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Last night Beyoncé performed during the Super Bowl 50 halftime show. It seemed to be business as usual: leotard, hair blowing thanks to a wind machine and a squad of dancers backing her up. But was it business as usual?
The lyrics to her new song "Formation," which was released on Saturday are more racially driven than anything she has ever sung before.
Here & Now's Robin Young, speaks with Danielle C. Belton, an associate editor for The Root about her article "Beyoncé Drops 'Formation' for the People, the Black People" and the singer's halftime show performance.
Can you describe the video Beyoncé released Saturday?
“It’s basically a southern gothic epic, where you have her celebrating parts of Louisiana and Creole culture, you have her celebrating bounce music. But what’s also featured in the video is a line of police officers standing in front of a young black boy wearing a hoodie who’s dancing, and the police officers put their hands up when the boy puts his hands up, and there’s a spray-painted graffiti sign saying ‘Stop killing us,’ towards the end of the video.”
On Belton's editorial in The Root
“Basically I’m saying, in this video and in this particular song, Beyoncé’s really embracing an un-apologetic blackness that’s kind of undeniable. The video is such a celebration of Black culture, of her Creole culture, of bounce music and of black womanhood and I just love it. I think that people sometimes just forget that just because you are for something, and in this case it’s her embrace of blackness that she's fore, doesn’t mean that you’re against something. Beyoncé’s saying ‘I love this and I stand for this and I believe in this’ in the video.”
On the controversy surrounding the video
“I don’t think the video was as hard on the police as some people took it. There’s this real substantive issue around the black community and the police where unarmed black people are shot disproportionately in this country, and you just can’t ignore that issue and I don’t understand the notion that the police are above this sort of criticism. They’re a part of society, they enforce the law, they’re paid by tax dollars, they’re human and they’re flawed. They’re not beyond reproach. Just like they can criticize Beyoncé’s art and turn their back on it and all sorts of things, she has just as much right to create art that’s critical of policing in our society.”
On the topic of how white fans might swoon over the image of a tough black woman with attitude, and the young black men with her, when they're entertaining them, but maybe not so much when they pass them on the street
“I think there’s always been this issue in our country where people love black art, they love black music, they love black fashion, but they don’t always love black people. So it’s one thing to just sit there and enjoy this artistic performance and consume it, and it’s another thing to actually understand politically, socially, economically what’s going on with African Americans in our society. I think that’s difficult for some people who are outside of that community to grasp at times.”
On the claim that it’s a marketing ploy
“She’s brilliant at marketing, and I think if anything people should be saluting this. How many artists can drop a video unannounced, put out a song and then perform it at the Super Bowl? Coldplay had to play their hits, she came out and said ‘I’m gonna play what I just put out five minutes ago. You’re gonna love it.’”
This segment aired on February 8, 2016.