Beyonce’s ‘Formation’: A Fiery Fashionista’s Black Power Anthem and Call to Arms

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Typically low-key about her activism, Beyoncé has been more outspoken than ever about the Black Lives Matter movement. Her new song “Formation,” then, is a siren call.

Pop stars don’t have to say anything. Do a song and a dance and we’ll throw cash at you and be happy.
Then again, Beyoncé is no normal pop star. And her surprise new song and video, “Formation?” Oh, does it say something.
A black power anthem for the masses released as Black History Month gets underway, “Formation” is as much powerful, gritty, and unapologetic a message as it is another entry in Beyoncé’s canon of dance floor calls-to-arms.


Dropped a day before Beyoncé was rumored to perform the track at the Super Bowl—and, blessedly, not released exclusively on Tidal—it’s the latest in the new model of music release: Shock your fans into euphoria with the unannounced arrival of new music.

With Beyoncé, of course, it’s more like: Stun them into ecclesiastical rapture.
“Formation” is a booming meditation on black identity, the validity and transience of a person’s roots and history, and the crushing interplay between power and helplessness, agency, and victimization. Bask in it. Dance to it. Listen to it. But, for the love of god, hear it.<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

She takes on rumors about her beliefs, her marriage, and her daughter. She owns her blackness. She evokes the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina while endorsing the #BlackLivesMatter movement. And she celebrates her past while forecasting her even greater future, all to the beat that boasts the same dirty perfection that tracks like “***Flawless” used to announce the new evolution in Beyoncé’s musical career.
In the past, Queen Bey has been notorious for her silence. She hasn’t granted a proper sit-down interview in an astounding amount of time. Her music and her actions, however, particularly “Formation,” are speaking volumes. And she’s blaring her voice just when we need her.
“Formation” opens with Beyoncé sitting on top of a police car that is partially submerged in the aftermath of a flood. That beginning is only half as incendiary as its end. Before the police car sinks towards the end of the music video, following nearly five minutes of images that make glaring statements on social injustice in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, you can quite clearly read “New Orleans Police” on the windshield.
Yes, Beyoncé drowned a police car.
The video’s setting, New Orleans, resonates on its own. But the video is flooded with stirring, statement-making imagery: artwork featuring Martin Luther King Jr., a graffiti wall with the words “Stop shooting us,” and, most effectively, a little boy dancing in front of a police riot squad. On his cue, it’s the police that put their hands up.

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On February 10, 2016

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