In the three months since Beyoncé’s *Homecoming* concert-documentary/live album hit the internet streams, I’ve been listening repeatedly with levels of enthusiasm and engagement that I haven’t felt with music in quite a long time. At my desk at the office, at the start of many of my long distance runs, or when I feel like listening to something but don’t have anything particular in mind, it’s effectively become the soundtrack to my life this summer.
I’ve never really seen myself as a Beyoncé “fan”. In my formative years when she was part of Destiny’s Child, she was just another singer in an all-female performance group. Being in a passive household genre-based audio war with my older sister, fighting against her CD catalog of rap, hip hop, R&B, and oldies with my new love spiral for hard rock and metal, Beyoncé was just another singer for a type of music I didn’t care about. As age and experience broadened my taste for music to allow me to enjoy genres I used to arrogantly dismiss as “not real music” or write off otherwise, I got familiar enough with a enough of her songs as a solo artist to find myself impressed by her infamous self-titled album, from the elevated composition/production and lyrical content to the marketing strategy and material involved. It was a methodically planned album went far beyond music tracks burned onto a $20 plastic disc with a small set of liner notes, something I’d previously only seen in the Japanese music industry—for example, releasing music videos for every track on the album a la Dir en grey’s 1997 *Gauze* album— and elevated it to another level. But it wasn’t until 2016 when she began actively and unapologetically lean into her Blackness that I started finding myself truly drawn to her as an artist. The personal-but-publicly-known narrative (as well as the finesse and privacy it was handled under) behind *Lemonade*, abstracted and poeticized to be made relatable to and representative of the experiences of the Black woman, was art in the truest sense of the word. Even the revisited “visual album” component was of another level, laden with intentional imagery and showing an arcing narrative over twelve songs. I was awestruck then, but this year’s release of *Homecoming* marked the moment where I considered myself officially “stung”.
At this point in time so far out from it’s initial release, there have been many reviews and analytical thought pieces on the deeper cultural significance of *Homecoming*; I’m not a member of the target demographic nor an scholar of a relevant academic discipline to be attempting to craft one of my own. That said, I’d be remiss to not sing its due praise. Here, in 2019 Trump America, is Beyoncé’s entire career, curated and distilled into a (literally) flawless 105 minute-long performance showcasing Black and sending “the bar” to the moon. Her breath control is insane, never missing a note while simultaneously dancing out complicated choreography for well over an hour. Not only that, but she sounds the best she ever has—listening to the original recordings of the songs included leaves them sounding tinny and flat by comparison, lacking the bombastic arrangement of the band orchestra and the full-bodied and more relatable vocal tone of a full-grown adult woman. The documentary bits spliced into the performance are a testament to the both the benefits and importance of humility, sacrifice, and hard work, leaving us with hard proof that the most well known and highly regarded example of a humanity at its best being a Black woman. It’s like a modern-day entertainment equivalent of Jesse Owens in nazi Germany sweeping up medals and setting multiple Olympic records in under the course of a single hour.
As Beyoncé narrates herself, she didn’t put on her “flower crown” for Coachella, she put on her culture, and presented it to the world with all of the power and refinement her personal brand is known for, giving everyone a chance to see themselves reflected in her accomplishment to at least some degree. Growing up bi-racial in a time before widespread internet adoption, I can relate to the feeling of being insufficient at *two* races and not being fully accepted as either one. The inclusion of her collaboration track *Mi Gente* with J. Balvin (which I’m assuming it got edited down to just her verse in the video due to licensing conflicts) makes a part of me feel reflected on that stage, and more relevantly, millions of Afro-Latino people out there a representation of their dual ethnic identities harmonizing together. We tend to evaluate things on what they mean to us as individuals, but one audience that isn’t capable of verbalizing and pouring thoughts online are the millions of children also being exposed to this release. Being born a half-Latino American citizen raised in Southern California, I’ve always been keenly aware of the xenophobic American attitude toward the Mexican people and the looming threat of deportation for family and friends who weren’t as fortunate as I was to be born on US soil. Having Selena sellout the the Houston Astrodome in the mid 1990’s was a revelation to my child self; my culture *could* find success in America with non-Spanish speakers and fill stadium arenas, and make a lasting impact on society at large. By extension, it fills me with a quiet happiness to know that in a time of *Black Lives Matter*, when Eric Garner can be murdered on camera without consequence, children today out there have a shining example of both objective & Black excellence as I had my Latino one decades earlier at their age.
After losing some of 2019’s entries due to a migration error, I moved my focus away from the blog and put it on the other projects I’ve been working on. But the importance of commitment and a hard work ethic aren’t my only takeaways from the *Homecoming* experience. It was titled as such not just as a reference to the HBCU theme of the show, but also as a return to her art after being away from it for so long with her recent pregnancy. I too should come back to my form of expression, and start executing it consistently.