After “The Lion King: The Gift” — the African-inspired album that Beyoncé curated as a companion to Disney’s blockbuster movie — was released last summer, it pretty much came and went. Especially by Bey standards.
But now “Black Is King” — the new visual album featuring music from “The Lion King: The Gift” that premiered on Disney+ early Friday — has given new life to the music and the message of that album, which B herself described as “a love letter to Africa.”
Here are eight highlights of the pop superstar’s latest must-see event:
1. Looking like the picture of natural, brown-skin beauty in a billowy white dress, Beyoncé makes her entrance cradling an infant on the beach as she sings “Bigger” — an atmospheric ballad that is one of the real highlights — as if it were a lullaby. “We’re part of something, we’re bigger,” she sings, and it becomes a real circle-of-life moment with appearances by Bey’s mother, Tina Knowles Lawson, and her 8-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy.
2. There’s a funky Afrofuturism to “Find Your Way Back,” a percussive dance track that is another standout. A glittery Bey gets down with her tribe, and it’s an instant reminder of how much we’ve missed her in full diva action. Plus there’s more Blue Ivy, too — she’s the breakout star of “Black Is King.”
3. Jay-Z makes a memorable entrance rolling up in the backseat of a black convertible, kicking back with his legs behind the driver’s head — as one does when you’re Jay-Z. Wearing a black tux, black shades and black bandana around his dreads, he’s the epitome of a black baller. This may be the Mrs. Carter show — but that moment is all Hova.
4. Jigga’s joint with Bey, “Mood 4 Eva,” is “a whole mood,” as she sings in the track. Playing like a sequel to their brilliant “Apes—t” video shot at the Louvre, it’s all about black opulence. Beyoncé even has an old white male servant who brushes her teeth. Flipping the racial script on old Hollywood glamour, there’s a synchronized-swimming sequence with B and a squad of black females in sparkly pink swimsuits.
5. As in her “Lemonade” film, Beyoncé’s fashion is next-level throughout “Black Is King.” She puts on a “Mahogany”-esque display of costume changes in “Mood 4 Eva” and other supermodel moments that conjure up the 1975 Diana Ross film that B also referenced in her hit movie “Dreamgirls.” Shout out to costume designer Zerina Akers for making Bey look fierce, flawless and Afro-fabulous.
6. “Already,” which was released as a music video shortly before “Black Is King” dropped, is worthy of that spotlight. Not only is the choreography popping — with some of the best of the African-inspired dance moves here — but Beyoncé rocks several bodysuits that show off her curves. She even appears to be almost nude in one of them (but she isn’t).
7. The richness in the skin tones of black people is captured throughout “Black Is King” by a host of cinematographers, but “Brown Skin Girl” is a special ode to melanin-blessed beauty. Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o and Beyoncé’s former Destiny’s Child cohort Kelly Rowland — all of whom B name-checks in the song — appear here in all of their brown-skin glory. But it’s Blue Ivy, who sings on the tune, who brings it all home.
8. At the end of the film, we find out that “Black Is King” is dedicated to Beyoncé’s 3-year-old son, Sir Carter. There’s a sweet mother-son moment of home footage as Beyoncé bounces around joyfully with Sir. But her dedication goes beyond him: “And to all our sons and daughters, the son and the moon bow for you. You are the keys to the kingdom.”
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