By this point, almost everyone in the United States is at least familiar with Beyoncé’s newest and most controversial song, “Formation.” And most of these people have an opinion about the song, whether it is positive or negative. Her performance of the song at the Super Bowl has raised both uproar and adoration from different demographics all over the country, and in many other parts of the world. But what is it about the song that creates so much controversy?
It is possible the controversy is because of Beyoncé’s reference to the Black Panthers, an organization that was formed in 1966. Or perhaps it is because of the scene in her music video in which Beyoncé sits on a police car that sinks under a flooded New Orleans, an image used to show support for the African-American community and its conflict with the police.
The scene is a commentary of the fact that during Hurricane Katrina, many of the African-Americans in New Orleans saw no aid from the government. This commentary goes further to say that the police continue to function not as a protective force for African-Americans, but as another thing to fear – a force that perpetuates the oppression that black people face in every other aspect of their lives.
It makes sense to me that Beyoncé and the police car sink together because in the last several years, Americans have been forced to watch as police officers unjustly murder African-Americans, yet are allowed to live free of punishment. It is as though justice is sinking before our very eyes, and the black community is sinking with it.
What many of the critics of “Formation” do not understand is that the police car does not actually represent the police force, but rather justice itself.
Rather than “F the police,” as many believe she is saying, Beyoncé is actually just calling for the police to embrace justice for ALL Americans.
I have never considered myself to be the biggest fan of Beyoncé; I have never had anything against her, but I always thought she was far too overrated. I do not even think that this song is particularly impressive on its own. For the most part, the beat and melody have been done before and have been done better. However, what makes “Formation” a good song to me is that Beyoncé actually had something to say and she said it very clearly. “Formation” presented a version of “black-ness” that Beyoncé did not even attempt to make palatable to the average American.
Unlike many of her recent songs which have often read a little narcissistic to me, “Formation” had a message that was clear to the people it was meant for. It is a song for every black girl who spent most of her life feeling ugly because she hated her “negro nose,” and her unmanageable afro.
In the music video, Beyoncé wears several hairstyles, which are worn pretty much exclusively by black people, and are considered “ghetto,” showing that she embraced black hair and black culture.
In terms of style and melody, “Formation” is certainly not Beyoncé’s best song; it still has many of the self-congratulating elements that mar many of her recent songs. However, it is her best song in terms of content. By now “Formation” has probably created so much controversy that it will probably not be reaching any top-100 charts anytime soon, but it still has more substance than all of her most popular songs combined.
“Formation” is timely, capturing many of the issues that plague the black community today, including issues with law enforcement, natural hair and the idea that everything associated with black-ness is also associated with “ghetto-ness.”
The song had a clear message of black pride, hitting many pressing issues for African-Americans without attempting to make it easier for conservative Americans to swallow.