What's the best Beyonce song

To the song "Formation" by Beyoncé Knowles. An analysis of a pop culture activist work


1 Introduction

2. Activism

3. Lemonade

4. Formation

5. Super Bowl

6. Reactions

7. Conclusion

8. Sources

1 Introduction

Art and politics have lived in a pop-cultural symbiosis not only since the invention of the Internet. Artists have always reflected their respective current events and packaged them into their works. William Shakespeare was amused by the royal family, Leonardo Da Vinci hid religious symbolism in his works and Nina Simone fought side by side with Martin L. King and Malcom X for the liberation of the black community[1]. So it is not surprising that in times of social media not only “underground” artists show a clear political standing. Even commercially successful celebrities are politicizing themselves more and more in public. Taylor Swift discovered feminism and girls power for himself, Spike Lee, Will and Jada Smith and other Hollywood greats initiated the boycott of the Oscars (#oscarssowhite) after black actors were not nominated in a single category for several years as a result of black actors and Leonardo DiCaprio is involved for years intensively against climate change. Activism seems to be more and more “in vogue”. One of the most famous artists in the world, Beyoncé Knowles, is one of those people who have undergone an enormous development in their public image. Started as "Girl Next Door" in the band Destiny's Child In the 90s, Knowles is now one of the most powerful and influential women in the world.

In the following text I will deal with the person Beyoncé Knowles. I will explore the possibilities and obstacles of commercial activism using your song as an example formation (2016) explain and shed light on the reactions of the black community. The aim is to find out what positive but also negative effects the politicization of commercially successful artists can have for their communities and what advantages and disadvantages activists see in it. In addition, it should be discussed what activism actually means and from when a person can call himself an activist. I will do this using articles from online magazines, as well as blog articles by blacks and white Analyze and substantiate activists.

2. Activism

Public figures often boast about their social commitment. The reactions to it are usually very divided, which is why many of them choose to hide their charity work. So do Beyoncé Carter-Knowles and her husband Shawn Carter[2]. The couple, who jointly have an estimated fortune of approximately one billion, avoided going public with their charity work until recently. At the same time, however, they found the Shawn Carter Foundation, which gave scholarships to black students, enabling them to attend university[3]. After the devastating hurricane Katrina in 2005, which went down in history as one of the US government's greatest political failures[4], the couple finances the rebuilding of black communities.[5] Outwardly, however, both are politically neutral and never comment publicly on political issues. In 2014 Knowles released her self-titled album BEYONCE and surprises her audience with an openly proclaimed and intersectional feminism. She leaves the floor on her tours and public appearances FEMINIST project onto huge walls, sing empowering and sex-positive lyrics and fade into their feminist hymn *** Flawless part of the TED speech by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Black Nigerian feminist.[6] For the first time, the singer appears as a politically provocative figure. She starts her own company Parkwood Entertainmentin which she personally signs artists. In 2016, in collaboration with the British clothing brand “Topshop”, the sportswear line “Ivy Park” was created, which aims to give every body type not only the support they need, but also physical well-being.[7] The strong re_presentation of women is recognizable as a common thread in Knowles' work. Different types are represented as strong and powerful, they determine their own bodies and free themselves by regaining their sexuality. Strong images of women are deliberately represented in all projects. However, the couple has been attacked many times by colleagues for having them, despite their potential influence[8] would put too little of it into practice.[9]

In 2013 the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM) as a backlash to Georg Zimmermann's acquittal on the charge of murdering the black teenager Trayvon Martin[10]. The anti-racist movement has always drawn social attention to the institutionalized violence suffered by black people. The movement received support from many well-known personalities.

Knowles announced the release of her new album on her Instagram page in 2016 Lemonadewhich she released as a music and visual album. The video for her song will be released on February 5, 2016 formation[11], in which she addresses the social grievances towards the black community. One day later, she performed with a group of black dancers dressed in Black Panther costumes at the Super Bowl sports event.[12] That is the starting shot of your engagement in the BLM movement. Together with her husband, she supports arrested activists with financial and legal support[13] and organizes concerts with him, the proceeds of which benefit the various local BLM organizations.[14] During her world tour, she announced that part of the proceeds would go to activist groups in Flint, Michigan[15]. Knowles tries, among other things, through collaborations with other activist artists * to draw the public perception through social media such as Instagram to the problem.[16] As with the centralization on feminism, Knowles tries to act intersectionally here too, by including not only racist police violence, but also other, institutionalized problems by making the most diverse social realities visible. For example, she visits the red carpet of MTV Video Music Awards 2016 together with the mothers of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Oscar Grant III., who were all murdered by police violence. At the same time she was by the black model Winnie Harlow, who with the Viltigo[17] -The disease lives, as well as accompanying other prominent women.[18]

3. Lemonade

In the visual album Lemonade She addresses the process of being betrayed and the subsequent reconciliation, but at the same time backs it up with politically charged images. The setting of the film is in the southern United States. Part of the event takes place on a plantation. But the black women who can be seen in it are the masters of the property. The images are strong and symbolic. Many famous women play, such as tennis legend Serena Williams and actress Zendaya. The women are portrayed as strong and self-determined. Again and again a reference is made to black activism. There is an auditory fade-in of a speech by Malcolm X in which he says that the most discriminated person in the United States is the black woman. At the same time, video recordings of black women in New Orleans are being played. At another point, the mothers of the men who were murdered by police violence are shown holding the portraits of their sons in the camera.

It is important in the presentation that the most diverse realities of life of black women and men are made visible. So you can see different facets of southern life. It is neither limited to joy nor to sadness, but emphasizes the variety and colorfulness of every life. The language that Knowles uses in her texts is "Southern Slang". She consciously turns away from a language suitable for the masses in order to address her black audience in a concrete manner. The actresses proudly wear their afro or cornrows. The costumes in the film are from different black designers. In the chapter on the song "Sorry", Knowles and her dancers are painted with white traditional Nigerian patterns. This is the work of the Nigerian American Laolu Senbanjo.[19] In the transitions between the chapters, Knowles recites the poems adapted for the album by the British-Somali poet Warsan Shire.[20] Knowles shows the full spectrum of emotions and, with the structure of the album, represents on the one hand the recapture of her own life after the betrayal of her husband, but at the same time also indicates the regaining of self-determination of the black community by following the narrative thread with the song Freedom concludes:

"Freedom! Freedom! / I can't move / Freedom, cut me loose! / Freedom! Freedom! Where are you? / ‘Cause I need freedom too! / I break chains all by myself / Won’t let my freedom rot in hell / Hey! Imma keep running / ‘Cause a winner don’t quit on themselves." - Beyoncé Knowles, Lemonade, 2016.

Being black and being a woman become an empowering instrument. Properties that depend on the white Majority societies are declared worthless, untidy or unprofessional in Lemonade displayed with pride.

4. Formation

This imagery can be found just as strongly in the lyrics and video for the song formation again, the only song that is not part of the cheat narrative, but as the credits of Lemonade you can see. The approximately five-minute long video is set in New Orleans, the city that was hit by the hurricane Katrina was destroyed in 2005. The irresponsible behavior of the authorities is still considered to be one of the greatest racially motivated failures of American institutions. Knowles opens the video in which she sits enthroned on a police car in a long dress and loosely pinned up hair, which slowly sinks deeper and deeper in the flood. One after the other, pictures of strong black people are shown. Black culture is celebrated. In her text she sings about "haters" who do not want to accept their success (Yall haters corny with that Illuminati mess / Paparazzi catch my fly and my cocky fresh). She encourages her audience to celebrate her facial features and hair (I like my baby hair with baby hair and afro / I like my negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils) and strive for success that will benefit them from the white Majority society is not allowed (Always stay gracious / Best revenge is your paper and I just might be a black Bill Gates in the making / You just might be a black Bill gates in the making). She plays with stereotypes and turns them into empowering terms, celebrates them and puts them in the spotlight. The message that it transports is not only intended to alleviate the shame and grief of a wounded community, but also to give courage to demand more participation and justice, not to hide anymore (I see it I want it / I stunt yellow bone it / I dream big I work hard I grint till I own it / I twirl on my haters) and to work hard for the success they deserve. It is both a motivational and empowerment hymn, but also a declaration of love for being black. With the line " Earned all this money but they never get the country out me / I got Hot Sauce in my bag, swag “She makes it clear that despite her financial success and her privileged social position, she will always remain part of the community and fight for it. For the first time in her career, Knowles is clearly positioning herself as a black woman who is relaxed about herself. Voice recordings of the queer New Orleans legends Messy Mya are repeated again and again[21] and Big Freedia[22] rehearsed to honor the specific culture of the city and its community.

The pictures that are shown also celebrate black culture, but they also show its liberation from the oppressors. Knowles is sitting on a sinking police car, a black boy is dancing in front of a group whiter Policemen in protective gear, all slowly raising their hands and capitulating to the boy. Knowles and her dancers dance in cut prison overalls in a parking lot while being filmed by security cameras and stroll through their colonial mansion in long robes before dancing in the house in celebration of their sexuality. In one scene, someone is reading a newspaper with a picture of Martin Luther King on the cover. The title of the article is "More than a dream". Knowles is playing on the ambivalent attitude of the white People to black protest. King is on his famous speech I have a dream reduced, but it is concealed that he too participated in civil disobedience. While the speech today is symbolic of peaceful and successful protest, current protests that result in civil disobedience are condemned by society. Thus the headline alludes to the complexity of black activism and tries to put it in front of a white To preserve historical relativization. The video ends with the police car sinking in the depths of the water while Knowles is still perched on the roof. Formation is both a declaration of war and a declaration of love. It plays with dualistic images of liberation and oppression, joy and sadness, wealth and poverty and so the lyrics sing about Knowles as an individual person on the one hand, but the video makes it a collective, shared experience, which only a black viewer can understand in its entirety can be.


[1] The spellings " White ”And“ Black ”are based on Maisha Egger's suggestion for making social positions visible. For further information: Maureen Maisha Eggers / Grada Kilomba / Peggy Piesche / Susan Arndt (eds.): Myths, masks and subjects. Critical whiteness research in Germany. Münster 2005. There: This: Conceptual considerations, P. 13.

[2] Shawn Carter is the real name of successful rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z.

[3] See https://www.shawncartersf.com/.

[4] Black communities in the region have been left without reconstruction aid. The infrastructure of the regions was badly damaged. The consequences of the social catastrophe can still be felt today.

[5] See Blackwood, Blackenterprise.com, October 29, 2015.

[6] "We teach girls to shrink themselves / To make themselves smaller / We say to girls /" You can have ambition / But not too much / You should aim to be successful / But not too successful / Otherwise you will threaten the man. "/ Because I am female / I am expected to aspire to marriage / I am expected to make my life choices / Always keeping in mind that / Marriage is the most important / Now marriage can be a source of / Joy and love and mutual support / But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage / And we don't teach boys the same? / We raise girls to see each other as competitors / Not for jobs or for accomplishments / Which I think can be a good thing / But for attention of men / We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings / In the way that boys are / Feminist: the person who believes in the social / Political and economic equality of the sexes. " From: Ngozi Adichie: “Why we all should be feminists”, 2013.

[7] See Gottesmann, Elle.com, April 4, 2016.

[8] Both have a close relationship with Barack and Michelle Obama.

[9] Among others by jazz legend Henry Belafonte, who is himself a very politically active and influential artist.

[10] http://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/fall-trayvon-martin-gericht-sprech-george-zimmerman-frei-1.1720993 (taken on November 28, 2016).

[11] A more detailed analysis of the single and the video follows in Chapter 4.

[12] A more detailed analysis of the performance follows in Chapter 5.

[13] See Caramanica, Newyorktimes.com, July 8, 2016.

[14] See Peterson, Washingtonpost.com, July 10, 2016.

[15] The population of this city has had no access to clean water for years as the groundwater is contaminated by poorly maintained pipelines. Since a large part of the population is part of the black community and the authorities have failed to find solutions in the past, especially in black communities, the Flint Water Crisis is categorized as a racist crisis by many activists.

[16] See for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_VaNhI4CLo (taken on November 29, 2016).

[17] Viltigo is a disease that leads to the change in the main pigmentation. Harlow is one of the first commercially successful high fashion models with the disease. She repeatedly explains the importance of the disease in the media and tries to empower other people with it.

[18] See Busacca, Trueactivist.com, September 1, 2016.

[19] See: http://www.laolu.nyc/ (taken on November 29, 2016).

[20] See: https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2016/apr/27/warsan-shire-young-poet-laureate-beyonce-lemonade-london (taken on November 27, 2016).

[21] A famous trans * person who was murdered in a hate crime in 2010. The perpetrator was never caught.

[22] See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYHAuc3nhDU (taken on November 23, 2016).

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