In a song as flavorful and complex as New Orleans cuisine, national treasure Beyoncé brings it on home with “Formation” (her first new music since 2014) shouting out her all-American black Southern heritage while at the same time clapping back at haters, especially the “corny” ones who’ve accused her of being a tool of the Illuminati or worse yet, speak junk about her family, whether Blue Ivy or Jay Z.
The song is her most political yet, mixing in references as it does to America’s shameful response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, with the Black Lives Matter movement reflected in a shot of “Stop Shooting Us” graffiti, among other images. As much as anything, “Formation” is a female power anthem, upending in its wake stereotypes about men, women and the dynamic of who controls what.
Much like a gumbo, each component stands alone and yet still flavors the other, all feeding into or “forming” a photo real version of what makes up Bey’s current identity and view of the world. If you want to go really deep, one could say the interplay of all of the featured dynamics (class, race, sex) are what formed our nation. Ya dig? Formation aka formed nation?
As the internets comb through the various and sundries that went into producing the song and its visually rich video, we’ve detailed all the items we know thus far. We expect this will be updated as more is revealed by the Beyhive as well as Bey’s own team.
One theme is certain though, Bey walks the walks when it comes to her belief in empowering the less powerful with just about every prominent person associated with the video a woman and/or person of color. Pulling all the references certainly provides some perspective on the effort that went into this project. It’s not an accident that it’s being endlessly discussed, a ton of thought, time and creativity was poured into this song and video.
As styled by Shioni Turini, Marni Senofonte and Zerina Akers, the fashion in the video is a killer from beginning to end (see label details below plus additional style style credits via Senofonte’s Instagram below). Looks include a black Givenchy gown, the only label that’s actually shouted out in the song, though it’s entirely possible the lyrical acknowledgement was added to prevent Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci from feeling a way about the amount of featured items by new Gucci designer and fellow Italian, Allesandro Michele, including and particular a custom two piece set worn by Bey and her dancers. The dress she’s wearing on top of the sinking cop car is also Gucci, as is the gauzy purple number she wears in one of the final scenes.
There are also tons of local flavor looks, like the distressed acid wash jeans and retro Jordan kicks worn in the wig shop, as well as the custom slides that immediately bring to mind Kanye West’s “Bound 2” single featuring the lyrics “Uh-huh, honey” as sampled from Brenda Lee’s “Sweet Nothins.” The video also includes a prominently shot pair of white Adidas kicks adorned with spurs by a man shown riding a horse, plus there are parade, band and church scenes in which participants appear to be locals, wearing their own clothing.
Hair looks were overseen by Kim Kimble with Kendra Garvey handling the ultra-long blonde box braids Bey is shown wearing throughout the video.
Song & Video Production Details…
The song was produced by Mike Len Williams II and written by Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee. Check out the lyrics below.
Steady rocking dance partner to Bey, JaQuel Knight (best known for creating the moves behind “Single Ladies”), was responsible for the song’s choreography. Knight in a Tweet also credited Chris Grant and Dana Foglia.
Behind-the-scene images featured on Beyonce.com were shot by Robin Harper.
Another longtime Bey collaborator Melina Matsoukas directed the video, and when “Formation” went live she immediately was criticized by director Chris Black for lifting scenes from his New Orleans music documentary That B.E.A.T. without credit.
Complex reported the story and this morning updated it with a statement from a Beyoncé rep, stating, “The documentary footage was used with permission and licensed from the owner of the footage. They were given proper compensation. The footage was provided to us by the filmmaker’s production company. The filmmaker is listed in the credits for additional photography direction. We are thankful that they granted us permission.”
As it turns out, Black doesn’t own the rights to the documentary, but remains bothered, saying, “I don’t own the rights to it, also I never signed a contract with Nokia or Sundance. If in fact they did get the proper permission, why still use the footage? You had a big budget! Doesn’t make sense to me.”
“Formation” kicks off with and includes multiple audio clips from New Orleans entertainer Messy Mya’s 2010 video (below) titled, “Booking the Hoes from New Wildin.” Sadly, Messy Mya aka Anthony Barre was gunned down in 2010 at the age of 22, just after leaving his son’s baby shower.
With the lyrics “I might just be a Bill Gates in the making,” it seems highly likely Bey is referencing Real Housewives of the Potomac‘s Karen Huger, who has famously described her husband as the black Bill Gates. More than just the line, fans of the show have nicknamed the reality star Tina Lawson for her resemblance to Beyoncés mother. As well, Bey speaks to “Twirling on haters,” likely a reference to Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Kenya Moore’s famous tag line, which Bey has used in the past.
The song includes input at the 1:10 mark (“She came to slay!”) from New Orleans’ Big Freedia, the star of Fuse TV‘s Queen of Bounce. Said Freedia, “When I heard the track and the concept behind it, which was Beyoncé paying homage to her roots, I was even more excited! It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I was beyond honored to work with the original Queen B. I think it turned out amazing too!”
A final vocal contribution at the end of the song comes from a 2008 documentary (below) on the impact of Hurricane Katrina called Trouble the Water.
Beyoncé’s store has been updated with multiple items referencing the song, including an “I Twirl on Them Haters” grey sweatshirt, “Slay” tee-shirt and “Hot Sauce” dad cap.
Beyoncé’s mentions taking her lover to Red Lobster and the seafood chain responded yesterday with a Tweet, which wasn’t the most clever, but okay, at least they’re in the game.
“Cheddar Bey Biscuits” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? #Formation @Beyonce pic.twitter.com/QzgVtYAKNo
— Red Lobster (@redlobster) February 7, 2016
“Trouble the Water”
Marni Senofonte style details…
#Formation #sb50….Would have never happened without @ericarchibald @ranchotailors @janellemahal @kennyppaul @courtneymadison_ @eyobyohannes @stylebyanthony @jdperfect @bobbywesley @TLo_Fashion @Genevievelynn @askepticsreligion @joanreidy …… Proper Gratitude soon come…… Fashion Deets in a minute…… #slay #WeSlay #SheSlay #Slayonce A photo posted by marnixmarni (@marnixmarni) on