New stuff: “Formation”

Beyoncé released her “Formation” video a day before her Super Bowl performance, ensuring that as much of the country as possible would familiarize themselves with her newest work. It worked, too. After three days, 17 million views, and a heart-stopping halftime performance, “Formation” has become the most important song of 2016. The video is Beyoncé’s boldest and most political statement of her career, but it’s also not beyond criticism. Here are some observations:

Blue Ivy is adorable 

She’s easily the most powerful toddler in America, and now she’s a symbol for natural hair (seriously, I feel a little bit prouder as I write this with my Caribbean jew-fro). That’s not a bad start to life.



Hot sauce is not “swag”

Maybe it’s a Los Angeles thing, but I’ve seen ladies from 11 to 70 years old pull Tapatio out of their purses from time to time. It’s a rather normal behavior.

But this is:

Holy wow.

Beyoncé is the best rapper in her family…

…at the moment. Both “7/11” and “Formation” are essentially rap songs, but the former is silly fun and her most recent effort was written mostly by Swae Lee of Rae Sremmurd fame. So while no one claims her to be as good a writer as Jay Z, she’s released more consequential rap than her GOAT husband has in the past two years.

The gross product placement 

As stoked as the people at Givenchy must feel that someone finally pronounced their name correctly, champagne rap and its associated products need to die. But at least Bey’s sartorial shoutout doesn’t stoop down to her groanworthy Red Lobster placement. This isn’t just because I doubt that Beyoncé and Jay Z have ever been to a Red Lobster together (though maybe they’ve been to the ultra-fancy Red Lobster equivalent known only to the 1%), but mostly because corporate sponsorship of mega-wealthy artists is tacky and ridiculous.

Beyoncé is Benjamin Button

After watching “Formation,” “Crazy in Love” now seems inconsequential. Pretty much everything she’s done up until her last album now feels inconsequential, and after nearly twenty years of success in an industry that gives women maybe five years of relevance, Beyoncé has never been more influential.

The oppressor aesthetics 

The video’s visuals are consistently stunning, but the few shots where Beyoncé and company dress like plantation wives in an ornate country house feel uncomfortable. I’m not sure whether to interpret the visual choice as a reclamation of slavery-era fashion or simply a source of Southern pride, but it’s confusing for a video that otherwise bathes in Southern Black visuals.

“Okay ladies now let’s get in-formation”

In formation. Or is it information? Are we fighting or learning? Both?

This is Beyoncé’s best song

I may not feel this way in a few years considering how well “Say My Name” and “Drunk in Love” hold up fifteen years apart, but “Formation” is an incredible piece of art for a singer who has no need to get political.

But it’s not her best video:


She slays.



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