Beyoncé Does More Than Slay in Her New Music Video

If you haven’t seen the video for Beyoncé’s “Formation” yet, you seriously need to get on it.

 

Beyoncé dropped the surprise video in the middle of the day on Saturday, February 6th. Within hours, the video already had hundreds of thousands of views. Literally everyone was talking about it:

 

 

 

Even Southwest Airlines and Red Lobster had something to say:

You may be thinking, “Well, she’s Beyoncé, so anything she posts will get views,” and while you’re not entirely wrong, a lot of people are glad she’s using her influence to share a powerful message.

The underlying message behind the song and video is simple: she’s unashamed of her heritage and she’s proud of where she comes from. The song and video encourage viewers, especially Black female viewers, to feel the same. Although there are many resonating images in the five-minute video, these two images are especially important:

 

The submerging police car:

The video opens with a shot of Bey on top of a New Orleans police car accompanying the lyric, “What happened after New Orleans?" as a fierce reminder of the natural disaster that brought race relations into the public eye. She doesn’t want us to forget that after Katrina destroyed much of New Orleans, many of the people left helpless were low-income black Americans. She wants to remind us that state and federal help took up to a week to arrive at some corners of the inner city, and that many black residents felt hurt, unimportant, and like second-class citizens. Most importantly, she wants to emphasize that this feeling of dispensability and unwantedness is still prevalent in many black communities, including the one she was raised in. In the final shot of the music video, she makes a bold statement by sinking with the police car as gunshots go off in the background.

Wow.

 

Her daughter, Blue Ivy:

One of the most memorable lyrics in “Formation” is “I like my baby’s hair with baby hair and afros.” With this lyric and simple image of Blue looking naturally fabulous, Beyoncé combats the ethnocentric pressure many black women succumb to. Ever heard of extensions, weaves, relaxers, or perms? Many of these hairstyles are meant to “tame” natural African or African-American hair to make it look more Western. It is not common for black women to go through hours of pain and hair damage to make their natural kinks and curls straight. (Can you blame them when typical African hairstyles are often deemed unprofessional by Western standards? That’s an article for another day). Beyoncé has even received a lot of criticism for allowing Blue’s hair to look the way it does: her critics have called Blue’s hair everything from “nappy” to unprofessional. With this bold lyric and stunning shot, Beyoncé is telling her haters that she will not surrender to eurocentric norms. Besides, Blue rocks that afro.

Watch the video for yourself to discover some more of the powerful images Bey uses to bring real issues to the forefront and to understand some of the pop culture references you’ll probably be hearing for the next few months.

 

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