Beyoncé’s latest visual album titled “Black is King” dropped on Disney+ on July 31, a visual album being a film that functions as a feature-length music video. With my only prior knowledge of this work being that it’s from Beyoncé and that it is based on themes from “The Lion King,” I came in with no expectations. Upon watching, it quickly became apparent that this title is sure to bless the eyes and ears, as well as reward the attentive viewer.
“Black is King” follows a young king’s (played by Folajomi “FJ” Akinmurele) journey in self-discovery, not too dissimilar from that of Simba from the “The Lion King” films. Quotes from famous Black artists, voice samples from “The Lion King (2019)” and more cinematic scenes bookend the musical numbers.
I feel like these segments exist to provide thematic context to the music, as well as narrative parallels to Simba’s story. For example, in between the album’s first two musical numbers, “Bigger” and “Find Your Way Back,” we hear Mufasa tell Simba, as well as the boy in “Black is King,” to look to the stars to remember who he is.
Tradition and tapping into the past are both themes that permeate the narrative, and I feel these themes are accomplished visually through the use of sepia-tone shots throughout the film. These shots resemble that of a home video, and, at least to me, bring about feelings of nostalgia and familial reverence in the viewer.
As with many musical compositions set to visuals, many of the songs contain repetitive lyrics. Lyrical repetition is important in a complex visual medium such as this, as it helps to enforce core points, much like a public speaker.
In terms of an option on Disney+, not only does “Black is King” fill a void of content that is not explicitly made for children and families (i.e. “Marvel” or “Star Wars”), but it is a thematically, culturally and aesthetically significant offering in its own right. Furthermore, while “Black is King” was made to empower Black viewers, it is not limited to just one race. All races can see that this is an element more than worthy of acknowledgment and appreciation. I hope people can find personal empowerment or perhaps a cultural learning experience in this masterpiece of a visual album.