Beyoncé’s new album – Black Is King – reimagines the story of the movie The Lion King with human beings and is intended to “shift the global perception of the word black”, the artist has said.
Work on the album, which features lush music clips celebrating the search for identity and black beauty in contemporary and historical times, began a year ago.
Reviews for the album have ranged from the enthusiastic to the ecstatic. But its release on Friday followed a surge of worldwide protests about racial injustice prompted by the killing of black men and women at the hands of US police.
Variety called the album a “colourful reminder of the power and glory of black, here in America but even more so in Africa”.
Beyoncé’s collaboration with Shatta Wale and Major Lazer – “Already” – was released on Friday and has been dominating playlists all over again.
Stonebwoy, the Ashaiman king of dancehall, tweeted to congratulate his old sparring partner Shatta Wale on the success of the collaboration.
— 1GAD (@stonebwoyb) July 31, 2020
The #BlackIsKing hashtag was among the top three trending items on Twitter on Friday. “We’re grateful to Beyoncé for this celebration of the Black experience,” tweeted the black culture website Essence.com.
The Guardian described it as “Beyoncé’s love song to the black diaspora” and praised the involvement of African artists such as Yemi Alade, Lord Afrixana and Shatta Wale. The actress Lupita Nyong’o, the musician Pharrell Williams and the supermodel Naomi Campbell are among other celebrities making cameo appearances.
Beyoncé wrote in an Instagram post that the recent calls for social change had made the album even more relevant than she had hoped when she began working on it.
“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 said.
Black Is King is out now on the Disney+ streaming platform.