During Beyonce’s performance at last year’s Coachella, she brought a company of over 200 marching band members, dancers, and background singers on a massive stage to put on a full two-hour concert. The popular festival is used to seeing flower crowns and hipster coffee shop headliners of the acoustic or EDM persuasion, but Beyonce did not want to give you that. She wanted to flip Coachella on its head and give you the unexpected. She wanted to serve you a show that only Beyonce can put on — and while she was at it, she decided to make a documentary about it called Homecoming and release a year later to remind you that the festival will never see a performance like this again. Ever.
Officially titled, Homecoming: A Film By Beyonce, the concert documentary dropped at midnight on Tuesday and the Beyhive was wildly buzzing beforehand as they waited with bated breath counting down the seconds until it hit the streaming platform. The release of the documentary written, directed and executive produced by Beyonce did not come without a surprise. She also unleashed a Homecoming live album which put the Beyhive into even more of a frenzy.
Watching Homecoming is like watching the Coachella performance from last year all over again, but with an incredible amount of depth. The documentary felt like the end of this gorgeous journey she was taking us on that arguably began with her HBO special Life is But a Dream which was released in 2016. Since then, she has not only grown as a musician but as a mother and wife. All of which has fueled her artistry — and it is certainly reflected in Homecoming.
Homecoming goes beyond what we saw on the stage at Coachella last year. As the first black woman to ever headline Coachella (as Bey says, “Ain’t that ’bout a bitch?”), Beyonce wanted to show us that this was more than just a two-hour concert. She wanted to give us an experience that would leave an impact and resonate for decades. Cutting from concert footage to candid personal video (we got to see the twins!) to Blue Ivy taking charge during a dance rehearsal to educating audiences about HBCUs to her rendition of Frankie Beverly and Maze’s “Before I Let Go”, Homecoming was an experience that celebrated black culture and she generously shared that with all of us. She uplifted the black community and in turn, it united all of us.
The performance paid homage to America’s historically black colleges and universities with dance and music that is very specific to the culture. Woven in and out of the film were profound quotes from HBCU alums Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, activist Marian Wright Edelman, and scholar W.E.B. Du Bois as well as cultural luminaries such as Nina Simone, Maya Angelou, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Audre Lorde. At times, we knew that this was a love letter to the black culture and was a way for her to tell her brothers and sisters, “I see you” — specifically when she sang the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Ultimately, through her vast catalog of music, all was an enriching lesson in black culture and we listened intently because when Beyonce talks, we listen.
Homecoming is the final movement to an opus and it shows us the blood, sweat and tears Beyonce put into her Coachella performance as well as this documentary. They rehearsed for eight months on three soundstages to give us this brilliant piece of wo
rk that blended all phases of Bey together — and that included an appearance from her husband Jay Z on a performance of “Deja Vu”, a dance break with her sister Solange and, of course, her Destiny’s Child besties Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams (they gave us a harmoniously on-point performance of “Say My Name” that I’m still gushing over).
After spending another year editing the film, she decided to time the release a year later — right around the same time Coachella was happening. When she performed at Coachella she knew exactly what she was doing — she was giving us a package deal. It was a part of her masterplan. She knew damn well that Homecoming was going to be a feature film and that why she made it as epic and precise as she did. The documentary is a testimony to all of her hard work and thoughtfulness as an artist and a savvy businesswoman.
The transition and editing between the “pink” and “yellow’ performances from the two nights she performed at Coachella are seamlessly showcased in Homecoming, making it one gorgeous, monolithic piece of Beyonce-branded art that is personal, joyous, soulful, celebratory and musically entertaining. Even though the film as a whole could have shaved off about 15-20 minutes, we don’t mind because, well, it’s Beyonce. And you can never get enough Beyonce.
One thing that stands out about me about Homecoming was that Beyonce made sure that she gave love to all the people involved: her dancers, her band, the people behind the scenes, Jay Z, her kids, her family — everyone. This wasn’t just about her. She wanted each “character” on stage to shine which is in line with her wanting to do this concert to make the unseen feel seen. She wanted to empower marginalized communities and wanted to celebrate differences a feat that not many artists can pull off without seeming blatant. Only Beyonce can demand your attention with a fierce mug and southern swag one moment and then disarm you with a warm smile. She welcomes you into her world but makes sure you pay attention and put respect on her name.
In 2013, she released Life is But a Dream then gave us her flawless self-titled visual album followed by a serving of Lemonade that had us all getting into formation. Homecoming is yet another chapter that paves a way for a new artistic phase for her. With Homecoming, Beyonce has proven once again that she is a cultural icon and knows what we want before we want it. Whether it is releasing a surprise album in the middle of the night, giving us a full artistically personal visual album experience that leaves us breathless or singing “Get Me Bodied” and dancing with a full marching band, Bey will continue to surprise and slay us with her prowess.