Tuesday, June 30th, 2020


When I was / a young Bey…


Tobi Tella: It’s messy and filled with overlapping ideas, but from such a calculated artist, it feels so refreshing. Hearing Beyonce word vomit all her feelings and pride for her heritage is infinitely more interesting than a focus grouped, corporate attempt at Empowerment™.

Olivia Rafferty: Once you dive past the marching band swells and the trap hits reminiscent of her Coachella performance, you can hear that “Black Parade” is lyrically supercharged with powerful imagery. It’s a march, yes, but it takes the Black Lives Matter protest march and reframes it as a journey back to a Black history which has been forgotten, discarded and colonised by white society. Through this process of reclamation, the capitalist American Dream (which is the American Nightmare for so many) is being dismantled: picket fences are snatched up and repurposed into protest signs. Beyoncé adds more by charging the song with emblems of African heritage like she “charge[s her] crystals in the full moon,” from the baobab tree to Yoruban waist beads. Going deeper into themes of spirituality, Beyoncé calls upon the Yoruban Goddesses Yemaya and Oshun as patrons of this march. The mention of these water deities creates a sense of re-baptism as the “drip” of motherland/melanin rains down on her and her growing march. However, although ancestry and tradition is a huge part of this song, Beyonce is aware that she cannot march back, back, back to a pre-colonized Africa. But as the Black Parade progresses it becomes clear that she is using that imagined place as a well from which to draw up a new future of peace, reparations and power.

Hannah Jocelyn: As a statement released when the purpose of celebrity (billionaire celebrities in particular) is under discussion, after Beyonce has spent four years cashing in her goodwill on underwhelming side projects… it’s complicated, and these tweets and essays dissect the place of someone like Beyoncé in an era increasingly moving past even her most radical statements. As a song, it’s probably her best post-Lemonade.  Derek Dixie’s production is like a less cluttered “Formation,” including flutes and a horn section but leaving space for the person actually leading this parade. I wish Bey was mixed a little bit higher, because a lot of these moments are as memorable as “surfbort” ever was. The first thing that strikes me is Beyoncé’s humor, like the image of her catwalking six feet apart from other models in a Hazmat suit or “Crack a big smile ding.” Elsewhere, “Let the ghosts chit-chat” is brilliant imagery, and the enunciation of “Mansa Musa” alone is more memorable than anything on Everything is Love. “Black Parade” has all the makings of another quotable, analysis-ready hit on the level of “Formation.” Yet as I write this, the song is sitting in the lower part of the top 40 — maybe the goodwill ran out. Maybe the prospect of succeeding in a capitalist society, essentially her MO from the last decade, feels more impossible than ever. For what it’s worth, there’s a lot she’s doing within said capitalist society: a massive star paying tribute to modern activists or promoting Black-owned businesses still feels novel to me even as it feeds into a more intricate conversation about Black capitalism I’m not equipped to have. For now, however long celebrity remains a thing, it feels like we could do worse.

Thomas Inskeep: She sings, she raps, and the lyrics are interesting, but the trap beat underpinning it all does nothing.

Nortey Dowuona: Beyoncé sits back on a chair made of bouncing bass and looks upon her domain, a horn procession forming around her toes, wondering how she could not protect her domain. Solange sits down next to her, with Standing on the Corner on her left shoulder, with Gio Escobar playing the piccolo. They huddle whispering for a few seconds, before Bey gets up and smashes down the police forces of Louisville, especially the men who killed Breonna. Satisfied for a bit, she sits down next to Big Floyd and they start making a star message for his daughter.

Alfred Soto: Whatever its content, the vocal performance is a tour de force: insouciant, teasing, fervid. Iconicity has not been hell on her music. I can imagine what an isolated vocal track sounds like.

Katherine St Asaph:End of Time” revised with new swagger, unsparing specificity, and better lines (“make a picket sign of your picket fence” is so neatly packaged I would have sworn it’d already been gentrified-blandified, but no, there’s just this). More presence, too. Having done her hitmaker dues, she’s now free to be less poppy and more pointed; having canonized herself as a power-diva vocalist with 4 (and “Halo,” Dreamgirls, etc.) she’s free to be looser, more slyly charismatic, more constantly morphing. (It’s no longer surprising that she raps; now the surprise is just how many ways.) “Black Parade,” like more Beyoncé singles than you’d think, is a product of the same industry infrastructure as her labelmates — songwriters include Kim Krysiuk, recipient of one of Ariana Grande’s 7 rings, and NOVA Wav (“Loveeeeeee Song,” most of the Teyana Taylor album, uhhhh Lukas Graham, and Beyoncé’s Lion King songs, perhaps why they’re back for another Disney track). But seldom are such assemblies given to a vocalist so transformative. Put her anydamnwhere; she’ll make it hers.

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