What I Actually Thought of Beyonce’s Homecoming

I pulled up Netflix keenly aware that there is no wisdom found in building opinions about anything, using a mix of random reactions generated by an edited and clearly biased, Facebook feed.

About six minutes into my viewing of what was essentially a “documentary concert”, I realized that much of “Homecoming’s” success hinged itself on a whirlwind concoction of hip gyrating, daisy duke wearing, yet African-American marching band culture.

There is much to be gleaned from the sheer longevity of the high-hat section in siren songs like Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love”.

If you’ve ever listened to the song you know what I mean. You’re sitting down just daydreaming about something cool and suddenly you’re snapped in half by a thud of drums, bass, and sax. From there, you just want to get up and dance. Or in my case, you want to step lightly and jiggle your baby fat. While I was reminiscing about how much fun that song is, I got sad.

I flashed back to the time my now deceased uncle questioned me about attending the “Greek Show”. Then, I was a student at my family’s alma mater, Southern University. That’s not to say that all my relatives chose that school. But SU is so crucial to our family’s identity, that there was a time when I had planned to avoid that school like the plague I thought it was. Just when I thought I had completed my mission, I was admitted there in 2015.

So when my uncle asked about that Greek Show—-this thing where black men and women in frats and sororities step dance and clap—-I got scared.

Was he expecting me to swoon over this just because I loved music and was reasonably competent with a few chord progressions on a keyboard? I don’t know. But I was like: Nah, I’ll pass.

So as I’m watching Homecoming… that is what I’m re-imagining. It’s a glorified step-show band experiment. But also, it’s a long-standing cultural homage to the long career that Beyonce has, will have, and is still having.

I’m trying to swoon over just the idea that these beautiful black men and women are having a “HOMECOMING” on a massive black, Baptist church-hats with grandma, scale. And all I can do as I watch is wonder about how ironic my own situation is.

Beyonce’ launched into “Freedom” and I recalled the grimy set that she and Kendrick Lamar did at an awards show a few years ago. A set that was a like seeing the face of Grendel herself. Her performance was no less of a spectacle on Netflix.

Imagine an MTV production and then magnify that times 100. The viewer sees several horn sections, metallic silver-plated risers, and hand-picked authentic band majors from at least one black college.

I couldn’t analyze the show without comparing it to Madonna. Because Madonna and Beyonce’ have virtually the same stage presence and colloquial signature points. Although they both are very different performers, they mimic each other with very detailed expectations for how a performance’s aesthetic should be delivered to an audience.

So, I wasn’t surprised when Mrs. Carter shared with us that she used more than one sound stage to capture “Homecoming”.

Every pattern, weave, costume, and rendition was timed and tested several times over. I reminisced about Southern’s “Pretty Wednesday” afternoons as I watched Beyonce’ and Big Freedia re-hash “Formation”.

I still don’t get the bang about Big Freedia. Of course, “he, she, or they” are an epic part of New Orleans bounce culture.

But “they” confuse me and some might get upset when learning that I’m a lifelong Louisiana native that truly understands the “Power of New Orleans”. It’s a fragrance. “Power of New Orleans” is my name for the social, cultural, pathological love of the French, Creole, Cajun, black, Parisian melting pot that exists well past the French Quarter and the CBD. No festival can name or bottle how New Orleans just changes people. When people are passionate about a city and have built their lives in it, that city isn’t a place anymore. A city becomes a spirit that transcends location and demography.

“Homecoming” is nearly syncretism when considering its cinematic production. The show celebrates an African-American ideal that is extremely hard to codify. The idea is: Black people (also and especially Black gay men, women) are capable and strong. The show then goes on to say in its own way that “we” (black kings and queens) are also tragically complicated… but full of potential. Such a wonderful message struggles to be seen when it gets lost in rushing waves of messaging by foregone black leaders like Maya Angelou and Nina Simone.

(Yes, there were voiceovers in weird places in the documentary.)

The message gets lost when Beyonce’ has to prove her personhood by performing at Coachella… a mostly white, rich, and very elitist music festival. I am aware of how I sound. How rude of me to be a black disabled guy whose last album purchase wasn’t explicitly black!

Yeah, I bought Hoobastank’s “Push Pull” and not the “Homecoming” music album. I understand how weird that is for some people. Yeah, take my black card away. But all this effort by her has me wondering why she needed to prove that her music should be there, in that space.

Isn’t her husband a business owner? Doesn’t he own TIDAL music service and a slew of other comparable assets? Are we ignoring that red herring? I don’t necessarily see her as someone totally reflecting me. She reflects people that look like me. At times, she comes achingly close to empathizing with my own experience.

After all, I’m black and Creole. I just don’t travel with “hot sauce in my bag.” When she finally did convict me, she was performing “I Care” from her “4” album. The total image she projected here finally let me acknowledge: Oh, she’s a human being.

And truth is: Beyonce’ is best when she’s her most vulnerable. When she asks herself about her flaws, we see her real complexity. She’s a person when she’s sharing her tragedies on the stage delivering lyrics with some shred of real remorse.

I’ve never seen BEYONCE’ live. For me, the questions about the messaging in her art never truly stop. And therein lays my issue. There is depth…so much depth in  Beyonce’s story that accessibility becomes this awkward myth. And how accessible Beyonce’ is matters because I’m a black man that went to an HBCU to study words, art, and ultimately…the stories of other people.

I never find a middle when I come home to Beyonce’. The purpose of her work only lands when I force it. The truth is: I can’t digest it altogether like the legions of people in her beehive. Maybe, the problem is that I read too much. Maybe, I ask more questions than can be answered.

But when “Homecoming” came home to me, I had to force it through a misshapen hole and drive it down the stream of my consciousness with sugar-water. You could say it’s because I’m a man. Or maybe I expected to arrive at a place of finality that doesn’t really exist. But Beyonce’s “Homecoming” earns its “MA” rating and while it’s a blinding force of black culture, it will regrettably send a very esoteric message to people who aren’t “bout dat life”.

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