Beyonce’s Black Is King is a sumptuous visual feast

Black Is King


Beyonce, the master of the visual album, just keeps getting better with each release. Using the music from The Gift, the album she released last year to accompany the live-action remake of The Lion King, the star stuns again with the spellbinding Black Is King.

Beyonce wrote, directed and executive produced the film on streaming platform Disney+, which she describes as “a love letter to Africa”. Highly collaborative, it features appearances from husband Jay-Z, daughter Blue Ivy and former Destiny’s Child bandmate Kelly Rowland, as well as a star-studded, all-black cast that includes actor Lupita Nyong’o and model Naomi Campbell.

Beyonce in a scene from her new visual album Black Is King.Credit:Disney

It’s a sumptuous visual feast, from detailed costuming to choreography. Filmed around the world, including in New York, Los Angeles, South Africa and Belgium, the film takes the viewer on a dazzling, hyper-real ride through natural landscapes and space-age futures, while incorporating elements of black history and tradition.

Black Is King transposes the classic Disney coming of age story The Lion King to a modern political context, turning the tale of Simba’s journey towards selfhood into a bold statement about the power of black identity. Though some sections incorporating dialogue feel a little clunky, the parallel generally works well, as we see the young king moving from exile to self-acceptance, and eventually a joyful celebration of community.

Brown Skin Girl is especially moving, showing Beyonce, Rowland and Blue Ivy together in a strong visual affirmation of generational black womanhood. Though the film doesn’t explicitly call itself feminist, there’s a real feeling of female empowerment throughout, with a voiceover stating, “Many times, it's the women that reassemble us. Men taught me some things, but women taught me a whole lot more."

With the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement this year, Black Is King is a timely, powerful declaration of pride. “Let Black be synonymous with glory,” she says – and may the world sit up and listen.

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