Beyoncé Brings Protest Music Back: The Main ‘Formation’ Talking Points

Beyoncé has done a Beyoncé and dropped a surprise video, ‘Formation’, which devoured the internet at the weekend. An overt protest song (and a fucking brilliant pop track), it instantly created plenty of conversation. Here are the main talking points around her new video.

Messy Mya

The track opens with the voice of comedian and YouTuber Messy Mya (real name Anthony Barre), who asks “What happened after New Orleans?”. Mya was shot and killed in the city in 2010, and his murderer has not been brought to justice.

Hurricane Katrina

Shot entirely in New Orleans, the ‘Formation’ video is bookended with footage of Beyoncé sitting atop a sinking New Orleans Police Department patrol car. The US government and authorities were widely criticised for not doing enough to help African-American victims of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated and flooded the poorest areas of the city in 2005.

Blue Ivy

Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s four-year-old daughter isn’t just there to look cute. As the camera focuses on her, Beyoncé sings: “I like my baby hair, with baby hair and afros /I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils”.

Bounce music
The video incorporates clips from The B.E.A.T, a short 2012 documentary about bounce, a frenetic type of hip-hop that emerged from LGBT communities in New Orleans in the 1990s.

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‘Stop Shooting Us’

The graffitied words ‘STOP SHOOTING US’ reference the Black Lives Matter movement, formed in response to high profile instances of black men – such as Mario Wood – being killed by US police officers. The day before the video was released, Jay-Z’s Tidal streaming service donated $1.5m to the charity. Two days after it came out, Beyoncé’s guest appearance at the Super Bowl saw her backed by dancers imitating the Black Panthers, a civil rights organisation from the 1960s.