Black is King: a story of values, self-knowledge and identity
Beyoncé returns stomping in the audiovisual field with her new work Black is King. I know from the visual album that the soundtrack “The Lion King: The Gift” also accompanies itself for the remake of the popular Disney movie. A work that comes out in the midst of the American protests against police violence towards the African-American community, after the tragic death of George Floyd, and accompanied by a new unreleased song Black Parade. The visual album tries to unite the discourse of black excellence with the story and narrative of The Lion King.
It begins with the concept of the glorification of the black community, or literally “black as glory.” Likewise, the first scenes of the film show a Beyoncé dressed in white, totally pure, with a baby in her arms. She is near the coast, on a beach, attending a kind of ritual or baptism as an effect of the eternal union with the origin. With this, water becomes important as a synonym for life, as a rebirth, an idea that during the hour and a half that the piece lasts will have continuous importance for the consolidation of the legacy.
The common thread of the story is a boy in his various phases, just like Simba in the Disney movie. A child who is taught values and a legacy that mark him for life and that is also necessary for his community. The song “Bigger”, as the opening of the album, is in some way the value of the lesson, the reminder of being part of a community, of what it defines as “something way bigger”, literally. The rebirth through the water, and the loss and reunion through the stars. Beyoncé attaches great importance to finding the path that returns you home, to the roots that restore meaning and meaning to you. “Find your Way back” somehow ties in with the idea that we all know as The Circle of Life that Mufasa was tirelessly trying to show Simba, and that all of us who saw the movie on a loop also learned.
The common thread deviates and becomes a loss simulating Simba’s rebellion of wanting to know beyond the circle, or perhaps another world. One of the most important questions appears: Who are you. The child represented in Black is King, like Simba, grows up making mistakes, getting lost, knowing his roots that at some point are taken from him. The naive little one is lied to and away from the source. It is possible to think that Scar is the embodiment of the ambition for power and the rapture of a culture and tradition, and the hyenas the society that paralyzes growth under the threads of greed.
Despite being a visual album produced and created for distribution on Disney + and based on the movie The Lion King, and due to the times we are living, it has had much more importance for its elevation of the black community than for what it had to be the visualization of the soundtrack for the film. Despite having a studied context, and a deep African aesthetic both in landscapes and sounds as well as in costumes, makeup, and sorrows, the artist has not managed to convince everyone. It speaks of an idea of the highly Americanized black community, a story told for and from African Americans, with a context that does not leave the desired effect.
To all this, and as a small reminder, this is a film based on The Lion King, which has been carried by a higher reins of meaning but which remains like that at its base. As a deep fan of Disney classics, I have enjoyed an hour and a half of playing my childhood story with the importance of life and origin at the fore. Despite having a clear reference to the black community, the discourse of our roots and our ancestors, the idea of self-recognition had already been explained to us by The Lion King under the wise words of Mufasa and Raﬁki.
In essence, Beyoncé has done it again. After the good taste behind the visual album Lemonade, she now launches this piece that tells in a different, peculiar, current way, from a personal or community perspective, the story of little Simba that little by little will take root in his legacy, to which he was destined at birth. All this under the threads of a direction and production with impeccable aesthetics. The photography is simply sublime. Every detail of the wardrobe is a piece of art that not even in the best Met Gala we would see together. A soundtrack accompanied by some of the best voices of the moment such as Kendrick Lamar, Jessie Reyez, 070 Shake or Childish Gambino; and voices and sounds that transport us directly to the African scene such as Burna Boy, Yemi Alade, or Tekno, among many other participants. Special appearances by Naomi Campbell or Lupita Nyong’o, great voices in the struggle for the African-American community in the United States, and their great friend Kelly Rowland.
Finally Beyoncé dedicates the work to her son Sir, as well as all the sons and daughters who will follow and complete a legacy. The participation of her two daughters, Blue Ivy and Rumi is also important insofar as it is a film that talks about the importance of communication and values, about the morality of the actions that Disney incorporates in its productions and could not be absent from this one.