Homecoming and the Brilliance of Beychella
On April 17 Beyoncé released the long awaited documentary covering Beychella on Netflix along with the live album on Spotify, both sharing the title Homecoming.
But before we get to that….Just 6 days after the release of Homecoming, three years after its release on April 23, 2016 Lemonade was finally released on all streaming platforms.
DOWN WITH TIDAL.
The anticipated addition of Lemonade to Spotify and Apple music was celebrated by fans on instagram stories and in dorm rooms. Therefore, I think it is important that, before discussing the masterpiece that is Homecoming, we must fully appreciate the gift that was given to us. Lemonade is the journey of a strong black woman who has been hurt. Across the album’s twelve stunning tracks, Beyoncé is vulnerable, honest, and strong. Lemonade reflects the same strength and humanity that is seen in Homecoming. It is shocking.
Now, before watching the film, I recommend giving the live album a listen all the way through. It is incredible and mind blowing on its own. When walking down Sheridan listening to it for the first time I thought I might be moved to tears, which would’ve been painfully embarrassing. To listen to the album and be so in awe of Beyoncé’s talent as a producer and performer and then to watch the film...it takes the experience to a whole other level.
The film brings you into the performance. In a clip featuring a conversation between Beyoncé and Netflix producers, she is clearly frustrated about the show not translating on film. She stressed the need for every stomp, every yell, and every sound to be captured or else the whole thing is useless. She succeeded in having her vision realized. Every sound and movement caught on camera feels so natural and real despite the fact that it is only on your screen. The difficulty in capturing this show was most definitely furthered by the craziness and insanity that was the show itself. Every dance break, interlude, and song was executed with an originality that is unlike anything I have ever seen.
This freshness is seen most clearly through the live performance of “Sorry.” The song is extended from its original length of 3:53 to a full 6 minutes and 34 seconds. In this added time Beyoncé reinvents the song and gives space for her dancers to showcase their immense talent. It is clear when watching the choreography of this show that each dancer is uniquely talented in their own style of movement. Beyoncé gives a place for each of these styles to be showcased and appreciated. Her music provides a space for every type of talent and personality.
And that is perhaps the main thing that separates Beyoncé from other performers. Her concerts have personality. Every person on that stage contributes to the dynamism of the show. Unlike other artists, Beyoncé’s stage presence is so impactful that she does not have to fear being overpowered by dancers, background singers, or a band with a large stage presence. They perform with her, rather than behind her.
It’s difficult to find the words to properly express the greatness that is seen in this film and album. Homecoming is an emphatic display of Black Excellence and it is something that cannot be expressed in any other words. As the first black woman to headline Coachella, Beyoncé says in her film that she wanted to bring black culture to Coachella; she wanted to make sure that every black person felt represented on the stage. Beyoncé dedicated her moment, her success, and her achievement to Black Excellence.
When watching the footage of the Beychella rehearsals it is, at times, difficult for me to believe that Beyoncé is the kind, inclusive, awe-inspiring presence seen clapping for dancers and smiling at Jay-Z. Sometimes I think, this must all be for the cameras because, after all, she is a star. But then I stop, and I think about the dancers who have been with her for years and the energy of her team; It feels too real to be faked just for show. She is every bit as amazing as she seems; I am sure of that. Her talent is overwhelming and yet she knows that others have talent to share. In a scene where she is talking to her dancers she discusses building the show together, how everyone has gifts to share, and how she is amazed by the talent of everyone involved. Beyoncé could have gone out on that stage, played a normal festival set, and everyone would have loved it, but she knows that her talent is strengthened by the talent of others and I think that is something missing from a lot of other performers.
I don’t want this review to come across as if I am praising Beyoncé as a goddess of music who has saved us all because that is not the truth. Beyoncé is a human woman who has struggled, hurt, and brought life into this world. Watching Homecoming showed me that. In the film Beyoncé discusses how difficult her pregnancy was, and how when she gave birth to the twins she was 218 pounds. In the footage of her rehearsals just after giving birth she had the body of a new mother. She was still beautiful and talented, she was still every bit Beyoncé, but it was clear throughout the footage that she was frustrated. She was frustrated and afraid that her body would never be the same and that, in turn, her performances would never be the same. To see the fear and vulnerability in one clip and then to have the film cut to Beychella, is mind blowing. Her perseverance and dedication to her art and her vision is awe inspiring. She is a grown woman who writes and performs music about real pain, real love, and real struggles. It is impossible to see her as a goddess who has been given the gift of amazing talent. She is driven and that is why she is successful.
It seems as though streamable live concert films are becoming increasingly popular. Before Homecoming it was Taylor Swift’s reputation tour, and I think it’s worth comparing the two. I saw Taylor Swift’s reputation tour live and I watched it on Netflix, so I would most definitely consider myself a fan. However, after watching the Beyoncé documentary, the idea of watching Taylor Swift’s live tour ever again seems laughable. The experience of seeing Beyoncé work and create a final product so monumental is one that I think few artists could even come close to. I love the idea of putting more concerts on Netflix, but I think it will be hard to top the brilliance of Homecoming.
So to sum up: listen to the album, watch the film, experience Beychella. It is worth it.