Last weekend, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter became the first Black woman to headline the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival since it's creation in 1999. There are truly no words to describe how amazing this performance was. I highlighted the performance on my Instagram as the "Music Monday" post, but as an aspiring culture writer, something else must be said about this performance. It would be a disservice for me to not give Mrs. Carter her formal props.
For me, the most profound element of her performance was her homage to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and the dirty south. Her opening instrumental, orchestrated by a full marching band, not only included traditional HBCU marching band and dance team elements, but also music reminiscent of New Orleans. This same instrumental appeared again at the end. Her sister, the very talented Solange, has a very special connection to New Orleans. She has a home there and it is where she got married to her husband in 2014. Beyoncé's musical reference shows her own special connection to the sounds of New Orleans. The rest of the performance maintained the HBCU theme from the full band, the drumline and baton solos, the clothing of her dancers, the dance team choreography, and, of course, the creation of Beta Delta Kappa.
There was some debate on Twitter on whether Beyonce was appropriating Greek culture. The real question is, who gon check her? (Nobody) But, I also seriously doubt that Bey would perform without doing her research. She also had members of Black Greek Organizations as dancers and I am sure they weren't complaining. The wearing of gold and black was seen by some as a shoutout to the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity which was the first Historically Black Fraternity in the United States. Her stepping was also very Alpha-like. Regardless of whether one agrees with the choice or not, the execution was flawless. She gave us probate and step-show realness like only she can.
Overall, Beyoncé served us with perhaps the Blackest performance possible. Her HBCU/Greek theme, the singing of the national anthem (and subsequent transition into Formation), the swag surf. Blackity Black Black. Just iconic. Especially at Coachella, arguably the largest (and Whitest) music festival in America. She put all of these African-American tradtions in conversation with her music in a masterful way. She thanked Coachella (forever known as "Beychella") for "allowing" her to headline and then dragged them for waiting so long. At this point in her career, the pop superstar is not only giving us new ideas but recycling her old material and keeping it fresh. Destiny's Child was harmonizing like it was the early 2000s and it was still relevant. She infused her music, old and new, to create a nearly TWO HOUR performance, not for the audience alone, but the world that was watching.
It seems that Beyoncé is just competing with herself at this point, seeing how far she can push her art, and securing her legacy as the entertainer of a generation.