Knowles Carter is called "Queen Bey" by her fans for a reason: The 38-year-old singer has not had a number one hit for years, but she is probably the most dominant and powerful pop artist at the moment. Her secret is good timing: on Friday Beyoncé released her self-made music film "Black Is King" on the streaming service Disney +.
There was not much information about this before; Knowles has been on the surprise release of her albumbecome a master at "dropping" new material without announcements and explanations. She has not been interviewing for years, as an aristocrat of modern black pop, whose assets are estimated at several hundred million dollars, she lets her art speak for itself in an elegant manner.
In this respect, Beyoncé was almost gossipy and close to the people when she announced the almost 90 minute long "visual album" on Instagram a month ago as a heart project on which she had worked day and night for a year. The film was intended to be a sequence of opulently furnished scenes and video clips for individual songs, as an accompaniment to the soundtrack album "The Gift", which Knowles made for Disney last yearhad produced. The musicians and stars involved, many of them from Africa, now appear in the film, including Nigerian Burna Boy, rapper Tekno, singer Jessie Reyez and hip-hop producer Pharrell Williams, but also top model Naomi Campbell and Oscar winner Lupita Nyong ' o and the former Destiny's Child colleague Kelly Rowland. Even Mother Knowles has a mini appearance, Beyoncé's children are omnipresent. It is a family celebration of blackness.
"Tell REAL story"
The film was to celebrate "the breadth and beauty of black ancestry," Beyoncé wrote in her long posting – and anticipated the current political importance of her venture, should it not catch the eye of someone: "The events of 2020 have the vision and Made the film's message even more relevant, "she wrote. What is meant is after the violent death of the African Americanflared-up protest against racism in the USA, which has led to a global wave of solidarity.
She wanted to develop an awareness of a rich history rooted in Africa, which African American kids are not taught in the textbooks of the whites. "Shift the axis of the world and tell our REAL story," underneath does not make a queen. Does "Black Is King" live up to this claim?
There is no shortage of powerful pictures and productions. They are so suggestive that you could easily forget that all the songs that are played here are already known. The only new thing is the previously released single "Black Parade".
Staged as a Christian Madonna figure
Right at the beginning, to the ballad sounds of "Bigger", Beyoncé can be seen in a flowing white dress with a flowing mane on a beach, handing over the "Keys to the Kingdom" to a little boy, namely the wisdom that he is part of a larger one Narration of black culture is: "Bigger than the picture they framed us to see. Pick up a pen and rewrite it".
The self-stylized Mama Afrika then does the rewriting and appropriation of the story herself. Riding into her film, she was on horseback, dressed in a robe made of zebu horns and animal skins, an iconic reminiscence of the film "Touki Bouki" by the Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambéty from 1973.
Later, she will stage herself as a Christian Madonna figure, who releases a black baby in the biblical bast basket in the Nile. Dressed and decorated as a super fertile Yoruba goddess Oshun, she then takes it out herself on the other bank. It marks the transition between the(2016) completed their origin research in the southern United States and the next step – into the realm of the Orisha, the old African gods.
Analogous to the "Lion King" story (there are Simba and Mufasa quotes from the film), Beyoncé embarks on a safari through colorful African robes. It is an impressive celebration of black beauty and grandeur.
According to the credits, Beyoncé directed alone, but supported by up to ten co-directors, most of them from Africa. But the real stars are the costume designers, make-up and hairstyle artists who stage Knowles in countless outfits, which change every minute, as a demonstratively curvaceous beauty queen who finds wealth in her African legacy empowerment and glamor.
Even the trailer for the film generated criticism: Beyoncé confined himself to reproducing tribal culture and homogenizing a wide variety of African cultures in order to instrumentalize and exploit them for her "black capitalism", wrote the black feminist Jade Bentil on Twitter. The free jazz artists of the 1950s and 1960s had already sufficiently researched the popular roots of Africa, wrote the French journalist Sophie Rosemont, who is currently publishing a book on the history of "Black Power", on Instagram. It was a shame that Beyoncé did not find a new approach and was also so little interested in current Africa.
"Wakandafication" is a catchphrase that also gets around on social media when it comes to "Black Is King", ie the idealization of African origin and tribal motifs in the style of the superhero blockbuster "Black Panther", who plays in the imaginative Wakanda, by the way a Disney product. So too much commercialized Afro folklore and cultural appropriation instead of contemporary, socially realistic Afro Futurism?
"Queen Bey" is unlikely to further irritate this kind of controversy. If in doubt, she has set out to fuel the identity-political discourse by demonstrating her staging and media power, as she has already done with deliberately provocative appearances at the Super Bowl and the Coachella. A feeling for the zeitgeist and the right timing has always proven it again. And even if she may not be at the forefront of the political debate this time, her art-loving designer film will at least make the fashion blogs glow for weeks.