Beyoncé isn’t quite done with Disney yet! Closely following her latest surprise single released on Juneteenth, “Black Parade,” Beyoncé announced her next big project: a visual album called “Black Is King.” The new project was written, directed, and executive produced by Beyoncé herself and is set to premiere exclusively on Disney+ on July 31, the one-year anniversary of the release of the live-action remake of “The Lion King.”
The 24-time Grammy award winner’s soon-to-be-released visual album was in production for a full year and is said to reimagine the lessons taught in “The Lion King” for the global youth. In a statement from Disney, the visual album is “an affirmation of a grand purpose, with lush visuals that celebrate Black resilience and culture” that highlights Black excellence and the beauty of tradition.
In the trailer for “Black Is King,” glimpses of traditional African culture are shown in vignettes with brief, but powerful voice-overs from Beyoncé and featured artists on the gift of our personal journeys, culture, our identities, and ancestors.
“The film is a story for the ages that informs and rebuilds the present,” the statement continued. “A reunion of cultures and shared generational beliefs. A story of how the people left most broken have an extraordinary gift and a purposeful future.”
The upcoming album is a celebratory project and a “memoir for the world” on Black experiences in this world. It’s described as a “story for the ages” that will better inform and rebuild our present as well as act as a reunion of cultures and beliefs through the generations.
Beyoncé proudly shared the minute-long trailer on her Instagram, penning a note about “Black Is King,” calling it a “labor of love.”
“ It is my passion project that I have been filming, researching, and editing day and night for the past year,” she wrote. “ I’ve given it my all and now it’s yours. It was originally filmed as a companion piece to ‘The Lion King: The Gift’ soundtrack and meant to celebrate the breadth and beauty of Black ancestry. I could never have imagined that a year later, all the hard work that went into this production would serve a greater purpose.”
The recent events this year made the messages in the visual album even more relevant than it was at the time of production. 2020 is another year in history where societies across the globe are traversing a new landscape and are experiencing history as it happens on the journey to change.
“I believe that when Black people tell our own stories, we can shift the axis of the world and tell our REAL history of generational wealth and richness of soul that are not told in our history books,” she continued. “With this visual album, I wanted to present elements of Black history and African tradition, with a modern twist and a universal message, and what it truly means to find your self-identity and build a legacy.”
Despite sparking controversy for romanticizing Africa before colonialism and lumping together African culture despite there being 54 unique countries on the continent, critics urge fans not to jump to conclusions after a short trailer.
“African art has been largely left on the outside of mainstream entertainment,” Sisa Zekani, an entertainment culture critic in South Africa told Flare. “There are representations of us [like The Lion King and Black Panther] that have been unsuccessful in changing the situations and realities of the African artists they’re inspired by. Beyoncé is funding a project that showcases and puts at the forefront the culture, art, words, and voices of African artists.”
The hope of the new visual album is to inspire those who watch to build a legacy that makes an impact for years to come. She also lends her platform for featured artists like Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar, and Pharrell as well as African artists to represent different countries across the continuum, like Burna Boy, Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Shatta Wale, Mr Eazi, Yemi Alade, Tekno, Busiswa, and Salatiel. An activist in her own right, Beyoncé is aiming to show not only the beauty of the Black community but also its resilience.