She was once a child of destiny but now is a fierce woman on a mission. Beyonce did more than make waves this weekend, she brought the rain with her surprising release of a new song entitled “Formation.” She performed it during her Super Bowl halftime show. Usually performers play their best hits during the show, but when you are Beyonce, you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. And that is exactly what Queen Bey did.
But her release was not the biggest rainmaker of the weekend. Rather it was the lyrics and themes within the song that drenched audiences. “Formation” is a four-minute song about the black experience in America. She offered allusions of the perceived injustices inherent within the land of the free and home of the brave. Strikingly, the song starts with a reference to New Orleans, calling to mind the heinous atrocities that happened during Hurricane Katrina.
“What happened in New Orleans?”
Beyonce makes vividly clear the invisible injustices with her loquacious rhythms and hypnotic beats. She audibly brings to the forefront the all-too-often inaudible injustices and pernicious stereotypes that are a part of the black experience.
“I like my baby hair, with baby hair and afros
I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils.”
Refusing to be imprisoned by the stereotypes, Beyonce speaks them into existence and identifies them for the blanket statements they are. Suffocating the listener with an intimate glimpse into the black experience in America, she speaks truth knowing that the truth never leaves you the same.
“I like cornbreads and collard greens…Oh yes, you besta believe it.”
Queen Bey was not alone in her performance of this likely radio hit. Her “girls” joined her for the show, and they were in “formation.” And in such a formation, she attempted to awaken the listener to the realities of today’s society. She invites all who have ears to hear to be comfortably uncomfortable with the truth that the lyrics communicate.
While Katrina happened back in 2005, Beyonce alludes to a new type of Katrina sweeping across the American landscape.
“Girl I hear some thunder
Golly this is that water boy, oh lord.”
She, in her fierce and alluring way, performed the song from the ground instead of the stage at the Super Bowl. Her female dancers appeared in formation as well, channeling the look of Black Panthers. The Queen symbolically and literally communicated that fame has not changed her, that she is one of them.
“My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana
You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama.”
“Earned all this money but they never take the country out me
I got a hot sauce in my bag, swag.”
Beyonce is a force to be reckoned with. She is the embodiment of the vox populi, the voice of the people before they even open their mouths. She sets trends, illuminates styles, and is admired by many. Though not an outright protest, her performance advocates for a more perfect union, rid of perceived injustices.
But does this require violent reaction? Some have speculated that her video goes one step too far, admonishing violence against those who have sworn to uphold justice and offer protection. Others, however, have rebutted that they are simply avid readers, reading into something that is not there. Whether they are reading into something, or attempting to read nothing, what is clear is the obvious – Queen Bey demands attention.
While Beyonce has not officially aligned herself with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, this is probably because she is already a movement within herself.
During the fight for civil rights, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a peaceful movement that marched towards the accomplishment of his beautiful dream. His dream was intricately intertwined with the American dream, rooted in the founding documents of the country. King led a movement that sought to cash a check that guaranteed equality for all and malice towards none.
However, encumbrances and entanglements along the way hindered this beautiful dream from actuality. Dr. King remarked: “The potential beauty of human life is constantly made ugly by man’s ever-recurring song of retaliation.”
King heard and was hindered by one song, but Beyonce now sings a new song that is rhythmically beautiful. This song hopes to rid the world of injustices by awakening the world to action.
Dante believed that beauty compels the soul to act. Edgar Allen Poe tied an encounter with beauty to the presence of tears. The psalmist David, with war against him and unrest within him, asked not for relief but to gaze upon beauty.
Such beauty is perfectly on display in the heavens (Psalm 50:2). Jesus, seated at the right hand of the Father, reminds his followers to keep their eyes upon him (Colossians 3:2) so that they might not grow weary of doing good (Galatians 6:9). By doing good, they bring little bits of beauty from heaven here to earth. His beautiful kingdom comes, his perfect will is done, on earth as it is in heaven.
In the coming days, Beyonce will inundate radio waves. Many will joyously sing along, others may be compelled to action, and some will hesitantly draw back. But for those of us who are seeking to make his beautiful kingdom come, may a watching world see our “halos” as we work to make equality and justice a reality for all.