When Beyoncé releases a visual album, the world stops and listens. Black Is King is no different.
In the 2019 remake of The Lion King, Beyoncé was the star as the voice of Nala, the film's eventual queen. Though, what was touted as a spectacle waned in comparison to most Bey-approved projects. But little did we know that something as special as this was right around the corner.
The Houston singer announced the trailer for Black Is King on July 21. The visual masterpiece is an accompaniment to The Lion King and is propelled by the movie's narrative with quotes from the movie littered throughout the 90 minute piece. However the film isn't at the centre of Black Is King - that role always belongs to Queen Bey. She brings to life her full-length album, The Lion King: The Gift with songs from star as well as Burna Boy, 070 Shake, Tiwa Savage, Kendrick Lamar, and more.
If you haven't revelled in the beauty, decadence, and spirituality that is Black Is King yet - out July 31 - then here are 5 reasons you need to stream it immediately.
1. Black Is King is a reverent celebration of African culture in a way we haven't seen before
There is an outpouring of love throughout the film. Whether Beyoncé is sitting face to face with Kelly Rowland, or dancing emphatically to the beat, her passion is unmistakable. Over 90 minutes, Bey celebrates the African diaspora with wedding scenes, familial and romantic love, joy and power. Rather than exotify her performers, she upholds them as pillars of culture, pop and otherwise, granting Blackness a global stage. "We were beauty before they knew what beauty was," she declares. "Let Black be synonymous with glory."
She is also fiercely political, cutting away from the narrative of The Lion King to share her own pain. "When it's all said and done, I don't even know my own native tongue. And if I can't speak myself, I can't think myself, and if I can't think myself, I can't be myself. But if I can't be myself, I will never know me. So, Uncle Sam, tell me this, if I will never know me, how can you?"
2. A kaleidoscope of colours prove that Beyoncé has an eye for beauty
When Beyoncé drops a visual album, it's always exquisite. Dressed in lashings of colour, whether it's golden hues or earthy Marine Serre jumpsuits, this film doesn't just celebrate fashion or the African diaspora's love of colour, but culminates all of that into a love letter to her ancestors, her family, and Black folk all around the world. "We have always been wonderful," Beyoncé exclaims. "I see us reflected in the world's most heavenly things. Black is king."
3. The joy of Burna Boy, Tekno, Lord Afrixana, Busiswa, Nija and others
It's likely that you're already familiar with Burna Boy, the Nigerian singer who has managed to crossover successfully to the Western charts. Though throughout his career he's struggled with the assumption of assimilation, which is placed on many artists in the African diaspora. That isn't the case on Black Is King. Beyoncé invites Burna Boy along with Nigerian singer, Tekno; Cameroonian music producer, Salatiel; Nigerian R&B singer, Tiwa Savage; as well as South African singer-songwriter and poet, Busiswa to just turn up as they are. Sonically, it's some of the most exciting Afrobeat music to be heard by Western audiences, but ultimately watching these artists step into their moment on this visual masterpiece is unmatched.
4. Blue Ivy Is A Star
A Beyoncé project isn't complete without a Blue Ivy cameo, and on Black Is King the audience is spoilt rotten. She's a star in her own right and her opening line on Brown Skin Girl is iconic.
5. This will go down as a moment in pop culture history
"The world will always tell you that you're something else, that you're too dark, too short, whatever. We need to show Black men and women are emotional, are strong, are smart, intuitive."
It feels selfish to say that, in this moment as we watch the world slowly fall apart what we all needed was a visual album from Beyoncé. Ultimately, this is much bigger than that. This is a film for those who have never felt validated, whether that's by pop culture or society at large, whose beauty has been shunned and for the African diaspora that continues to carry generational trauma and pain. "We never forget to say thank you to the ancestors, noble and royal, anointed our blessings in the stars."
It's a film some may not see themselves reflected in, but ultimately Beyoncé doesn't want you to turn away — she wants you to watch, internalise, and celebrate alongside her.