As you’ve surely heard by now, Queen Bey dropped the video for her new song “Formation” over the weekend—one day before her performance with Coldplay and Bruno Mars at the Super Bowl Halftime Show (which included a brief shard of the song during Beyoncé’s entrance). “Formation” and its accompanying visuals mine a host of subjects—Hurricane Katrina, post-Katrina New Orleans, police violence, Creole culture.
But controversy beyond the song’s thematic material and sheer politics rapidly ensued following the video’s release on Saturday, as Beyoncé’s production team apparently used clips from a 2012 documentary on NOLA’s bounce music and dance scene, “That B.E.A.T.,” without authorization. (Beyoncé has been accused of this kind of aesthetic pilfering before, when a Belgian choreographer claimed in 2011 that the pop star plagiarized dance moves for the “Countdown” video.) Luckily, all disagreements between the “Formation” video’s director, Melina Matsoukas, and the doc’s creators, director Abteen Bagheri and producer Chris Black, were quickly assuaged, allowing such matters not to distract from the song’s release. And what a song it is.
As Collin Brennan writes over at CoS, “‘Formation’ is unlike anything we’ve heard or seen from Beyoncé before. It’s an angry, aggressive protest song that unapologetically celebrates the singer’s Southern roots even as it shines a light on the racial injustices that spawned the Black Lives Matter movement. “My daddy Alabama / My mama Louisiana / You mix that negro with that creole make a Texas Bama,” she sings, standing in front of a Louisiana mansion and lifting two middle fingers in an image that both invokes and defies the antebellum South.”
Here’s the video:
And here’s Bagheri and Black’s documentary short, “That B.E.A.T.”: