Based on the events of the past weekend related to Beyoncé, it’s entirely possible that she’s trolling America, all of it.
Beyoncé dropped the video for the song “Formation” on Saturday, converting my Facebook into a de facto Beyoncé fan site. “Formation” is an unapologetically black- and Southern-ass song and video. The words to the song (as has been covered here) invoke the nostrils of the Jackson 5, baby hair and Afros, Red Lobster, and hot sauce in a purse, which I think we can all agree is about as black a list of things to mention in one song as possible. The video includes braids, slave imagery, New Orleans underwater after Katrina, Beyoncé sinking a police car and graffiti that says “Stop Shooting Us” as police throw their arms up.
It’s impossible to triple down on this blackness, right?
Her Super Bowl 50 performance included black fists, Black Panther berets, multiple on-air mentions of the word “Negro” and an X formation that I’m guessing was a dedication to Malcolm. Then she announced a 40-city Formation World Tour and launched an initiative to help with the water crisis in Flint, Mich., which is absolutely going through the s–t right now. If nobody goes to prison, it will be an even more significant miscarriage of justice than has already occurred.
The entire time all of this was happening, my only question was this: When the f–k did Beyoncé become so unapologetically black? Some of the references in “Formation” go a bit overboard. For instance, ever since Red Lobster made their Cheddar Bay Biscuit Mix available for sale in supermarkets, I can’t think of a really good reason to grace the foyer of an actual Red Lobster, no matter how good somebody’s sex is. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but it’s not really worth it to me to find out.
This may sound classist and judgmental—and I’m a dude who doesn’t mind chain restaurants—but a motherf–ker going to Red Lobster for a seafood night out probably orders #flamingyoung. Now, obviously, Red Lobster isn’t “black,” in the same way that Kool-Aid isn’t “black,” but something about both Red Lobster and Kool-Aid feels a little more colored than it doesn’t. And if you could get Kool-Aid at Red Lobster?
I can appreciate this “Flawless” version of Beyoncé; I view songs like “Formation” as a continuation of that tradition. “I am who I am and I’m absolutely good with who I am” is on some “The Lion King Simba meets Rafiki by the water” realization-exercise s–t. It is also an interesting direction to continue down for somebody who is a mainstream darling.
While I’m not sure everybody is a fan of her music, America does seem to be a fan of Beyoncé. It is a bold move to actively take a less-than-popular political stance (apparently, members of the National Sheriffs’ Association turned their back during her performance at the Super Bowl because they view her video as anti-police) among the mainstream that you hope will buy your albums and to go so hard in the paint for said stance and the movement that is attempting to apply pressure across the spectrum on the powers that be. It’s a move that I appreciate during a time when we typically complain about the lack of testicular fortitude shown by our entertainers, whether or not you think they have an obligation to show and prove it.