So, um, nah, I didn’t watch Beyonce’s Coachella performance live with the rest of y’all in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
There was no way that was physically gonna happen. I’m getting old, y’all – I can barely make it through an episode of The Walking Dead without my eyelids falling like Nicki Minaj’s credibility.
So when I awoke Sunday morning, my texts n’ timelines were filled with comments hailing Bey’s performance as an all-time classic.
“Classic” has become such an overused term these days. I mean, literally two weeks earlier these same spectators were calling the film A Quiet Place and Cardi B’s album MODERN DAY CLASSICS.
I guess “classic” now means “a little better than I thought they would be, I guess.”
But after finally sitting down and experiencing nearly two hours of Beyonce absolutely captivating thousands of Coachella fans in a mesmerizing performance, I can say that, for once, something actually lived up to the Internet hype.
Was it truly a classic? It’s probably too early to say. But without a doubt “BeyChella” is Beyonce’s career-defining moment – ferocious femininity at its finest.
It wasn’t lost on Beyonce that she was the first black woman to headline the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. And in the spirit of that milestone, Bey gave us the blackest performance in Coachella’s nearly 20-year history.
As a graduate of a Historically Black College – shout out to my fellow Norfolk State Spartans – watching Bey backed by a bombastic marching band instantly transported me back to rowdy homecoming halftime shows. The first image we see of Queen Bey is her adorned in garb fit for Egyptian royalty. She made time for an interpretive dance set to Nina Simone’s “Lilac Wine” and even belted out a stirring rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” AKA the black national anthem.
While many of those cultural references may have flown over the heads of kiddos in the audience who just wanted to hear “Single Ladies” and “Crazy in Love,” it’s cool – it wasn’t for them. It was for the men and women who paved the way for her to make history, as well as a generation of young black boys and girls looking to find themselves in a society that has for so long downplayed their history.
It’s blackness made mainstream.
And it’s the palate cleanser we needed after Taylor Swift dropped that hideous cover of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September,” the flavorless equivalent of Karen’s raisin potato salad.
Of course, it wasn’t all symbolism and cultural awareness – the show was just downright fun. Bey twerked, stomped the yard, whipped her hair and nailed every note effortlessly without once losing her breath. (Poor Jay Z, who came out to perform his verse from “Déjà Vu” sounded like he was about to have an asthma attack two bars in.)
Beyonce ran through her roster of current hits, with high-profile singles from Lemonade and the Beyonce album getting the most shine, naturally. But what really caught my ears were the throwbacks to earlier hits – old favorites like “Baby Boy” “Check On It” surprisingly were shown love. Even predictable tracks like “Drunk in Love” were turned on their heads when the infamous SURFBOART line triggered synchronized Swag Surfin’. New Orleans bounce spiced up a few numbers, while some lines were chopped n’ screwed Texas style. And, of course, the reunion of Destiny’s Child was thrilling, with their performance of “Solider” especially burning down the stage.
There isn’t a performer alive who can match Beyonce’s choreography, imagery or seemingly limitless energy. She’s absolutely peerless and, more importantly, she uses her platform to tell her story. From feminism to sexuality to motherhood, each song is another chapter in the book of womanhood.
Of course, such a flawless*** performance triggered debate online about whether Bey has surpassed Michael Jackson as our greatest all-time performer. And honestly, both sides have their biases. You can’t expect some young fans to be able to understand MJ’s magic when they were 4 years old when he dropped his final album. They mainly know him for headlines, not hits.
And on the other hand, I’ve seen older fans criticize Beyonce for needing more “theatrics” than MJ and being “too sexual.” Both are ridiculous arguments – it’s 2018, of course Bey’s production values will be grander than MJ’s (no one in their right mind would say “Thriller’ is a bad video just because it looks like it was filmed on a dirty flip phone). And regarding Bey’s booty-shaking, we’re talking about Beyonce here, not BeyBey Winans, it comes with her territory. And let’s not forget how controversial Michael’s crotch-grabbing was in the ’80s.
I can’t honestly say if BeyChella makes Beyonce the greatest performer of all time. We need time and perspective to see how it influences future artists, as how MJ influenced scores of performers, including Bey. But without question, Sunday night cemented her spot as the most important performer of this generation. It’s likely the most entertaining – and meaningful – live performance I’ve ever seen.
To paraphrase her husband, if she ain’t better than Michael, she’s the closest one.