‘Cause I Slay: Beyonce’s “Formation”

If you’ve been active on the internet the last few days, or if you saw the Super Bowl half time show, you are probably aware that Beyonce released a new song titled “Formation.” On February 6th, without any previous hints of its release, Beyonce debuted the song accompanied by its music video. Naturally, the internet exploded after the song’s release, and it wasn’t long before people were writing and sharing their reactions across various social media. But the reason that this song in particular has made such an impact is not just because it’s sung by “Queen Bee” – the song, and its video, has a politically-charged message that people can’t miss.

Watch Beyonce’s “Formation” Here

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As of late, the Black Lives Matter movement has risen to national attention. Activists, particularly in the Black community, are rallying for justice and equality for the numerous Black lives that are being unfairly lost in the hands of a faulty law enforcement. Beyonce’s choice to involve herself in the movement should come to no real surprise. Beyonce has been quietly donating in support of the movement for a long time as well as giving bail to jailed Ferguson protesters. However, by creating and releasing “Formation”, Beyonce is choosing to use her position of influence and power to bring even more awareness to an issue that definitely needs to be addressed.

Despite it’s release only 2 days ago, many articles and reviews have popped up on the internet about the music video. In its initial release I found only positive reactions – people excited and applauding Beyonce on not only her musical talent, but also her video’s message. Soon after, negativity and criticism about the video started mixing with the positivity, creating a clash of opinions that is now heating the internet.

Some criticized Beyonce for involving herself in such a politically charged movement. Under this belief, Beyonce shouldn’t extend herself beyond the scope of pop culture. Perhaps people who believe this are under the impression that celebrities should stay in a hollywood-esque world, and distance themselves from reality. Isn’t that a purpose (or byproduct) of being a celebrity? People can look at these stars from a distance, idolizing them and using them as a means to take a break from daily life. But it is my opinion that major celebrities are the perfect candidates for raising awareness about social issues, and that by breaking the glass between their world and ours allows for stronger reactions and responses.

Another criticism people are having about the music video is Beyonce’s depiction of police officers. In a few scenes of the video, Beyonce is sitting on a New Orleans police cruiser as it sinks into the water. Another scene depicts a young Black boy raising his hands in front of a line of cops, quickly changing to a picture of the words “Don’t Shoot” graffiti’d onto a brick wall. The criticism people are having with these scenes is their belief it shows police officers being badly depicted. In fact, some people feel so strongly about this that they have created the hashtag “#boycottbeyonce”.

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The problem with this way of thinking is that they are missing the point and the overall message. Beyonce, as well as others in the Black Lives Matter movement, do not believe that every single police officer is a problem. On the contrary, the problem lies in the system itself, and the underlying racism and prejudges that contribute to unnecessary deaths and unfair trials. In the United States, it currently requires more training to be a hairdresser than to be a police officer (Source). This lack of training and lack of awareness needs to be changed.

I am a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, and wholeheartedly applaud Beyonce’s choice to create this music video. I find it ridiculous and almost amusing how some naysayers are writing it off as an “Anti-White Song” because we live in a country where Whiteness is the standard in all of society. Creating a song celebrating and empowering Blackness does not mean that it undermines Whiteness.

I’m interested to see the later reactions Beyonce’s “Formation” will cause. In just two days time, Queen Bee was able to create a storm of responses, likely due to her (obviously planned) choice to release the video the day before the Super Bowl and sing the song during it’s half time.

What did you think of Beyonce’s formation? What was your initial response?

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One thought on “‘Cause I Slay: Beyonce’s “Formation”

  1. Yes! Yes yes yes… to all of this!

    I’m not a huge music fan anymore, but I really enjoyed the track and the video–the lyrics are brilliant and badass, and the video is visually rich, moving, and thought-provoking. After seeing it, and then after reading articles about it, I had to go back and watch it a couple more times to check out what I had missed. For example, there was a fantastic article in Vulture, “Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’: Young, Gifted, and Black” with a few different voices in a “roundtable” discussion.

    One of the responses includes this: “[Beyonce] highlights the fluidity of blackness via hair. One moment she’s in braids, and another she’s wearing a massive bun. Look again and her hair is blown out to oblivion, or she’s surrounded by a curly-haired posse care of shea butter & Co.”

    I had to watch the video again for that. I mean, I know she wears a lot of hairstyles, but I would have never seen “fluidity of blackness via hair” on my own. Stuff like that makes the video richer.

    What I absolutely can’t understand are the responses that seem shocked and outraged that an artist might use her voice to communicate a political message. Rudy Guilani attempted to contextualize his outrage as an issue of decorum (it was inappropriate for the Superbowl/NFL, he argued), but he more just seemed upset that she had a message and that message was so widely heard.

    I mean, certainly, art can be just about aesthetics, but historically, lots of artists in lots of mediums have used their work to say something important–why is it so shocking that she did, too?

    Anyway, great post!

    Like

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