Guess what was trending worldwide on Twitter last night? What else would it be? WHO else would it be?
Beyoncé released the video for “Spirit” and as I said yesterday, ahead of The Lion King opening on Friday, it’s a Beyoncé takeover. She’s coming for everything: Emmys, Oscars, Grammys, all of it.
This is Beyoncé giving us, f-cking AGAIN!, her best work. It’s only best work when Beyoncé is working. And with Beyoncé, there’s always a strategy and that strategy is always secret. Variety reports that it was, of course, all part of the plan that the extent of Beyoncé’s involvement in the movie and the music accompanying the movie was deliberately kept locked until the last possible minute. “That she had assembled “The Gift,” a “Black Panther”-style “inspired by” collection, was also unknown even to most industry insiders” until the night of the premiere. Those would have been her conditions, as communicated to Disney. Sure, I’ll be Nala, but I’m going also going to do so much more – and you will not interfere and you will adhere to my rollout and I will run my sh-t from my headquarters and I’ll tell you when you’re allowed to know about it and when you do know about it, you will be grateful. Everybody is grateful.
Beyoncé has made clear that her work on The Lion King is a “love letter to Africa” – but not just Africa. The lyrics at the beginning of “Spirit” are in Swahili for “Long Live the King”. The video itself is a visual and sonic feast. It’s a great song and now it’s been enhanced by the beauty of Beyoncé, the beauty of fashion, the beauty of choreography, and the beauty of Blackness. She is also the Mother, honouring the Motherland, and raising her very own pride, a circle of life within a circle of life. There’s pride of culture, in her people, in her community, Black pride and promise; there’s also pride of family – she’s the Lioness of her own Pride Rock, with the Blue Ivy Carter by her side. This is lineage, legacy, continuity. They are representatives of a greater collective, returned to the very soil from where they came, still here – and thriving. The symbolism is breathtaking. And it’s WORK. It’s so much f-cking work. This is where Beyoncé, in certain spaces, needs to be more appreciated – for how thoughtful she is, for how considered her decisions are, for the attention to detail, details that open up conversation about identity, belonging, history, and responsibility.
Like the fact that part of the video was shot a couple of weeks ago at Havasu Falls in Arizona. TMZ posted footage of the shoot last week but that wasn’t the whole story. It’s very difficult to get permission to film there – and, of course, since Beyoncé kept the project so tightly sealed, there wasn’t a lot of lead time. Beyoncé’s location manager reached out to Mathew Earl Jones, Director of Arizona Film and Digital Media, who happens to be the younger brother of James Earl Jones, the voice of Mufasa (circle of life is everywhere!). Mathew couldn’t do much though because permits are rarely granted and they take a long time. So he referred the production team to the Havasupai Tribal Council. They approved – swiftly:
The tribe was "honored" to have been asked by the singer's video production team to film "Spirit" in front of Havasu Falls, according to a statement from Muriel Uqualla, chairwoman of the Havasupai Tribal Council.
“By choosing that location, it will serve to further celebrate and honor the natural beauty of our land and the resilience and beauty of our people," Uqualla said in the statement. "Knowing that Beyoncé advocates for the preservation of water rights around the world, we were particularly pleased to be able to accommodate her request.
"Her choice to visit the Havasupai Indian Reservation as a setting for her new video and to share it worldwide is a testament to the stunning beauty of our remote homeland.”
This is the message that currently sits atop Beyoncé’s website:
Beyoncé has given even more life to the theme of the Circle of Life. I’m not sure we deserve her.
And I’m not sure we need to be talking about Emmys and Oscars and Grammys. I’m not sure they deserve her either.