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Beyoncé’s Formation Video (Black Lives Matter)
A Literary Analysis Research Paper

Gonzalo Flórez-Giraldo

Houston Community College

Author Note

Gonzalo Florez-Giraldo, Student, Houston Community College.

This research is part of the Composition II Course with Professor Cassandra Clarke.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to

Gonzalo Florez-Giraldo, Houston Community College, Houston, Texas

Contact: w206041243@student.hccs.edu


Beyoncé is one of the singers most recognized in the world and United States of America. She assumed a political role since some events aroused against Afro-American People, related with racism and police brutality. She created the musical video “Formation” to transmit a message to the people in favor of black lives matter.

Keywords:  Beyoncé, Video, Black Lives Matter, Illuminati, Creole, Alabama, Louisiana, Black Culture, Rapper

Beyoncé’s Formation Video (Black Lives Matter)
A Literary Analysis Research Paper

Beyoncé launched in 2016 her album “Lemonade”, including one controversial song, the number twelve in the list whose name is “Formation”.  This unique song is accompanied with an award winning, well-produced and elaborated video, released on purpose, next to the birthday anniversary of Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland, whose deaths are well remembered by Afro-American people as victims of brutal law enforcement and racism.

Beyoncé’s “Formation” messages are about many more things than simple racism and police brutality. This song delivers messages about feminism, Creole culture, Beyoncé pride, Black pride, Black power, sexism, LGBT, Hurricane Katrina remembering’s, and Beyoncé intention to dispel the rumor that she is an Illuminati.

This video masterfully reveals to faces of Beyoncé at the same time, as an Entertainer and an Activist. (Caramanica & Wortham, 2016).

All “Formation” messages could be classified in major and minor messages. This writing only deals only with major messages, and minor will be ignored. The major messages are one of this two possibilities:  direct and explicit messages, or in the other hand are ambiguous, subliminal or hidden messages.

This visual and musical work apparently deliver inconsistent sentences with multiple meanings, but that aspect is irrelevant to the first time viewer, because the video is very rich on visuals and plays sticky rhythms that distracts him from the powerful hidden and subliminal messages. This video is holistically great, verified by its numerous well written articles and awards received.

Under a rigorous and serious analysis, many messages emerge with multiple meanings. Specially two types of messages could be identified: first, direct or non-ambiguous messages, and second, ambiguous messages with multiple or hidden meanings.

Any person, not necessarily an expert will be able to recognize that the lyrics and visuals of this video were semantically engineered by a linguist or carefully designed by an expert on semiotics.

Some messages are direct and non-ambiguous like: The Hurricane Katrina aftermath, the Police signs, Beyoncé pride, Black pride, Black power, Creole Culture, and the effort to dispel the rumor that Beyoncé are an Illuminati.

On the other hand, there are ambiguous messages delivered with multiple or hidden meanings about sexism and LGBT. Those messages appear to the viewer to have multiple interpretations, but the final meaning decision is left free to the particular audience, their will, their virginal minds or the predominant psyche of the individual.

Every sentence has two interpretations: the vulgar and the non-vulgar, the formal and the non-formal, the explicit and the implicit message.

One of the first message delivered is about the Hurricane Katrina, when the video starts with a living phrase of a killed rapper, whose name was Messy Mya. The voice of the rapper expresses: “What happened at the New Wil’ins?” (beyonceVEVO, 2016), then the video shows up many scenes related with New Orleans Katrina flooding’s.

Along the video are Police signs delivered with an apparent neutral connotation, but at the end they suggests indirectly a judgement to the collectively subconscious mind, who has been extensively influenced by the media with the events on police brutality.

Beyoncé is laying at the top of a New Orleans white and blue car, with the word “police”, partially submerged in the flooding water, sitting squatting, while the back scene displays a neighborhood with flooded houses. Some police departments may considered that scene disrespectful.

In other scene, after a sequence of images of New Orleans daily living, the observer can see the word “police” at the back of a man that resembles a guard. Once again, the video attracts the mind of the viewer to the word “police”.

It is unforgettable the scene when the young boy is dancing with a New Orleans Style, in front of an anti-riot line of policemen and they rise their hands, after that the camera shows a graffiti in the wall with the legend “Stop Shooting Us” (beyonceVEVO, 2016), this could be interpreted in many ways, but one of them, is the triumph of the weak using non-violent methods, over those that represent the governmental power

By the end of the video, the police car got totally submerged under the water, with Beyoncé lying at the top, drowning, giving the impression that the police problem is a lose-to-lose situation. This is confirmed by some critic’s affirmations that Beyoncé is not trying to defame the police. (Logan, 2016).

Black power is depicted when Beyoncé shows up in an elegant long black dress with a big black hat, agitating his hand with a piece of his long hair in circles surrounded by Afro-American guys, also dressed in etiquette black clothes, at the door of an antebellum house, the image evoked in the mind of the viewer is about the power and the way that wealthy and powerful black people lives. The Black power is also depicted in the scene that shows a lonely black cowboy with a golden necklace.

An explicit message occurs when Beyoncé try to defeat the rumors affirming that she is an illuminati, using a unique phrase: “Y’all haters corny with that Illuminati mess” (beyonceVEVO, 2016).

The video exhibits some dual interpretations with sentences like this: “Paparazzi, catch my fly and my cocky fresh” (beyonceVEVO, 2016). This message could be interpreted as a sexual reference or a pride reference. Also there are some explicit sexual references, like: “When he fuck me good, I take his ass to Red Lobster, cause I slay” (beyonceVEVO, 2016), and there are ambiguous, hidden or second meaning sexual references, when she said: “I got hot sauce in my bag, swag” (beyonceVEVO, 2016), this sentence has two simultaneous interpretations: first as a reference to Creole culture in which women carries hot sauce in their purses, or a female sexual reference.

The controversial word “swag” may be used in this video as a synonym of promotional items, stylish confidence, or with a sexual orientation reference, also this word correspond to a very well-known LGBT word that means “secretly we are gay”.

But the most incredible fact is that the word “slay” is mentioned 49 times along the video, probably, with the meaning of “extraordinary” or “killer performance”, but let’s consider that is also a well-known urban sexual reference.

Beyoncé pride is evident when she expresses “I’m so reckless when I rock my Givenchy dress” (beyonceVEVO, 2016), or “I’m so possessive so I rock his Roc necklaces” (beyonceVEVO, 2016), or “Earned all this money, but they never take the country out me” (beyonceVEVO, 2016).

It is unavoidable that The Black and Creole culture message earned a strong reference in this video, with direct and explicit sentences like this: “My daddy Alabama, momma Louisiana” (beyonceVEVO, 2016), “You mix that Negro with that Creole, make a Texas bama” (beyonceVEVO, 2016), “I like my baby hair with baby hair and afros” (beyonceVEVO, 2016), “I like my Negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils” (beyonceVEVO, 2016).

There is a direct reference to feminism and women leadership when she says: “Okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation” (beyonceVEVO, 2016).

In the second middle of the video there is a black man holding in his hand a newspaper named “The Truth”, whose cover story displays the phrase “More than a Dreamer” with the photo of Martin Luther King, suggesting that his Leadership was bigger than his famous discourse “I have a Dream”.

The final conclusion is evident. Beyoncé’s “Formation” video direct and indirect messages are multiple and not only about simple racism and police brutality, but also was produced with the intention to reveal some paradoxical aspects of the southern living in the United States. This well acclaimed by the critics video was produced by professionals with the same intention as the “Black Lives Matter” movement, probably become his Anthem.


[beyonceVEVO]. (2016, December 9). Beyoncé – Formation. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDZJPJV__bQ.

Caramanica, J. , Morris, J. and Wortham, J. (2016). Beyoncé in ‘Formation’: Entertainer, Activist, Both?. New York Times, Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/07/arts/music/beyonce-formation-super-bowl-video.html?_r=0

This is a critical review of Beyoncé’s Formation Video is made by three recognized critics, in the form of a dialog. They suggest that Beyoncé is an activist and at the same time she is an entertainer. This source is reliable because it’s Currency (2016), Relevance (Critical review), Authority (New York Times, Best Recognized journalists), Accuracy (Content reliable and credible), and Purpose (the point of view appear objective and impartial).

Logan, B. (2016). No, Beyoncé is not bashing the police: Here’s what her new song ‘Formation’ is really saying. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/the-messages-in-beyonces-formation-2016-2.

This article corresponds to a review of Beyoncé’s Formation Video and clears out to the audience that Beyoncé is not ridiculing the police. In the opposite side this video is a call for peace and an altruist apology to the black culture in America. This source is reliable because it’s Currency (2016), Relevance (Critical review), Authority (Business Insider, Recognized journalists), Accuracy (Content reliable and credible), and Purpose (the point of view appear objective and impartial).

Macpherson, A. (2016). Beyoncé’s Formation review – a rallying cry that couldn’t be more timely, The Guardian, Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2016/feb/08/beyonce-formation-review-super-bowl-rallying-cry-black-consciousness

This article corresponds to a review of Beyoncé’s Formation Video that states that the world tour is timely deliveries. This source is reliable because it’s Currency (2016), Relevance (Critical review), Authority (The Guardian, Best Recognized journalists), Accuracy (Content reliable and credible), and Purpose (the point of view appear objective and impartial).

Hoby, H. (2016) Beyoncé: Formation tour review – defiant, victorious and glorious, The Guardian, Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/apr/28/beyonce-formation-tour-review-defiant-victorious-and-glorious.

This article corresponds to a review of Beyoncé’s Formation Video that states that this is the event of the year, masterfully produced. This source is reliable because it’s Currency (2016), Relevance (Critical review), Authority (The Guardian, Recognized journalists), Accuracy (Content reliable and credible