Beyoncé has released her new visual album Black Is King, via Disney+. The project is written, directed, and executive produced by Beyoncé, and features appearances by JAY-Z, Kelly Rowland, Naomi Campbell, Tina Knowles-Lawson, Lupita Nyong’o, and more, in addition to Bey herself. Black Is King is based on the music of The Lion King: The Gift—the companion album Beyoncé made for Disney’s “live-action” CGI remake of the classic movie. (Beyoncé voiced adult Nala in the film.) Watch Black Is King at Disney+. (Pitchfork earns a commission from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.)
In the film, dance sequences, Lion King samples, and footage of Black families around the world are interspersed with sequences in which Beyoncé traverses a beach, reciting details of a generations-spanning spiritual journey. According to a press release, Black Is King “reimagines the lessons of The Lion King for today’s young kings and queens in search of their own crowns” and is “a celebratory memoir for the world on the Black experience.” It was filmed across locations in New York, Los Angeles, South Africa, West Africa, London, and Belgium.
Beyoncé shared multiple trailers for the project in the lead-up to the film’s release. In addition to Beyoncé’s directorial guidance, Black Is King includes contributions from directors Emmanuel Adjei, Blitz Bazawule, Pierre Debusschere, Ibra Ake, Dikayl Rimmasch, Jake Nava, and Kwasi Fordjour.
Beyoncé’s last visual album (and last studio album) was 2016’s Lemonade. In 2018, she teamed up with JAY-Z for Everything Is Love, which the couple released as the Carters. The following year, Bey shared Homecoming: The Live Album, as well as its accompanying documentary chronicling her legendary Coachella set from 2018.
More recently, Beyoncé shared a documentary titled Beyoncé Presents: Making the Gift about her recording and curating process for the Lion King project. She also dropped her new single “BLACK PARADE” on Juneteenth (June 19)—a day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Just before the film’s release, Beyoncé shared a new video for “Already” from Black Is King and released new songs—including an extended version of “Black Parade”—on a deluxe version of The Gift.
Last month, Beyoncé was honored at the 2020 BET Awards, where she received the annual Humanitarian Award for her philanthropic work. She also signed an open letter urging Senate leaders to pass legislation to protect the voting rights of every citizen, particularly of Black and Brown citizens. The letter was written by Beyoncé’s mother Tina Knowles-Lawson.
Read “Beyoncé’s HOMECOMING Film Is Her Latest Act of Meticulous Archiving” over on the Pitch.