CURRENT: Beyoncé – “Formation”

Beyoncé is set to join Coldplay at the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, and before the set she’s dropped the new single “Formation” with your typical stunning Yoncé visuals. The song shows Beyoncé celebrating and embracing her blackness more explicitly than ever. “I love my Negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils,” she raps at one point, and “I got hot sauce in my bag, swag” at another. The song is held together by an incredibly fluid, bounce-inspired beat produced by Mike WiLL Made It, that is as much a celebration of New Orleans – complete with some brass instruments punctuating the chorus – as “Formation”‘s video.

And that video is something. On the same weekend her sister was given the key to New Orleans, Beyoncé released a song and video with the city at its heart. “What happened after New Orleans” a graveled voice asks at the beginning, alluding to after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city in 2005. That moment serves as sadly another egregious example of the government’s apathetic outlook on black bodies. An American city and its people – predominantly black – were allowed to go under water in the 21st century. It’s still a loaded topic, and Beyoncé puts herself in those waters in some of the video’s most powerful images. She sits atop an NOPD squad car, and in the closing moments the car, along with Beyoncé, sinks into the floodwaters.

“Formation” is Prime affirmative Beyoncé. We’ve seen her in this state before, but never contextualized so powerfully. “I dream it, I work hard / I grind ’til I own it” is basically her mantra at this point. And in this song and video about black pride and resiliency – with New Orleans serving as a symbol of just that – her words, “I grind ’til I own it,” are made even more powerful now that her sister has the key.

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