July 31, 2020

Beyonce – Black Is King (Disney +, Parkwood Entertainment) 

Black Is King is a reimagining of Disney’s The Lion King, in what is indisputably the most elaborate music video ever made. The first time she explored this concept was back in 2013, with her fifth studio album, Beyonce, which was released in a series of short films. Those films had almost no discernible order or connection. It was beautiful and strange. 

That gives it some commonality with her most recent effort. This time, there is a clear and obvious theme. The presentation is visually stunning as it follows the story. The scenes are chopped up, with rapid jump-cuts, bright colors, and elaborate costuming. The art director is clearly trying to prove something. Like a great many art films, Black Is King is hard to follow from the pictorial. Beyonce and company have remedied that with dropped-in lines from the script(s), poetry, and the lyrical content of the songs. Some of the scenes are a little head-scratchy: bizarro outdoor human chess, the word “MOOD” displayed prominently on various eye-wear, and a few side-sequences. 

Many of the main characters are easily spotted in the film, including Simba, Rafiki, and Scar with his hyenas. Unfortunately, the conceptual audio is vague and obscure enough to be disorienting without the visual component. 

The music itself is excellent, but does provide its own difficulties. “OTHERSIDE”, which is an amazing song, doesn’t quite fit into the narrative. “MY POWER” is the most potent, powerful song on the album, lyrically, but is super-disjointed and hard to listen to. That song is also outside the story arc. 

I think Queen Bey did herself a little bit of long-term disservice with this film, despite the innovation and beauty. Let’s weigh the Pros and Cons:


  • The message is clear and identifiable early in the film — We are all a part of something “BIGGER”, remember who you are.
  • The art is beautiful and the poetry is poignant.
  • It is memorable, for a number of reasons.
  • The film is likely to win awards. 


  • The rewatchability of the film is limited.
  • Most of the music loses clarity without the visual accompaniment.
  • It suffers from too large a cast. There’s as much a presence of other performers as from Beyonce herself.

The bottom line is this: watching the film is a powerful and rewarding experience. The music is solid with wonderful content, but suffers from a lack of Ms. Knowles-Carter. If you have Disney+, watch it. If not, start with “BIGGER”, “FIND YOUR WAY BACK”, “WATER”, and “BROWN SKIN GIRL”, which features young Blue Ivy Carter

FFO: Pharrell Williams, Jessie Reyez, Mr. Eazi, and of course, Beyonce


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