Beyoncé was slated to appear as the headliner at Coachella 2017 right after her Formation World Tour, but she had to postpone it because she was pregnant with twins, Rumi and Sir. It was a bittersweet situation, but it worked out for the best when she delivered a whole new concept the following year, which premiered on Netflix on April 17.
Written, directed and executive-produced by Queen Bey herself, the concert documentary Homecoming sent the internet into a frenzy when the teaser was released. Even without any mention of Beyoncé’s name, the logo and font type was so significant with the Destiny’s Child member’s performance as the first black woman to headline Coachella in its entire 19-year history. In fact, Beyoncé’s Coachella performance was so significant that it earned the nickname Beychella.
And that’s not all. On the day Homecoming premiered on netflix, we were treated to a double surprise, with the simultaneous release of Homecoming: The Live Album as well. This 40-track album, curated and remixed for the attendees at the coveted desert in California is a real treat for fans and casual listeners alike, as Beyoncé delivers a show that is evidently powerful and spiritual. As always, she did not settle for what was expected of her, but turned the tables around and really gave us something entirely outside the box that we have never witnessed before on a large scale. This is why Beyoncé is in a league of her own.
The concept behind the grand Homecoming performance at Coachella was a celebration of Beyoncé’s 22-year career, black culture and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). One of the key messages of Homecoming was how it referenced, or dare we say, honoured the tradition of HBCUs. Beyoncé’s father, Matthew Knowles, attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and while she put her college dream on hold to follow her calling as a musicien, Beyoncé had “always dreamed of going to an HBCU”.
For Beychella, she brought her dream to life on stage by paying tribute to the nine Black Greek Letter organizations, even performing a moving rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, which is also commonly-referred to as the “black national anthem”.
In the Homecoming album, Mrs Carter gave us all her hits without holding back. From the moment the drums and whistles went off to kick-start the intro, goosebumps were felt. Beginning with a bang with “Crazy in Love” and “Freedom,” she went on to belt out “Lift Every Voice and Sing” that transitioned into “Formation.” From that moment on, we knew it would be an unforgettable performance that would be discussed for years to come.
Besides her flawless singles, Beyoncé also gave the crowd unexpected mash-ups of hip-hop songs like “Diva” with OT Genasis’ “Everybody Mad”, with an added bonus of a few gems that we haven’t seen her perform in a while, like “Kitty Kat” and “Check On It.” Whether spitting fire with DJ Khaled’s “Top Off” or singing her heart out on “I Care” with killer guitar riffs, she did it with such precision without catching a breath. There were hardly any slow songs performed during Beychella and with what seemed like hundreds of choreographies to learn, it is awe-inspiring how she did not miss a single beat in the entire live album.
The fun doesn’t end there; be prepared for a Jay-Z appearance during “Déjà Vu”, and a jaw-drop moment when Destiny’s Child reunites for “Lose My Breath,” “Say My Name” and “Soldier”. Sister Solange also came out to dance with her during “Get Me Bodied.” As the headliner, Beyoncé definitely didn’t need to have them on stage with her for this big event (and yet, she would still have bodied the entire show on her own anyway), but because she was telling a story through this Coachella performance, it was very necessary.
In true Beyoncé tradition, the surprises kept coming. Homecoming: Live Album also featured two bonus tracks, namely a cover of Maze and Frankie Beverly’s classic tune “Before I Let Go” from 1981 and also the gritty distorted vocals track “I Been On”, which was initially the other half of “Bow Down” released on SoundCloud in 2013.
Could it have been a different experience if not for the Netflix film? Perhaps. But could this be the best live album ever released? Perhaps. Whatever it may be, Beyoncé is a force of nature and this is her world. We are just mere mortals living in it.
Cover Image: Larry Busacca / Getty Images for Coachella