All week, I’ve been listening to a Rage Against The Machine playlist that Apple music suggested me. Damn, it’s been about sixteen years since we got a studio album from them. Their 1992 self-titled debut album, not only sounds like it’s hasn’t collected any dust, but also is probably more relevant than ever. Chalk it up to my indulgence to always be in tuned with current events and the political “circus,” but I wish that part of today’s music was just as strong and unapologetic. Yes, social media has given all of us a voice – I’m talking powerful and concise with and lasting words and imagery. This brings me to Beyonce‘s “Formation” released out of nowhere on a faithful Saturday. Oh, but look closer – the song and video is released the day after what would have been Trayvon Martin‘s 21st birthday.
Now, I rarely jump down the rabbit hole of YouTube comments with the abundance of faceless profiles making tough and ardent comments. This time, I couldn’t resist seeing the collective cream rise to the top. theebige commented, “this is why beyonce is literal trash. she’s the reason no one likes this generations music. this piece of garbage need to leave Earth” giving a total disregard to both grammar and creative account names. See, you don’t get it both ways. You can’t ask musical figures to be the voice of unrest and then dislike when they actually do so. Let me tell you what I saw – for years, many people in the media have criticized Beyonce for not speaking up about topics such as police brutality even though she’s donated about seven million to Houston’s homeless and those to the victims of police brutality. It’s not just the themes of the video that I respect. I respect that Beyonce recognizes the “world stops spinning on this axis” platform when she releases something and make this type of statement. This is the world where you can tailor what type of news you see that is always in line with your views and thoughts – well, watch this video and actually listen to the song.
I can go into the many motifs that are touched within the video. The ruins of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, her daughter Blue as vibrant as ever in her natural hair (do you know there was an absurd petition for Blue Ivy to comb her hair?), and a New Orleans police car drowning. The most powerful was towards the end of the video with black kid with a hoodie raising his hands up in synchronization with the police squad in front of him. Like Beyonce, it was abrupt and relevant. Released on a Saturday afternoon, sometimes bold statements don’t erupt at the most convenient of times. It’s great to see an artist evolve the way she has throughout her career.
The most heralding message of the song and video is that she has certainly earned through her awards and wealth not despite of, but because of her heritage and where she came from. There seems to be an asterisk attached to Beyonce, her husband Jay-Z, and most black entertainers in that there’s a crutch in an extension to how they rose to prominence. Hence the Illuminati line in the beginning of the song. “Formation” is not only an artful protest visual and song, it’s a call to arms for those who want to make claims to their own identities because people will definitely try to attach their explanations on who you’ve become and how you got there. If you embrace Beyonce, you have to embrace the state of Messy Mya and Big Frida, the “hot sauce in her purse,” and confident black woman she is right in front of you.
I’m sure that many people who are going to try to quantify both the video and song into bite-sized morsels for people to either get it or even try to vilify it. Yes, the song itself is another “banger” anthem in Beyonce’s huge catalog. Look at the news – hell, it’s right on your Facebook feed. There are always people trying to say what success should look and act like. Look no further of that instance playing out later today when you are watching a certain starting quarterback for Carolina Panthers. Get into formation – success comes in all backgrounds and colors. There’s a line in the Rage Against The Machine song, “Township Rebellion” that says “If your mind’s in a somewhat complacent state – get a check up!”
It’s time we get in formation to know that women can be powerful, black people can be successful off their own hard work, and that there is a racial problem in America. Aren’t we thankful to have Beyonce to bring that all to the table? Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get ready to laugh as the sponsors nervously bite their nails at the thought that Beyonce will perform this song on the Super Bowl halftime show.
Download Beyonce’s new single over on Tidal.