Beyoncé has just surprised her fans with a new single ‘Formation’. 2016 is proving to be a good year for pop music so far with all the multi-platinum selling artists coming out of hibernation. With the unexpected released of Beyoncé’s last album ‘Beyoncé’ in 2013, it seems that the artist avoids all form of pre-announcement and promotion. This has worked to her advantage because not only did it take her fans by surprise, but went straight to number one and sold 828,773 copies worldwide in its first three days of availability, which led to it becoming the fastest-selling album in the history of the iTunes store. It seems the more spontaneous the Queen Bey is, the more successful her work becomes.
The day before her Super Bowl performance with Coldplay, Beyoncé has dropped ‘Formation’, which has caused a lot of speculation that the singer could be also surprising the world with an album during the performance today. The single was announced to fans over social media, Beyoncé posted on Instagram photos and videos from the music video in a formation mirroring the title and a link to her website. The downfall for many of her fans would be that they would not be able to stream and view the song in the conventional way as it is exclusive to platforms. With the arrival of Tidal, many of Roc Nation artists have signed over to the platform which has caused consumers to have to register and pay to stream music. Consequently, this has led to a recent trend in Tidal and Apple music finding ways to entice people to sign up. Beyoncé and Rihanna are both artists that are exclusive to Jay Z’s streaming service Tidal, originally this was meant to be a way of the music industry combatting piracy it has resulted in a war between sites like apple, Spotify and Tidal.
The singer gives it all with her southern vocals on this tracks. It may be that the artist is trying reassure her fans that she is remaining true to herself and her culture, by rocking a natural braided hairstyle and her daughter Blue Ivy also wearing an afro in the video embracing black beauty. This idea is reinforced by the lyrics “I like my baby hair, with baby hair and afros, I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils”. This addresses the public scrutiny that Beyoncé has received over not combing her four-year-old daughters hair and the second part of line is in direct dismissal to the speculation that Beyoncé had a nose job.
It seems that Beyoncé has used this song as a way of shutting down all rumors targeted at her and her family, the refrain of the track responds to all the attacks at her and husband Jay Z about being members of the illuminati. Beyoncé claims in her lyrics that the conspiracy theorists are “haters corny with that illuminati mess” as most successful artists in the industry are labelled as members of this secret ‘society’ such as Rihanna and Lady Gaga. In the lyrics of this song it appears that Beyoncé is not holding back with the comments she makes and seems to be reflecting when singing “You know you that bitch when cause all this conversation” this seems to suggest that she has accepted there is nothing she can do about all the press she gets negative and positive.
The clip began with a warning about “parental advisory and explicit lyrics”. The video and lyrics covers a lot of socio-economic issues such as black financial power, Hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans in 2005 and police brutality towards black people. There are so many visuals such as a newspaper article with Dr Martin Luther King on the cover after the American federal holiday last month of marking his birthday. Within the first ten seconds of the video, there is a spokesman questioning “what happened after New Orleans?” We immediately get a clip of Beyoncé standing on the top of a flooded police car clearly in reference to Hurricane Katrina. The video was shot in an abandoned part of Louisiana and has scenes set in churches, black hair shops embracing her country and Southern heritage. The video ends with Beyoncé drowning on top of the police car in the flood, then a quick snap back to her in a Victorian looking house. The ties of old money and the failings of the establishment in regards to helping the impoverished black community in the wake of Katrina could barely be more specific.
Beyoncé surprising us after two years suggest that this could be the year of some pretty good music… Could we be expecting a world tour from the superstar later this year too?
Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham’s IMPACT Magazine.