All Queen hail Bey

Ev­ery­thing you need to know about Bey­once’s Black Is King

The Province - - NEWS - SO­NIA RAO

Bey­once Knowles-Carter re­leased Black Is King in the wee hours of Fri­day morn­ing last week, roughly one month af­ter pub­licly an­nounc­ing she had shot a com­pan­ion piece to her orig­i­nal mu­sic re­leased along­side the live­ac­tion Lion King film last year. The new vis­ual al­bum, stream­ing on Dis­ney+, is “meant to cel­e­brate the breadth and beauty of Black an­ces­try,” she stated in that an­nounce­ment.

The singer re­searched and worked on the project over the course of a year, col­lab­o­rat­ing with other Black artists across the globe. She joined forces with nu­mer­ous direc­tors to shoot mu­sic videos for the tracks from The Lion King: The

Gift, and en­listed some of the Nige­rian, South African, Ghana­ian, Cameroo­nian and Amer­i­can artists fea­tured in the mu­sic to ap­pear in its vis­ual coun­ter­part as well.

For those who haven’t yet caught Black Is King, here’s what to know about Bey­once’s lat­est work.

What is Black Is King?

Black Is King is Bey­once’s lat­est vis­ual al­bum, a ta­pes­try of mu­sic videos for The Lion

King: The Gift, an al­bum ac­com­pa­ny­ing last year’s live-ac­tion film. The 85-minute piece draws from the reimag­ined Dis­ney clas­sic both in its story, loosely fol­low­ing a young boy’s mat­u­ra­tion and search for iden­tity, and in the lit­eral sense, fea­tur­ing voice-overs from Mu­fasa, Simba and other char­ac­ters in the movie.

The vis­ual al­bum, which was shot in lo­cales across the world — Dis­ney lists South Africa, Bel­gium and West African coun­tries, as well as New York, Los An­ge­les and Lon­don — ex­plores the mean­ing of legacy and cel­e­brates cul­tures and cus­toms that bring the Black di­as­pora to­gether. “Black is the colour of my true love’s skin,” Bey­once says early on. “Coils and hair catch­ing cen­turies of prayers spread through a smoke.

You are wel­come to come home to your­self.

Let Black be syn­ony­mous with glory.” Cer­tain mo­ments fo­cus on the Black-Amer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence, such as the in­clu­sion of an Amer­i­can flag with its stars and stripes re­painted in black, red and green — colours from the Pan-African flag. At one point, a male voiceover com­ments on an iden­tity strug­gle ex­pe­ri­enced by the Amer­i­can de­scen­dants of en­slaved peo­ple from Africa: “When it’s all said and done, I don’t even know my own na­tive tongue,” he says. “And if I can’t speak my­self, I can’t think my­self. And if I can’t think my­self, I can’t be my­self. But if I can’t be my­self, I will never know me. So, Un­cle Sam, tell me this: If

I will never know me, how can you?”

How can I watch it?

Black Is King is stream­ing on Dis­ney+.

Did we know this was hap­pen­ing?

Yes. Bey­once up­loaded a minute-long trailer for Black

Is King along­side the June an­nounce­ment, in which she wrote that “the events of 2020 have made the film’s vi­sion and mes­sage even more rel­e­vant.” The lead-up to

Black Is King strays from what has be­come the norm for

Bey­once, an artist who, since sur­prise-drop­ping her self­ti­tled al­bum in 2013, has tended to shroud her work in se­crecy. The vis­ual al­bums for Bey­once and 2016’s

Lemon­ade have been cred­ited with rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing how the mu­sic in­dus­try ap­proaches re­leases.

Who else had a hand in cre­at­ing vis­ual al­bum?

While Bey­once is the first di­rec­tor to ap­pear in the cred­its for Black Is King, she is joined by sev­eral oth­ers, in­clud­ing Em­manuel Ad­jei, Blitz Baza­wule, Pierre De­buss­chere, Jenn Nkiru, Ibra Ake, Dikayl Rim­masch, Jake Nava and Kwasi Ford­jour, the last of whom she has col­lab­o­rated with many times be­fore. (Ford­jour and two oth­ers, Dafe Oboro and Ju­lian Klincewicz, are de­scribed as co-direc­tors.) Black Is King is a fam­ily af­fair. Bey­once’s hus­band, Jay-Z, is fea­tured on

MOOD 4 EVA and shows up for that por­tion of the vis­ual al­bum. Their el­der daugh­ter, Blue Ivy, ap­pears through­out — most mem­o­rably dur­ing

BROWN SKIN GIRL, stand­ing along­side her mother, lit­tle sis­ter Rumi and grand­mother Tina Knowles-Law­son. The en­tire film is ded­i­cated to Sir Carter, Rumi’s twin brother. Celebri­ties Lupita Ny­ong’o, Naomi Camp­bell and Kelly Row­land also ap­pear for

BROWN SKIN GIRL.

How has it been re­ceived so far?

There was some back­lash to

Black Is King be­fore its re­lease, most of which char­ac­ter­ized the de­pic­tions of the dif­fer­ent African cul­tures as stereo­typ­i­cal. Bey­once’s mother de­fended her daugh­ter on In­sta­gram, shar­ing an­other post de­scrib­ing the re­search Bey­once did for the project.

On the whole, how­ever, public re­ac­tion to Black Is

King seems to be as pos­i­tive as one might have ex­pected. Writ­ing for The Guardian,

Chante Joseph gave the “love song to the Black di­as­pora” four out of five stars, say­ing it was worth the wait. Jeremy Hel­li­gar stated in Va­ri­ety that, while it isn’t perfect, the film “ex­cels as a cel­e­bra­tion of Black­ness in its many forms: Black women, Black men, Black chil­dren, Black moth­er­hood, Black fa­ther­hood, Black pasts, Black presents, and Black fu­tures.” Singer Adele also showed her ap­pre­ci­a­tion, twin­ning with Bey­once on In­sta­gram and writ­ing, “Thank you Queen for al­ways making us all feel so loved through your art.”

Bey­once’s new vis­ual al­bum Black Is King is a com­pan­ion piece to the mu­sic she re­leased along­side the live-ac­tion The Lion King movie last year.

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