Beyoncé’s new song “Formation,” released earlier this month and performed at Super Bowl 50, is a masterpiece of black protest art and social commentary.
Using footage from the 2013 New Orleans documentary That B.E.A.T as its backdrop, “Formation” is both a personal and political statement about repression and a celebration of black life in America.
As a splendid videographic gumbo of New Orleans’s inimitable multiple identities of southern blackness told from Queen Bey’s perspective, we see black women front and center — from sisters with Afros in stylized Black Panther outfits to the several archetypical Southern black women Beyoncé morphs into.
As a meditation on the intersections of place, class, and gender identity, past and present, “Formation” is also unashamedly queer. That queerness is front and center — from its signature hyper sexual “ass-shaking” gender-bending hip-hop music and dance form (reminiscent of ‘Bama’s Prancing Elites), appropriation of gay expressions, to the words of local hero Messy Mya and the genderqueer local voice of royal “Queen of Bounce” diva Big Freedia, who’s heard speaking in the song.
“It was a total shocker when I got a call from Beyoncé’s publicist and she said Beyoncé wanted me to get on this track,” Freedia told Fuse, which airs her reality show. “When I heard the track and the concept behind it, which was Beyoncé paying homage to her roots (New Iberia, Louisiana), I was even more excited! It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I was beyond honored to work with the original Queen B. I think it turned out amazing too!”
According to Zandria Robinson of the New South Negress site, when “the voices and presence of genderqueer folks enter to take over [in ‘Formation’] … they, in fact, ask us the toughest questions,” about racism, police brutality, and power.