Beyoncé drops 'Formation': Four amazing things about her new pre-Super Bowl single
Beyoncé on Saturday released a surprise new single, Formation, a thumping, righteous, provocative banger that broke the Internet's brains, and which she will reportedly perform live during halftime of Sunday's Super Bowl 50.
For the Beyhive, this is a lot to process.
It'll take a few trips to Red Lobster before we can fully wrap our minds around everything this new song represents, but for now, here are four of the most amazing things about Beyoncé's Formation.
1. It exists.
Well, yeah, anytime one of the world's biggest pop stars releases a new single, it's big news. There are plenty of Beyoncé hallmarks — defensiveness toward "haters" and paparazzi, a call to arms for her fellow ladies to "get in formation" and "slay," the notion that she "just might be a black Bill Gates in the making." And there's no doubt producer Mike Will Made It crafted that beat with only Beyoncé in mind — no other singer could handle it.
Also: This song is a meme in audio form, perfectly structured for adoration on social media. As Rolling Stone pointed out, Beyoncé's online store was immediately updated with merch based on Formation's many catchphrases — "I twirl on them haters," "I got hot sauce in my bag," "Slay." This was most definitely a song constructed with Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and one-second GIFs in mind. Culturally, having hot sauce in your bag is going to become A Thing, just like putting a ring on it became A Thing, and not being ready for one's jelly became A Thing.
But all that aside, Formation isn't necessarily a next step we could've seen coming from Beyoncé. What's most interesting about Formation is how openly Beyoncé speaks on her Gulf Coast bona fides, her Alabama-Louisiana-Texas heritage, her love of soul food and hot sauce and, most notably, her African-Americanness: "I like my negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils." This brings us to…
2. That video. THAT VIDEO.
Well, we now have a frontrunner at this year's MTV Video Music Awards.
You will hear a lot in the coming days about what a socio-political statement Beyoncé made with Formation, but the truth is most of this is coming not from the lyrics, but the video, in which Beyoncé drowns a flooded New Orleans police car; pits cops against a child dancer in a tableau of Black Lives Matter protestation; gives cameos to both her dancing daughter Blue Ivy (in a nod to her cultural pride) and genderfluid New Orleans icon Big Freedia (one of several nods to the LGBTQ world). It's as if Beyoncé said, "I want my own To Pimp a Butterfly, and I want it to go down in five minutes of straight fire, and I want it NOW."
3. The race for the title of World's Biggest Pop Star continues unabated.
Last summer, was there any doubt the world's biggest pop star was Taylor Swift, with the unprecedented success and attention of her 1989 World Tour? Then came Adele and Hello and 25, which set sales and listenership records that may never be broken. And now we have Beyoncé going nuclear with Formation less than 24 hours before performing at halftime of the Super Bowl.
The parallel here is men's tennis, where you have Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic obliterating each other and the record book at every major turn. (The Andy Murray of this metaphor is Katy Perry, a world-class talent who can beat the other three on any given day, yet at the moment clearly isn't quite on their historic level.) Swift, Beyoncé and Adele are three of the most accomplished women on the planet, and they all have the very same job. Each time one makes a move, you wonder how the next will top it. It's fascinating to watch.
4. We can't stress this enough: Beyoncé is going to perform Formation at halftime of the Super Bowl.
Yes, this incendiary call to pop arms will receive its live premiere on the grandest stage imaginable, courtesy of the corporatized-to-death National Football League, with Beyoncé's backing band being … Coldplay. (Exactly how much hot sauce does Chris Martin carry in his bag, we wonder?)
Twelve years after Janet Jackson and Nipplegate, the NFL is still deathly afraid of controversy when it comes to its pop culture partners. Remember, the league sued the ever-loving bejeezus out of M.I.A. when she dropped an S-bomb and flipped off the camera during Madonna's 2012 headlining show. Seriously, they might be the only entity actually more powerful than the Illuminati.
Now, is Beyoncé really going to head out to midfield at halftime straddling a Louisiana cop car, surrounded by riot gear-clad police, with Martin nervously cueing up Fix You in the background? Not likely. But it'll be interesting to find out in the coming days how much the NFL knew about Formation before the release of its video.
Kickoff is coming soon. Let the game begin, so we can all get to halftime already.
— Jay Cridlin