We can always count on Beyoncé for a pop-culture kapow.
In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Netflix dropped Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé, a two hour and 17 minute performance and behind-the-scenes documentary about Queen Bey’s fantastical, unforgettable nod to black colleges, black womanhood and overall blackness from the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. (The documentary is also accompanied by a live album of the performance.)
Simply put: It’s dope.
Beychella, as it has been mythically referred to, is worth revisiting in Homecoming. A year later, I still got excited when Jay-Z joined his wife for “Déjà Vu” and I danced in my seat like a 20-something when the rest of Destiny’s Child hopped onstage. And since I wasn’t watching a grainy, bootleg version of the show like I did last year, I could take in the majestic details of sister Solange’s costume.
Yet it’s the behind-the-scenes story sliced in between performances that finally convinced me: I get why the Beyhive is nuts for their girl. Beyoncé finally lifted the veil — and this from a woman who is more heavily guarded than King’s Landing.
When she opened up about her pregnancy and the work it took to get her back on stage — she was 218 pounds after she gave birth to her twins — it became clear the show’s title, Homecoming, was more than a nod to black college life, it was celebration of her return to the stage. “There were days that I thought I would never be the same,” she nearly whispers.
That’s an authenticity that can’t be faked. Neither can the sheer excitement she gave us when, at last, she could get back into a slinky performance costume she wore pre-pregnancy. She Facetime’s Jay: Look, she says, she can even zip it up. Jay in that Brooklyn dude way is so blasé. What woman can relate to that?
We knew that Beyoncé is a fierce protector of black womanhood and black history — at Beychella, she appeared on stage in a costume inspired by Queen Nefertiti. She and her singers gave us a few bars of the black national anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” A safe space for black people to be black at Coachella? As the first black female headliner of the famed music fest, she pulled it off.
In Homecoming, we understood the why. We learned through her at times emotional narration that growing up in Houston’s Fifth Ward, not too far from Prairie View University — a historically black college that dates back to 1876 — she was inspired by black college life. Black colleges are not taken seriously. Black history is not taken seriously. This was her way of making a difference.
“When I decided to do Coachella, instead of me pulling out my flower crown, it was more important than I bought our culture to Coachella,” Beyoncé said. "I wanted a black orchestra. I wanted a stepper. I wanted a vocalist. The amount of swag is limitless … It’s just gorgeous … It made me proud. I wanted every person who has ever been dismissed because of the way they look to to feel like they were on that stage … killing it. "
Beyoncé’s obsession with precision paid off. The idea, Beyoncé said, was for the more than 200 people on stage to perform in unison but still rock it as individuals (shout out to Les Twins — Beyoncé's dancers Laurent Nicolas and Larry Nicolas Bourgeois — who tore it up). I couldn’t help but marvel at the fabulosity of the documentary’s editors — Andrew Morrow, Nia Imani and Julian Klincewicz (Beyoncé herself directed and produced the documentary). Homecoming was shot over two separate Coachella dates — performed a week apart. Except for the costumes that were intentionally different, the two parts flowed into each other seamlessly. This is the bigness of Beyoncé that the movie, not the bootleg video, conveyed.