It was arguably one of the most-anticipated Coachella acts in the festival’s history. After cameoing in her sister Solange’s set in 2014, postponing headlining in 2017 to give birth to twins, Beyoncé would finally set flower crowns ablaze with her superpower presence, pop-culture-rocking choreography and banger back catalogue.
Near a year later, the millions of admirers can now see the iconic 2018 performance from the comfort of their own homes and as many bathroom-breaks as desired with the Netflix release of ‘Homecoming’; footage from the show, behind the scenes exclusives, and the singer’s trademark inspiring-narrative style of voiceover, complete with motivational quotes. It makes for glorious long-weekend lounge viewing celebrating oneself and gaining insight into the creative maven’s senses of culture and social justice.
Commencing the set with a regal march in Nefertiti-headwear sets the tone from the get-go that this next 2-hr show is going to be a strong statement of appreciation, respect and celebration of African heritage and being black. The footage cuts seamlessly and effectively between her two sets on April 14 and 21, 2018 with the bold costume changes signifying which shots came from which night, giving you the best of both worlds. Two shows in one! Calling the film ‘Homecoming’ is a reference to the all-American-college-bleacher-band-pride theme of the set, costumes and attitude on stage.
Surrounded by nearly 100 dancers in yellow or pink leotards or overalls with corresponding Black Panther-style berets, Beyoncé herself emerges in an unusually relaxed but nonetheless iconic crop jumper emblazoned with sorority crest and insignia with jean shorts and iridescent fringed festival boots. Opening with her arguably best-known solo hit ‘Crazy in Love’ but incorporated slowed-tempos and mash-ups with contemporary anthem Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Humble’ and other hip-hop cuts making the clear remark that this would be unlike any Beyoncé set seen before. It spoke volumes that she followed her biggest commercial hit in the market most Coachella attendees could identify with, with a rousing rendition of her own black power anthem ‘Freedom’ followed by ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’, often referred to as the black national anthem, then straight into ‘Formation’, the song that SNL joked marked the day Beyoncé turned black.
We cut away to footage of three sound stages where this massive undertaking by a village of people led by a woman, a new mother at the top of the industry transitioning into a new genre and new reputation is being crafted. Footage of intense passion, immense talent and phenomenal commitment orchestrates together as we hear of Beyoncé’s respect for and desire to attend a HBCU (Historically Black College and University). The documentary vignettes explore the creative process of making the show, motherhood and balancing work with life, the strict regime of diet and exercise it took to get her form back, intimate reflections from her community of co-performers and the challenges of being a boss. The honesties described and depicted get under your skin to go beyond entertainment, into emotional investment.
Without going into a play-by-play – sports reference intended – the tone and agenda of Homecoming is firmly set and delivered in featuring Beyoncé like we’ve never seen her: swearing, swag-heavy and stank-faced as she makes full use of her vocal range. The set is made up of her rawest material, from superhits like ‘Diva’ and ‘Flawless’ to lesser known but legendary ‘I Care’ and ‘Kitty Kat’. Used to seeing a very polished and technical diva, it’s very rousing to see a Beyoncé show that is clearly far more passion-prioritised, rhythm-driven, and personality-pure presentation. Choreography by Jacquel Knight, Chris Grant and Mrs Knowles-Carter herself fused signature Frank Gatson-made moves with new flows of krump and stepping. Special treasures are in the spotlights on a twerking baton-twirler, the drumline, the Bugaboo dance troupe, Les Twins, and even a featured exquisite contemporary duo to Nina Simone’s Lilac Wine. Cory Fitzgerald and Davey Martinez’s lighting worked wonders for the statement set, making bombastic statements on bright coloured costumes with lasers and multicoloured washes. Costumes of dominatrix pleathers, sequined bodysuits, band uniforms, college crests and the crop sweater everyone will be wearing all over again were credited to Olivier Rousteing for Balmain, designed by Marni Senofonte. All captured in cinematic style from unbelievable angles and Steadicams and sweeps, switching between high definition technicolour into slow-motion monochrome then delightful 80s camcorder texture as a further nod to the Homecoming home-video quality.
And then fucking Destiny’s Child come up on an elevating platform and if your eyes didn’t water up and spill over with nostalgia and joy, then there’s nothing we can do for your dead soul now. Beyoncé’s solo career may have superseded her girl group beginnings in many ways, but this reunion is still the highlight of the whole set who come together for whole new interpretations of their hits including ‘Say My Name,’ ‘Soldier’ and ‘Lose My Breath’. Sister superstar Solange also drops in for a dance break.
So splice into your housemate’s Netflix account and settle in with a glass of sparkling, put your festival gear on and snuggle up with a BeyHive bestie for Homecoming. A must for any Beyoncé fans, and a wholesome insight and introduction to the changes needed in global culture toward social inclusion of oppressed peoples.
Lying under the beauty of Homecoming, however, is an interesting paradox regarding Coachella profits flowing down the valley into conservative action groups working to counteract improvements for the communities Beyoncé describes aiming to empower. At the end of the day, Beyoncé’s decision to maximise visibility for the black community and claim her title as the first African-American woman to headline Coachella is a worthwhile decision. It’s not the objective of this review to remark upon her motivations, but it is a reminder to those of us with the choice in how we consume art to consider the full impact our dollars and time can make, and how we can carry the messages of this film and concert out into our own influence internally, as deep as we can.