Yesterday, Beyoncé dropped an unannounced video for her new single ‘Formation’, and for a few minutes, the world paused. For four minutes, the world was forced to stop whatever we were doing in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, pay proper tribute, and bow down to “Queen Bey.” ‘Formation’ was announced on both her Instagram account and official website. Shortly after the notification, the video was released to the public, and is without a doubt, one of the most powerful messages that she has ever presented to us.
The surprise release of ‘Formation’ is nothing new for the Queen. In December 2013, Beyoncé released her self-titled album without an announcement or promotion. The album was comprised of short films illustrating the musical concepts conceived during production to accompany each song. This album went on to selling 617,000 copies in the U.S., and 828,773 copies worldwide in the first three days, becoming the fastest-selling album in the history of the iTunes Store.
Melina Matsoukas, who has directed eight Beyoncé videos since 2007, directed this highly conceptual video. She won a Grammy for Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’ video, and also directed Solange’s ‘Losing You’ and ‘I Decided,’ Ciara’s ‘Work’ (feat. Missy Elliot) and Jay Z’s ‘Run.’ Matsoukas will make her TV directing debut with Issa Rae’s upcoming HBO comedy series, ‘Insecure.’
“A good video has the right visuals, a well conceptualized story, and should be exciting and elicit reaction.” – Melina Matsoukas
Without a doubt, ‘Formation’ has elicited a reaction from millions across the globe, and accurately reflects the times that we are living in today. This video speaks to the Black Lives Matter movement; however, it isn’t just about police brutality. It is a high-level, visually striking expression that represents the entire experience of being Black in America in 2016. It includes, beauty standards, culture, empowerment, family, creole culture, southern roots, black activism, and black history.
In several scenes, we see Beyoncé as she straddles a New Orleans police cruiser (reminding us of the mistreatment of black people during Hurricane Katrina), which eventually sinks in a body of water with her on top. In another frame, we see a line of police officers surrendering with their hands raised, to a dancing black child in a hoodie, as the camera pans over the words: “Stop Shooting Us,” which symbolizes a power shift in the longstanding fight between black youth and police authorities.
It’s fascinating how Beyoncé renders her politics both literally and colloquially. It’s clear that she is a powerful artist who is reflecting the sign of the times through her art. In ‘Formation,’ she is letting the world know that she is not a pawn and has opinions on what is happening in America today. She boldly expresses that the wealth that she has accumulated and the success that she has obtained will not silence her from speaking out against injustice in this country.
‘Formation’ is filled with creatively drawn sentiments of black identity and black pride that are just as powerful as a direct social/political statement. This video expresses its love of Blackness in an unapologetic matter and is a clear anthem for us to continue to embrace our culture and protect it by any means necessary.