Thearon W. Henderson/ Andy Lyons/ Ezra Shaw/ Jeff Kravitz/ Christopher Polk/ Kevin Mazur/ Matt Cowan/ Getty Images
Everything that needed to be said has already been said – on Twitter, in the New York Times, and Sarah Silverman:
Think about that. Releasing a brand new song just hours before performing live on that stage, the most watched televised event of the year, and it’s already familiar. And people already know. Because they’ve been talking about it every hour on the hour, during the brief 24 hours they had in advance. This is the singular power of Beyoncé. There are other influential artists, sure. But none of them are doing what Beyoncé is doing. Beyoncé is singular.
This is Beyoncé at her most defiant. Beyoncé at her most confrontational. And Beyoncé has never been more black. Proudly black. Flagrantly black! Does it get any more flagrant than coming out leading an army of black women at what’s widely considered to be the greatest show on earth, throwing lyrics like “I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils” at the camera, brazenly flaunting the fact that she’s there, overriding a system that was designed to keep her out of the building. Because the undeniable truth, especially in America, is that it’s harder for a black woman than it is for anyone else.
These are the times of Beyoncé, the Crusader, harnessing every level of her authority, to send a message and effect change through art. There’s no mistaking it in the lyrics. There’s no mistaking it in the imagery in the video. There was no mistaking it in the aesthetic she showed us last night at the Super Bowl. And that’s why there’s Beyoncé and, literally, no one else.
Consider how she put it all together. There’s been no speaking for almost two years. On social media she’s been radio silent for weeks. While artists like Madonna and Rihanna have stumbled out with their releases, when Beyoncé finally had something to say, it was executed flawlessly. Which is SO interesting considering that she’s married to Jay Z and Jay is all Tidal and the way Tidal managed the Madonna and Rihanna leaks was totally amateur hour but there wasn’t anything, NOTHING, resembling a glitch when Beyoncé’s in control. The minute Formation showed up on her website, Beyonce.com, the merchandising was available with all the tag phrases that she already knew would be the new vocabulary. The YouTube was up. The Tidal downloads streamed smoothly. And this, immediately following halftime:
If Beyoncé is going on tour, it means Beyoncé is ready. It means the album is done. It means she probably has stockpiled her videos. The choreography is set. Dates and venues booked. Tickets ready for pre-sale tomorrow. All of that kept undercover until SHE was ready to boss that sh-t out. So, you know, for anyone, ahem Camille Pagila, still assuming that Beyoncé doesn’t run Beyoncé? You must not know ‘bout me.
Only Beyoncé can over step a jump and pass it off like she meant it all along, and groove right back into the next kick.
Half of me wonders if she did that on purpose, just so we’d be able to make that observation.
You know what else I loved about last night? Bruno’s set was all about JANET JACKSON followed by Beyoncé with her military style takeover. They don’t mention Janet in these parts because they think she corrupted the United States with her ferocious nipple. But you can’t stop Bruno from celebrating her moves and invoking her memory. And that too is a callback to one of the underlying messages of Formation. Black women have historically never enjoyed the benefit of the doubt. Beyonce is here to tell you that she doesn’t need that from you when she’s printing her own paper.
As a student of pop culture, worship Beyoncé for the way she’s managing her brand. Worship her for her restraint. The fact that she knows how to hold back while indulging her own narcissism is a beautiful thing. Almost three years ago now, I went to the Mrs Carter tour with 3 friends, 2 of whom were very pregnant. It was the full heat of summer. They stayed standing the entire time. Like their bodies refused to let them sit, even if they would have wanted to. This weekend, after Beysus dropped Formation, we were all texting back and forth about that memory. About how their children experienced Beyoncé in utero. And about how when they grow up, they’ll be able to brag about being pre-conscious of Beyoncé in the time of Beyoncé.