In the wee hours of the morning (3 A.M. EST to be exact), Beyoncé released an in-depth look at the making of her legendary headlining set at 2018’s Coachella. That iconic performance, now commonly referred to as Beychella, was an astounding showcase of passion, showmanship, musicality, and the specific experience of homecoming at HBCUs (read more here). Homecoming also happens to be title of Queen Bey’s latest documentary. Beyoncé has often granted us glimpses inside her creative process (Life Is But a Dream; Yours & Mine; Year of 4), but Homecoming is easily her most well-made documentary yet.
Homecoming functions as concert footage from both weekends of Beychella; interludes of the behind-the-scenes segments and voiceovers and quotes from iconic Black thinkers (Alice Walker; W.E.B. Du Bois) and artists (Danai Gurira; Maya Angelou) are interspersed throughout. Beyoncé is a notoriously private person — a stark juxtaposition to our common understanding of what a “pop star” of her magnitude is. In a generation of performers and artists who increasingly base their artistry and public persona on their level of relatability, we know almost nothing about Beyoncé that she hasn’t allowed us to see or know. In Homecoming, Beyoncé spoke to the struggles of her last pregnancy which rendered her unable to perform when she was originally slated to (2017). One of the twins’ heartbeat paused multiple times which resulted in an emergency C-section. She also suffered from high blood pressure and preeclampsia during her pregnancy.
Perhaps the most powerful moments of Homecoming are when Beyoncé speaks to the struggle between mind and body after delivering the twins. She had this beautiful and elaborate concept in her mind, but she was in no shape physically or emotionally execute it. Nevertheless, Homecoming also documents the small moments of victory on the way to the eventual crowning moment of the actual performance. There’s the time when Beyoncé finally fits into one of her costumes from The Formation World Tour and excitedly FaceTimes her husband. There’s also the time when she excitedly re-enters the rehearsal space just a month after delivery. It takes a strong leader to reach all of these milestones, big and small, and Homecoming examines the tight ship that Beyoncé runs with her iron grip. In one scene of the film, Queen Bey snaps at her team for not paying attention to her notes and then promptly leaves to go celebrate her wedding anniversary. She even left her husband in shock! Homecoming sheds a light on just how involved Beyoncé is in her creative process: grueling eight hour rehearsals for eight months; mood boards; three sound stages and more.
Homecoming is a glowing encapsulation of a legend at the zeitgeist of her powers. The scariest thing is, Homecoming feels like the beginning of something even greater for Beyoncé. There is no way to watch this documentary and not feel motivated or inspired. There is no way to watch this documentary and not at least entertain, better yet agree with, the idea that Beyoncé is the single best performer of all time. In Homecoming her drive, passion, vision, energy, dedication, and attention to detail propel her to the highest heights of modern celebrity. We get a genuine look at Beyoncé as a mother, a wife, a student, a teacher, a musician, a leader, and a performer — and what a sight it is. The unabashed love of blackness and support of young black creatives is so gratifying to see on such a vast level. Beyoncé is truly here for black people and it shines through in every aspect of her professional and personal (check out Blue Ivy’s adorable rendition of The Black National Anthem) lives.
After the release of the film (which annoyingly switches between wide and full screen and different features), Beyoncé then double-downed and gifted us HOMECOMING: THE LIVE ALBUM. The new release is a live album that blends both Coachella performances, the studio version of fan-favorite, “I Been On,” and a brand new cover of cookout classic “Before I Let Go.” The real achievement of this album is how well it is mixed. The songs do lose some of the “live” feel, but it is a worthy sacrifice for the masterfulness of the Beychella arrangements. Every horn, string, and interpolation is incredibly clear; you can even hear Beyoncé’s gasps for air, further accentuating the power of her stamina. Beyoncé’s name has already been etched into the history books, and Homecoming is yet another addition to her illustrious and legendary career.
Listen to HOMECOMING: THE LIVE ALBUM here.
Watch Homecoming on Netflix here.