Who am I kidding? I am fighting my way through the very-important Mueller Report, but all I can think about is Beyonce Knowles-Carter, that magnificent queen who dropped a two-hour film about her epic performance at Coachella a few days ago on Netflix.
Tear your eyes away, I dare you, from Beyonce, striding her imperial self down a pyramid stacked with African-American performers, her wavy blonde hair cascading to her waist, shorts cut high over generous thighs, green eyes glinting above a “you will obey” expression that suddenly melts into that smile.
In her lyrics, she commands that you own it. She demands that you “suck my” (rhymes with “shawls”). She laments that she can only rely on “Me, Myself and I,” but declares her love for Jay-Z, except he better not take her for granted: “Who the f— do you think I is? You ain’t married to no average bitch, boy.” And if he treats her right, she might just give it to him, she sings.
She sings about her reality. Like in “Diva”:
Since 15 in my stilettos, been struttin’ in this game / “What’s yo age?” was the question they ask when I hit the stage / I’m a diva, best believe her, you see how she gettin’ paid?
But that’s not all it’s about – her journey to stardom. No, Beyonce is aiming higher. She’s aiming for posterity, and for history.
The film opens with Maya Angelou speaking words of wisdom about the experience of being human. And the segments of Beyonce’s on-stage performance at Coachella are studded with quotes from various luminaries reminding us why we’re here, what matters, what lasts.
Beyonce has me thinking anew about female power and the state it is in today. The film about her Coachella show, “Homecoming,” is a celebration of blackness and womanhood in America. It pays homage to historically black colleges and universities (“HBCU,” a term I needed to learn).
But mostly it just stuns in its ambition and excellence.
The performance itself, eight months in the making, features 200 performers – a drumline, a string orchestra, a horn section, female dancers, male dancers and singers. She is the lead performer, the visionary behind the show’s theme, its artistic director and also the director of the film.
We should mention that Beyonce embarked on this journey shortly after having twins, and spent months juggling her responsibilities as a mother, getting her body into shape (no dairy, no carbs, no meat – ugh) while shaping the creative direction of the show – and the film. At one point she explains that the film is not living up to her expectations. Everybody needed to step back and take her notes, again, she said.
Her on-stage dancers are dressed in a cross between female power (those high-cut shorts, knee-high boots) and black power (military-style berets and epaulettes), mixed in with some Cleopatra vibing and Greek letters that denote college life. Her performers are mostly African-American, but not only. Several are notably plus-sized.
At a time when we so desperately need role models, Beyonce provides a towering example of empowered womanhood. She is sexual, not sexy. She is motherhood as a fountainhead, not as an afterthought. She’s always calling out to the “ladies” – she puts them first.
As proof of the effect she has, the film cuts away to the ecstatic faces of fans – men and women both – reciting her lyrics with a look of confidence and determination. Because that’s what her lyrics exude.
I don’t know every Beyonce song or lyric and I’m not even necessarily the greatest fan but when that woman strides on stage, she will not be denied.
There is a generosity of spirit about Beyonce that becomes subversively infectious. What a gift that “Homecoming” has captured this in a way that can be observed and absorbed for years to come.