Beyoncé releases new live album as her documentary premieres on Netflix
In April 2018, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter stood in her full goddess glory and drawled “Coachella, you ready?”
The music festival wasn’t ready, nor was the world, for what the pop star turned out: two nights of performances that were as much about history as they were history in the making.
Thanks to Netflix, we now have some insight into the performance that launched a thousand think pieces.
“Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé,” premiered early Wednesday and it was the fulfillment of all the ancestors’ hopes and dreams. Beyoncé also dropped “Homecoming: The Live Album” on her husband’s streaming service, Tidal.
Written, directed and produced by the singer, and shot over eight months, the Netflix project is part concert film, part documentary with a behind-the-scenes look at the two weekend performances which made her the first black woman to ever headline the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
And it was one for the ages.
“Beychella” took up the entire stage, complete with an orchestra culled from historically black college and university (HBCU) band members, dancers, themes related to African-American culture and her stirring rendition of the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
There were also guest appearances by her fellow Destiny’s Child members, her sister Solange and her husband, rapper Jay-Z.
For nearly two hours, Beyoncé reminded us why her fan base, known as the Beyhive, loses it when she so much as posts a photo on Instagram.
But while the uninitiated may have thought they were just enjoying a hell of a Beyoncé concert, “Homecoming” lets it be known how intentionally and lovingly black it all was.
Filled with quotes from famed black intellectuals, as well as snippets of an audio diary in which the superstar shares how and why her Coachella performance came to be, “Homecoming” is a love letter to HBCUs (the title alone is a nod to the importance of homecomings on black campuses with its band and drumline performances, as well as sorority and fraternity events).
For that reason, special advance screenings were held for students at some of the venerable HBCUs, including Spelman and Morehouse in Atlanta and Howard University in Washington DC.
There was plenty of “swag surfing” (a popular dance done at concerts) by attendees and singing along with the hits.
There was also a plethora of emotion and gratitude that such a superstar would use her celebrity to share the beauty, pain and joy that is the black experience.
Far from shying away, Beyoncé has embraced her blackness and issues of race.
Her 2016 visual album “Lemonade” was critically acclaimed and lauded for its themes of black feminism, love, betrayal, empowerment, tribalism and family.
Weeks before that album’s release, her costume references to the Black Panthers during her Superbowl halftime performance outraged police unions and led to calls to boycott her performances (something that didn’t come to fruition).
It hasn’t stopped either the singer or her husband from continuing to use their influence to shed light on the state of people of color.
He is the executive producer of “Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story,” a six-episode unscripted series devoted to the 2012 killing and subsequent trial of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of the teen.
In January, the rapper was part of a group of sports and business leaders who launched an organization to try and reform the criminal justice system.
Jay-Z appears in “Homecoming” at points seemingly in awe of his wife as task master.
A perfectionist, she controlled every aspect of the Coachella performance, right down to the beading on the costumes.
It was a struggle, not only because of the multitudes involved in making the performance happen, but also because it occurred months after she had given birth to her twins, Rumi and Sir (daughter Blue Ivy is 7).
In “Homecoming,” Beyoncé shares her desire to be with her growing family, even as she worked diligently to give her audience the show that had been delayed a year because of her pregnancy.
She presents a performance that was so unapologetically black that even her mother, Tina Knowles Lawson, said in an Instagram post at the time that she “was afraid that the predominately white audience at Coachella would be confused by all of the black culture and Black college culture because it was something that they might not get.”
“Her brave response to me made me feel a-bit selfish and ashamed,” Lawson wrote. “She said i have worked very hard to get to the point where i have a true voice and At this point in my life and my career i have a responsibility to do whats best for the world and not what is most popular.”
“Homecoming” is a testament to that hard work.