Monday, May 13, 2019

Beyonce: Homecoming Is Both An Exhilarating And Insightful Documentary

If somebody's still puzzled as to why Beyonce Knowles-Carter has become such a phenomenon in the modern-day pop culture scene, Beyonce: Homecoming, a feature that captures Beyonce's 2018 Coachella performance, should provide a handy-dandy summation for why exactly she's risen to such a legendary status in the modern era. Just the crowd's reaction to watching her perform live alone should say why Beyonce has become a pop culture force to be reckoned with. Many of these audience members don't get their experiences properly represented frequently in music nor does music often tell them explicitly that they are amazing because of the traits that society ostracizes them for. Self-empowerment anthems are common in American pop music but Beyonce takes that format and skews it through the lens of black culture and especially through the lens of black women empowerment to create self-empowerment anthems that don't just resonate with people but are quite unlike anything else we've ever seen in music.

Plus, even just taking Beyonce's tunes on a surface-level detached from their wider importance in terms of representation and audience identification, songs such as Formation are amazingly constructed creations with sensationally inventive lyrics and catchy beats that get your head bopping immediately. We get to see many of Beyonce's songs performed in her landmark Coachella opening ceremony performance that shows how Beyonce Knowles goes all out when it comes time to put on a show. Just having her sitting on a stool singing these songs with her great voice would be enough to make the concert depicted in Beyonce: Homecoming worth seeing, but no, Knowles and her extensive list of accompanying dancers & singers and crew have gone all-out to provide an elaborate jaw-dropping show packed with bells & whistles that reinforce the energy of so many of her shows.

As if such an intricately put-together concert wasn't enough, Beyonce: Homecoming also frequently cuts away from the concert to behind-the-scenes footage that show how much time and effort has gone into this show. This footage is frequently accompanied by narration from Knowles herself that allows her to explain what motivates the creative decisions in the show. Knowles being the first black woman singer to perform the opening ceremony of Coachella understandably weighs heavily on her mind and lends larger historical importance to this event that Knowles' narration emphasizes is reflected throughout the show through heavy incorporation of elements of Black culture (such as fragments of Martin Luther King Jr. speeches about the plight of black women) throughout the concert.

Delivering simply footage of a dazzling concert would be enough to make me say Beyonce: Homecoming (which is also directed by Beyonce, who can apparently do anything) is worth a watch, but getting such extensive first-hand insight into the creative process of this iconic artist is like a wonderful cherry on top of a cinematic sundae. Through seeing all the extensive consideration that goes into this program, one gets a full appreciation for all the tiny details that have gone into making this performance as special as it is. Beyonce's accompanying narration offering up her perspective on what she hopes to achieve with this show also allows one to garner an even greater level of esteem for what she achieves in her Coachella performance.

And what a performance it is too! From the moment she comes on-stage, Beyonce conveys a sense of full-on assured confidence that grabs your eyeballs and never lets them go while the array of memorable costumes and pieces of dance choreography throughout the program reinforce a similar level of conviction that's utterly entrancing. The behind-the-scenes footage clearly shows that the creative process for this concert was, like any creative process, one full of vulnerable trial and errors, but none of that comes through in this immaculately produced show. If there's one area this concert is especially skilled at, it's knocking out of the park big crowdpleaser moments. This show knows how to play up theatricality for entrances of surprise guest performers or the starts of particularly beloved songs like Johnny from The Devil Went Down to Georgia knew how to play a fiddle!

Such theatricality lends so much excitement to the concert sequences in Beyonce: Homecoming while the recurring pieces of behind-the-scenes footage do a fantastic job giving the viewer a peek into what creatively informs such an elaborate show. Both the concert and the behind-the-scenes footage could have worked just fine on their own as individual documentaries, but putting them together makes for an excellent singular motion picture. I can't imagine even the most die-hard Beyonce hater being able to resist such a well put-together feature like Beyonce: Homecoming, the live performance of Formation alone should convert anyone into a Beyonce fan for life.

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