Analysis Of Beyonce's Song And Music Video 'Formation'

Power, it surrounds us daily, it's something that becomes a norm from birth to the present without consciously thinking about how we are able to directly influence a person's behavior, which can either be us alone or to another person that we wish to change their ideas on something. Beyonce has a music video, Formation, empowers black women in particular and also subtly mentions Black History Month. Many people don’t realize that each word and picture from a music video have some sort of deep and meaningful description behind them, a lot of the times, people watch them braindead as they think it’s for the aesthetic or just for all talk. Her song producer, Mike Will, he explains that Beyonce wanted to write a lot on her heritage and where she’s from. Black History Month is significant to Beyonce because she wants everyone to remember all the important figures and events of the African diaspora. Ever since the Civil War, the month of February, people have been celebrating African American achievements and stories on who they became to be in our present day, which even let us elect an African American president, Barack Obama. Logos can be seen here since today in society we lack acceptance for black people as fellow citizens of the United States America is a pragmatic threat to “the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

First, we’ll start off with the graphics parts of the music video. The opening shot of Formation, she sits on top of a police car half-submerged in water, this is related to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the shooting controversies of minorities, because of all the racism and brutality towards unarmed black women and men, giving birth to “Black Lives Matter” movement. According to, the term “Slay” used in the music video was popular with the gay African American communities. Also throughout the music video, Beyonce emphasizes on the persecution of negros by, in this case, police enforcement. In the music video, there is a scene of a kid dancing in front of a line of officers, later on raising his hands in surrender to show that he is unarmed and not a threat. Which gives off a reminiscent of Mike Brown being shot when he made the same gesture. The style of dresses that they wear is from around the late 1800s, a majority of the clothes are “southern”. But, these clothes were usually worn by white wealthy women, not African Americans at the time. Beyonce wore those types of clothing in those scenes because she wanted to show that a minority like her had the power and authority of the white people who opposed African Americans at the time. Beyonce brings up many visual references of many minorities, but many the scenes show them with a form of power. According to Eric Liu, there are six types of power. The types of power referenced in this music video are the power of wealth and the power of force. The first visual is the power of wealth. Beyonce shows this by having the shot in a 1800s scene but wearing wealthy clothing that only people, such as plantation owners, at the time could afford. The second visual is when the child gets the police officers to raise their hands in surrender. Raising one’s hands shows that the opposing side has more power over them and that the ones raising their hands submit to that power. These scenes show the minorities with power, referencing how the “Black Lives Matter” movement would like to see minorities with more power. This brings in Pathos since the majority of Americans recognize that this is a legitimate, national issue. this also shows Ethos because Beyonce is a person who has the authority to sing the lyrics in this music video. With her history and life experiences, not only does she have the authority, but the right to have these scenes in this music video. Without Beyonce aggravating the forces of ethos and pathos in the audience, the music video would not have the same impact as it does now. Beyonce, with her power and authority, makes powerful scenes that appeal to the audiences Pathos and Ethos.

Next, we’ll be focusing more on the lyrical messages that she’s been wanting us to analyze. Beyonce has produced many songs that people around the world love and cherish. She has many different songs and music videos that symbolize hidden ideas on topics around the world that people face. This brings up the ethos part since she became a role model to the feminist community as she takes a stand against topics that revolve around societies view of women.“Whether you get what you want depends on how adept you are with power.” (Eric Lue, 2014) , which, for her, would be standing up for something that a lot of young females have fear to speak publicly about. If you hear her sing in the music video, her tone at the beginning of Formation is very mellow. It gives off a vibe of wanted to bring attention to the people who listen to the song. Later in the song, it becomes more upbeat and higher, showing that black people are also people of race and need to be treated equally regardless of their skin tone. In the intro of the song, “What happened at the New Wil’ins?” is referring to Hurricane Katrina and how the government failed to protect and serve the people of New Orleans. This is where the pathos takes its place as it addressed to the people of New Orleans of the unfair treatment in a sense of injustice. Even to this day, not everything from that hurricane was revived, only the necessities were covered, such as water, food, and housing. Towards the end of the song she mentions, “Okay, ladies, now let's get in formation, 'cause I slay, prove to me you got some coordination, 'cause I slay, slay trick, or you get eliminated, I slay.” (Beyonce, 2016) At first, you might hear “get information” but the correct pronunciation of it is“get in formation” I found this very interesting as it seemed like she wanted people to be more educated on “Black Lives Matter” as people don’t really deem it important, because of this reason, she became one of the hugest leaders for this movement. She wanted to make sure that people understood that this is not something to look down upon, but a serious issue that America has towards the minorities.

Lastly, I’d like to talk about how Beyonce carries on a lead as a female, African American, woman. In today’s culture, women are looked down upon and so are black people in general. She even mentions in her song, “I dream it, I work hard, I grind ‘til I own it.” This just shows that she worked hard to be where she’s at. She has such a large group of people that look up to her internationally, giving her a voice of power to make people’s opinions malleable, giving her a significant amount of credit to put a thought that people had opinions on in different people’s pop culture and the R&B movement. Since she is well known and very influential, she boldly stands up for Black Lives Matter and black culture in general. “What are you doing if you’re not reflecting the times? How can you call yourself an artist?” (Nina Simone, 2016, NPR Inc.) At that time, it was a very important message for her to let all people know publicly, shedding some light on the whole tension between the government and the community.  

16 December 2021
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