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Formation by Beyonce: A Protest Song

(Photo from Essence)

“Formation” by Beyonce qualifies as a protest song because it argues against the status quo that instead of African Americans and women settling for disrespect and being silent, to be determined despite what people are trying to throw at them. This song’s purpose is to motivate and empower all to be the change that they want to see in their community and their lives. It helps remind these two groups that even though you may work hard, obstacles will get in your way, but you must continue to “twirl on your haters” and push through. She literally enforces African Americans and women to become aware of their position in America at this time, and begin to get their priorities in line. Most importantly Beyonce, does this by explaining her background to remind all that she is an African American woman, and gives those, who need that extra push, her formula to becoming and staying successful.

Even though “Formation” screams feminism, the song was created by two men. ​Rae Sremmurd​’s, Swae Lee, and music producer, Mike Will Made It, are the masterminds behind this song. Originally it started off just being a “women’s empowerment” song. However, when they sent the track to Beyonce she turned it into something more. Not only did she continue to write the song for women’s empowerment but she added in cultural aspects that turned it into a considered ​Black Lives Matter​ song.

Being that Beyonce is such as worldwide figure, she usually does not get her hands messy with racial and potential political views. However, she released “Formation” in the midst of an American outcry. During 2016, and three years preceding there had been back to back numerous accounts of police brutality against the black community that launched the ​Black Lives Matter​ movement. Along with the ​Black Lives Matter​ movement, America was now aware that Donald Trump would be a promising candidate in the 2016 presidential election. At this time Trump disrespectfully vocalized his views on women and their rights. Instead of being silent about these issues, Beyonce decided to express herself the best way she knows how – through music.

When Beyonce says, “My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana/ You mix the negro with that creole/ Make a Texas bama”, we learn that she is not only from the south, but that her family roots live there. This is a powerful line because it not only refers to her immediate roots, but also hints at slavery roots as well. Even though Beyonce likes glitz and glam, she goes on to express that she likes the stereotypical African American features including “baby hair afros” (kinky hair) and “Jackson 5 nostrils” (big noses) that others sometimes criticize. She also, states that even though she is “Beyonce”, she has not forgotten where she comes from. This line also shuts downs any assumptions that she does not associate herself with the black community, and is proud of her heritage.

Even though women have come a long way to earn the same respect as men, they still fight to erase sex stereotypes. One of these stereotypes include men being the “boss” and/or always acting as the main provider in a relationship. In the second verse of “Formation”, Beyonce talks about being the one to treat her man instead of visa versa. When she says, “Drop him off at the mall/ Let him buy some J’s/ Let him shop up”, she’s saying that women can also earn for themselves as well as their spouse. Another line that infers that a woman can do for a man just as he can do for her is, “I might get your song played on the radio station”. This line is more specific to Beyonce’s scenario. The music business is known to be male dominated, however Beyonce has become so successful that she explains that she can actually be someone to help a male artist succeed. Even though this verse is more on the “fun side” it still speaks to an important argument.

Beyonce starts her formula of success in the chorus by saying, “I dream it/ I want it/ Stunt yellow bone it”. She explains that to succeed you must first have a vision, and your vision cannot be anyone else’s because you have to want it. She also infers that the obstacles can begin in this first process in succeeding, by referring to her skin color. Yellow bone is a term that is used in the African American community that refers to black women that are light skin. She uses it to express that she is confident in who she is, and that you have to have confidence in who you are in order to succeed. After you have a vision Beyonce goes on to sing, “I dream it/ I work hard/ I grind til I own it”. She explains you cannot expect your vision to be as big as you dreamed it to be with mediocrity. You have to grind until you reach what you want and continue to work hard to keep it. To prepare listeners for success, Beyonce states once you’ve become successful people will try to bring you down with the line, “I twirl on my haters/ Albino alligators”. This also refers to looking at what you have achieved so far instead of paying attention to those who are trying to block your blessings. The most inspirational part of this song is the chorus. Beyonce not only sings what she does to make sure she succeeds, but it also expresses the most important part that earned the song its name.

As a closing note on the chorus Beyonce sings her main point, “Okay ladies now let’s get in formation/ Prove to me you’ve got some coordination”. Even though she specifically says “ladies” in this line, it can be directed to all. This line sums up everything that Beyonce talks about throughout the song. She is calling for formation in the black community. She is asking that the black community gets “in-formation” about why they seem to be getting attacked and use this information to fight back. She is also asking them to get in formation with each other instead of rioting in the streets and tearing apart the own communities. She is asking women to prove that they can coordinate with each other instead of against each other in order to fight for female injustices that still exist today. Lastly, Beyonce is encouraging all to follow their dreams no matter who you are or where you come from, and to stand above negativity.

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