To accompany Beyoncé’s 2019 soundtrack of “The Lion King; The Gift,” she released the visual album of “Black is King” July 31. The production lasted a year with the help of eight directors spanning over three continents. “Black is King” is an extravagant portrayal of the beauty of Blackness.
“With this visual album, I wanted to present elements of Black history and African tradition, with a modern twist and a universal message, and what it truly means to find your self-identity and build a legacy,” Beyoncé wrote on Instagram.
With an emphasis on family legacy, Beyoncé’s mother (Tina Knowles), husband (Jay-Z) and three children made several appearances. Other notable appearances include Pharrell Williams, Tiwa Savage, Shatta Wale, Tierra Whack, Yemi Alade, Jessie Reyez, Naomi Campbell and Lupita Nyong’o. Beyoncé, however, continued to be the main attraction of the film.
She manages to be over-the-top and tasteful in a jaw dropping fashion. A perfect example of this is a scene of her sitting atop a leopard-print rolls royce with a bodysuit to match singing, “I'm so unbothered, I'm so unbothered/Y'all be so pressed while I'm raisin' daughters.”
The film’s production is unforgettable and the aesthetics are unmatched. Beyoncé’s style is radiating through the screen and, at times, distracts the audience from the story being told.
This film and the original album loosely follows the storyline of Simba’s journey of self-realization in the Lion King and includes a confusing ode to the story of Moses.
The film opens with Beyoncé holding a baby. “You are welcome to come home to yourself. Let black be synonymous with glory,” Beyoncé said. She begins to sing “Bigger,” a song to emphasize an individual’s importance, as she sends the baby boy down the Nile river.
This introduction sets the scene of how this visual album is set up. The music is obviously the main attraction, but the interludes are filled with a combination of commentary from the Lion King film, spoken-word proverbs, recitations of Warsan Shire poetry (which also appears in Lemonade’s visual album) and interviews with Black Americans and Africans on what it means to be a king. These interludes drive the purpose of the film.
In a way, “Black is King” provides redemption to the startling CGI version of Lion King we saw last year; however, this film is much more than a retelling of a young Simba.
In such an important time in history, this movie provides an opportunity for Black traditions, heritage and characteristics to be celebrated. More importantly, young, Black boys and girls have a chance to see themselves represented in a way that has never been done before.
This message could not have been delivered without the visual aid that is “Black is King.”
Much like “Black is King,” Beyoncé’s previous 2016 visual album “Lemonade” could not stand alone without the visuals. “Lemonade” explores the impact of generational trauma and finding the strength to confront it. If the visuals stood alone, we would believe the album was only about Jay-Z’s infidelity. However, the visuals give insight to Beyoncé’s journey to forgiveness and rehabilitation as she makes sense of her ancestral history.
Beyoncé continuously uses visuals to further enhance the consumer’s experience.
The message of “Black is King” is to overcome an environment of repression– that has been so common in the Black experience– and to rise from it with pride in order to build thriving communities and legacies.
“I only hope that from watching, you leave feeling inspired to continue building a legacy that impacts the world in an immeasurable way. I pray that everyone sees the beauty and resilience of our people,” Beyoncé wrote on Instagram.