Beyoncé, with that perfect Beyoncé sense of timing and confidence, saw that The Lion King was missing a key ingredient and provided it with the release of her addition to the soundtrack, “Spirit.” The video is, to no one’s surprise, a parade of stunning fashion and evocative imagery and choreography:
So much of Beyoncé’s video and stage work is heavily laden with symbols and allusions, the vast majority of which we wouldn’t even attempt to decipher. We’ll leave all of that to the Bey experts. We do, however, have a few thoughts about the broader meaning of the imagery here and how the fashion pieces help underline and illustrate it. But first, drink it all in:
Valentino Couture Gown
Tongoro Printed Suit
Norma Kamali Dress
Déviant La Vie Dress
Alexandrine Pearl Dress and Laurel DeWitt Cowry Shell Harness
Hyun Mie Nielsen Ivory Fringe Coat
Laurel DeWitt Blue Fringe Bodysuit
Beyoncé’s video work in recent years has consistently returned to the image of black bodies – her own, those of her family members, those of her dancers – in brightly or starkly colored high-fashion pieces placed in a setting that highlights the juxtaposition and the beauty of the bodies, whether we’re talking about a city street, an African vista or The Louvre. The boldness and brightness of the costumes sets off the the image of people of color in formation out in the world.
There’s a lot of blood imagery here, which we’ll get to in a second. Broad notes: lots of fringe and sweep to these costumes, which tend to be her preferences for these videos. They move of their own accord, dancing even when the wearer isn’t. Women’s bodies are defined by silhouette and shape, which is sometimes distorted or exaggerated. Men’s bodies are defined by skin exposure. Note how she plays with masculine and feminine tropes in the costumes, sporting a bright pink Barbie gown and showing a phalanx of shirtless male dancers in pink suits.
She has also consistently worked Venus/earth mother/fertility goddess undertones in her costumes and you can see that in everything here from the red underskirt of the Valentino, with its allusions to fertility and childbirth (underlined by the presence of Blue Ivy in a matching dress) to the neon yellow Norma Kamali dresses which turn Beyonce and her dancers into stylized goddess statues, to the bare feet in touch with the earth. You can see it in the hooded blue gown with its Virgin Mother allusions and the Deviant La Vie dress, which looks like rivulets of blood running down their legs. You can see it in the pearl gown and shell harness, which evokes a Venus-out-of-the-ocean image without the use of an ocean. It’s all about those visual juxtapositions utilizing ancient motifs and themes; a marriage of the modern with the very, very old; a throughline of history and blood connecting people.
And of course it’s all really, really fabulous.
Styled by Zerina Akers
[Stills: Tom and Lorenzo via Beyoncé/YouTube Video]
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