Beyoncé has any obligation to use her music as a political platform. Her being a black woman who has amassed the amount of success that she has is inspirational enough. But unfortunately, the juxtaposition of her overt materialism with black poverty undermined her core message.
Surely it is an iconic piece of artistry. It’s strapped with captivating cadence, gorgeous antebellum costumes, superb choreography, and brilliant cinematography, but it’s barely a political anthem. So why does everyone keep calling it that?