Shakespeare misspoke when he wrote, “All the world’s a stage.” What he meant, as we all acknowledged this weekend, is that all the world is actually Beyonce’s stage. As the most popular female performer alive, Beyonce took charge of the most watched televised event of the year by commanding the halftime stage with her brand new single, “Formation.”
She did it while paying homage to Michael Jackson’s Super Bowl performance of “We Are the World” in 1993. And she was inspired by more than just his military jacket.
Critiques and compliments have yet to hold a candle to her hit, through which she talks #BlackLivesMatter in a way that no artist ever has before. Katrina’s aftermath, slavery, Black Panthers, Reconstruction, Mardi Gras, MLK, the Civil Rights Era, Ferguson and more: she referenced it all along with her own struggles, her rise to fame, her unwavering ability to “slay”. And slay she did, by dropping the music video the day before, as a raw, yet eerily magical visual of the Black South, followed by a flawless performance during the game. The celebrated artist used the nation’s most popular venue to deliver the real national anthem, the single we never knew we always needed.
Bey knows that her life as a public figure renders commentary and criticism from all audiences, but her song reiterates the message she’s been putting out for decades: “I did not come to play with you hoes, I came to slay.” It’s her turn to speak, and she’s taking charge of it as an iconic force of political conversation.
She powerfully explains in her last lines, “you know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation,” which goes to show that she knows her platform even better than she knows her audience of 114 million viewers. She didn’t join the #BlackLivesMatter conversation just to get a word in, to get publicity, or to gain twitter followers. She contributed her thoughts so that America would listen.
That’s what music is for. Listening. Queen Bey exhibits that she’s done attending to the opinions of others, and she’s taking control of the narrative.
Formation isn’t free on Tidal because Bey felt charitable; she already pledged $1.5 million to the #BlackLivesMatter Foundation last week with her new campaign #BeyGOOD. Her single is streaming for free because she wants everyone to hear the message behind her lyrics: this conversation involves all of us.
So, get in formation, or get out.
Watch the video here: