Why I’m an increasingly avid Beyoncé stan and wish Portland had a stadium to host the Formation world tour.
PHOTOS BY JENNI MOORE
Lately I feel like some of the most common things I hear people say about Beyoncé are “I’m not a part of the BeyHive by any means, but her new album is great,” or “I’ve never really been a Beyoncé fan, but I was thirsty for the Lemonade.” Things like that. And I have to say, I really don’t understand why everyone feels the need to preface their adoration for the artist’s new album with a slight. Constantly pointing out that you’re ‘not a fan’ just sounds like you’re refusing to recognize a talent that has been honed over a lifetime of hard work, sweat, and intention. You can just say “I love Lemonade” and move on with your day.
In case you haven’t noticed, I AM part of the Bey Hive.
If we’re including her vital participation in Destiny’s Child (which we are, duh), Bey has been a globally-successful artist for almost two decades now. I get that everyone has different taste in music and whatnot, but music aside, this woman’s talent as a singer/dancer/performer is unquestionable. Like, even though I don’t really care about some of the songs off her previous albums, she always brings a magical touch to whatever it is she’s doing. I cannot disregard her always-flawless vocal talent and star power, even if she’s singing something that’s not exactly my style. So when people go out of their way to say they aren’t a Beyoncé fan it’s confusing to me.
That being said, I’m proud of ya’ll for finally coming around and recognizing how steadily and greatly Bey has grown as an artist. Now that she’s achieved insane amounts of commercial success and mass appeal, it warms my heart to see her dropping unapologetic creations of self expression. And Lemonade is–in my opinion–her greatest work yet.
The first time I saw Beyoncé was during the Beyoncé Experience at the Rose Garden in 2007, a tour that supported her B-Day album. It was a different time; the arena didn’t even sell-out. Those were the days when I was content to sit up in the 200 level seats. Since I couldn’t actually see her with my bare eyeballs, I watched the image of her being cast on the big screens. But the listening aspect alone made it such an epic experience. That night I got the mind-blowing verification I needed: Beyoncé could sing and dance live like no other person from her generation, and her performance quality was identical to every television performance that I had spent my adolescence worshipping. I knew then that unless her career took some sort of bizarre downfall, I would be seeing her live as much as possible for the rest of my concert-going life.
And since that show, she has continued to outdo herself, growing into the legendary icon that she is today. When B casually announced that she married Jay Z and had Blue Ivy, I was–admittedly–one of those women who said oh great, there goes her career! and Now she’s all wifed-up and popping out babies so I get less material! But I was very, very wrong; I’ve continued to get more material from the Queen, each drop becoming increasingly explicit, complex, and deep.
For instance, when the bitch released “Flawless”, an anthem of self-love, I felt it was intended for fans like me who doubted her, and ultimately, my own potential.
I know when you were little girls you dreamt of being in my world.
Don’t forget it, don’t forget it / Respect that, bow down bitches
I took some time to live my life / But don’t think I’m just his little wife
Don’t get it twisted, get it twisted / This my shit, bow down bitches
The song rapidly became a source in which to find confidence and inspiration. Promptly after the release, I sat in a salon chair waiting to get extra-long box braids installed. My hairstylist informed me that the Queen was getting a lot of flack for the tone and wordage on the track. Apparently Bey was expected to keep a pristine image (i.e. not say ‘bow down bitches’) since she and Jay Z were recently framed as being buddy-buddy with the First Couple. But to me, the song was an important step toward letting me relate to her. I wanted to hear Beyoncé curse more, and I wanted her to speak directly to me, the listener. I wanted her to make increasingly honest, edgy stuff that might piss people off. “Flawless,” with its definition of feminism read by writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi, became my new favorite Beyoncé song. Sometimes, when I’d listen and dance to it in my car, I would cry tears of joy that an artist–and one of my personal favorites–was using their platform to spread awareness of the meaning and value of feminism–an identity that’s important to me and so many other women. And most unexpectedly, Beyoncé has broadened the scope of what it means to be a feminist, a mother, a business woman, a wife. She continues to demonstrate that you don’t have to choose between a family and a career, or between a hot sex life and a marriage. If you’re cut out for it, you can have your cake and eat it too.
The second time I saw her live was during her joint On the Run stadium tour with Jay Z at Safeco Field, where I became exponentially more impressed, not only with her vocal and physical performance, but also with how she stayed the course of her message. For “Flawless” she displayed “FEMINIST” in huge pink letters across the screen. It’s little creative choices like these make me feel much more connected to the artist.
I shouldn’t even have to tell you my assessment on Lemonade, since I pretty much covered it in my Record Review for the Portland Mercury recently but…the visual album is clearly a love letter to black women. The intimate hour-long piece has turned so many lukewarm fans (again, don’t understand you) into avid supporters. In the movie, Bey examines her fractured relationship, familial influences, and roots in the American South as she comes to the resolution of forgiveness and healing. Outdoing herself yet again, the album has shown a real coming of age for the singer who is now using her visual, musical and performance platform to express every ounce of her feelings and beliefs on a variety of topics, including black women’s hair and police brutality. As if I needed any more evidence, Lemonade showed that she is truly in her prime.
So when I started planning my Birthday trip to Southern California to see the Formation world tour (twice), I felt that I needed to shell-out for the expensive seats. I wanted to be close enough to make eye contact with The Queen, and that’s exactly what happened.
Contrary to my predictions that she might get us started with something less explosive, Beyoncé kicked this bitch right off with “Formation.” And it was literal perfection. After a prolonged intro of head-nodding goodness over extended samples of Messy Mya‘s voice, she finally said it: “Ya’ll haters corny with that Illuminati mess.” On Bey’s command, we all sang, chanted “I SLAY” and danced to this pro-black anthem as if our livelihoods depended on it.
Beyoncé smiled her way through all of her two-hour set, vibing out with the fans surrounding her stage, thanking and speaking to the audience in a way that made it feel like an intimate experience, even for a crowd of 70,000 people. It was obvious she was filled with joy and gratitude to still be doing what she loves, and performing for fans who have been supporting her for almost two decades.
Since I wanted to enjoy the show as much as possible, you’ll notice that all of my photos are from the same performance. (I did, however, manage to record a few segments of the show since I don’t have to actually look at my phone for that.) Perhaps my favorite song of the night (besides “Formation”) was her beautifully drawn-out version of “1+1,” which she performed seated, seemingly with no regard for time or place.
I also loved getting to clap along to “Daddy Lessons” live, and watch her do a cute little cowgirl dance. But who am I kidding, I loved every second of this show. She did not, however, sing “Single Ladies” or “Irreplaceable,” most likely because they were off-message.
Her set list, special effects, and concert media somehow made Lemonade feel even more complete. After seeing the show it became clear why this needed to be a stadium tour; she really used the elements. Bey included flames and rocketing fireworks for songs like “Ring the Alarm” and “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” and turning her stage into a shallow pool of water. As we neared the end of the show, the security guards donned ponchos with hoods, and the stage end began filling up with water. She and her army of dancers marched barefoot down the runway to a beating drum, and that’s when we knew we were about to be blessed. Bey was fixin’ to baptize us all. The dancers walked through the water in subdued choreography, evoking imagery that was reminiscent of the “Love Drought” music video. Beyoncé began to sing the first verse of “Freedom,” and then commanded her dancers with the chorus — that’s when the splashing and water flinging commenced. And oh, how glorious it was! Yoncé concluded the “Freedom” set with an extended bout of African-style dancing and stomping, and then wrapped up the show with her sentimental song “Halo.” Iy was the perfect goodbye-for-now track.
After the show I was pretty speechless, especially because of all the little moments throughout the show that made me feel connected to Bey, aka ‘GOD HERSELF.’
Even though I ended up going to see her show in Pasadena as well, I’m damn near booking another trip to see one of the Formation tour bonus dates in September. This shit was just way too good to not experience it three times. People keep asking me “how was Beyoncé?” and somehow ‘amazing’ and its synonyms just don’t feel like grand enough a descriptor.