The Queen has done it again. Beyoncé broke the internet overnight — not only with the expected release of her Netflix documentary Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé, which chronicles the work that went into her historic 2018 Coachella performance, but also with the surprise release of a 40-track album.
We’ve used so many adjectives to describe Queen Bey (iconic, audacious, otherworldly) but one is most evident — and most significant — in Homecoming: Black.
In 137 minutes, Beyoncé puts Blackness centerstage for the world to see. By releasing the documentary on Netflix and the album on multiple music platforms (and not exclusively on Tidal), she gave the world access to the magic of Black swagger, struggle and celebration. She may have brought the culture to Coachella in 2018, but in 2019, she gave it to the world.
Beyoncé brings us along on her journey home — in her case, the stage — coupling it with what homecoming means to African-Americans and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). We see a woman bouncing back after an unexpected pregnancy, struggling to get her stamina to perform back (she weighed 218 pounds after giving birth to the twins), balancing her duties as a mother to a six-year-old and infant twins, as well as a wife (she literally goes from giving a “get your shit together” speech to the performers during rehearsal for the show to celebrating her 10-year anniversary with her husband). She combines all of that with her work as a detail-obsessed, once-in-a-generation entertainer.
By pairing her story with Black heritage in all its richness, Beyoncé not only transforms herself from a superstar to a sister-friend — she makes Black women more visible.
Her journey is punctuated by quotes from esteemed Black Americans (and HBCU grads) like Toni Morrison and Marian Wright Edelmen, and marching bands and majorettes, pledges and performers, stepping and celebration. Instead of bringing a flower crown to Coachella, Queen Bey brought Blackness.
In Homecoming, we see Beyoncé more raw and vulnerable than we’ve ever seen her. And by pairing her story with Black heritage in all its richness, she not only transforms herself from a superstar to a sister-friend — she makes Black women more visible. Her drive and perfectionism feel familiar. Her struggle seems recognizable. We see her Facetime Jay Z to show him she can fit into an old pre-pregnancy costume, snuggle her babies and sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (the Black national anthem) with Blue Ivy. For a few hours, Beyoncé is all of us, and we are all Beyoncé. Those of us who know the culture feel at home, and anyone who doesn’t — well, they’ll just have to educate themselves.
While making herself more accessible, Beyoncé also further proves just how damn good she is at her job. Taking us all back to the 2018 two-hour performance, the documentary showcases her world-class talent and work ethic, proving no one ever has nor ever will do it like she does. She proudly graces the stage as the first Black woman to ever headline the once very white Coachella, and she brings it like only a Black woman can, leaving the festival forever changed.
At points in Homecoming, you’re in as much awe as the now-infamous fan in the crowd. Then, there are times you’ll want to cry. For me, and for so many Black people, there is a constant feeling of pride throughout the film. The word homecoming takes on a completely different meaning when you’re watching your culture be celebrated in a country you’ve never truly been able to call home. Beyoncé caps it all off with the ultimate Black celebration song (no cookout or wedding is complete without doing the electric slide to it): “Before I Let Go” by Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, coupled with the beat of the only other song in this category: Cameo’s “Candy.” Beyoncé invites the world in to see the fun Black folks have been having all along, despite extreme adversity. And she pairs it beautifully with her triumphant return home despite her own struggles.
I am stunned by the honest and palpable pride Beyoncé shared with us in Homecoming. And like Blue Ivy after she finished the Black national anthem: I wanna do it again, because that felt good.
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