Get In ‘Formation’
Rilka Noel | Thursday, February 11, 2016
This Saturday, Beyoncé surprised us once again with the release of her newest music video “Formation.” Set in New Orleans, the video is an homage to the black south, natural hair and hot sauce.
The video’s depictions of Hurricane Katrina and the “Black Lives Matter” movement represent a reclamation of blackness for Beyoncé and the black community. Reactions across the internet, including one from NPR reporter Mandalit del Barco, express how affective the social and political themes present in Beyoncé’s new song really are: “It’s about a black future [where] we are imagining ourselves having power and magic,” she says, “and I think it’s beautiful.”
The video itself is filled with Oscar-worthy shots. The opening sequence flashes images of Louisiana and a wide-angled frame of Beyoncé chilling alone and on top of a police car in the middle of a flooded New Orleans neighborhood. The music starts and the voice of New Orleans bounce queen Big Freedia booms out “I did not come to play with you hoes.” Big Freedia’s interlude sets the tone for a powerful blend of aesthetics throughout the video.
The minimalistic, viral imagery and dark trap beats show Beyoncé returning with a track less glossy than her former pop hits. She sings about her black features with pride: “I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros. I like my negro nose and Jackson Five nostrils.” In the music video, these lyrics accompany an image of her daughter, Blue Ivy, rocking her natural ‘fro — affirming Beyoncé’s rejection of Eurocentric beauty standards. Beyoncé wears natural hairstyles throughout the video: freeform curls, box braids and a low ponytail. These styles are an emphasize natural Black traits: “Formation” is truly lending itself to be a modern Black Power anthem. (Notably, the backup dancers in her Super Bowl performance wore outfits and hairstyles inspired by the Black Panthers.)
Beyoncé pushes her statement further as the music video goes on. Dressed in an elegant white Southern belle-esque gown, she is seated in the living room of a plantation style home. She fans herself and sings, over and over, “I go off, I go hard… take what’s mine, I’m a star, cause I slay, I slay, I slay…” She is demanding and perpetuating that she is a bolder, sassier and fiercer version of herself within her music. We are witnessing the evolution of Beyoncé and this exclamation is the extension of her personality that we’ve been dying to see.
One of the most powerful scenes in the video features a young black boy dancing in front of a group of white police officers. The officers hold their hands up high, a recognizable stance frequently taken by police brutality protesters, and the spray painted words “Stop shooting us” are shown on a nearby wall. Beyoncé has been criticized in the past for not using her fame and success to speak out on social justice issues, but with this undeniably clear representation of Ferguson’s message, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” she uses her platform to show support and solidarity.
With her full-length album and Formation World Tour in the near future, Beyoncé is posed to continually effect change as both an activist and an entertainer. She’s slaying and we’re here for it.