Beyoncé’s newest album The Lion King: The Gift is a love letter to Africa that draws pride to a nation, opens up recognition for some and spreads joy for all.
The album is inspired by the original Disney’s 1994 film The Lion King cartoon and the 2019 photorealistic computer-animated remake with Beyoncé herself in the movie playing the adult Nala. Hence the name in the album title.
The most recognizable thing about this album is the representation of Africa’s music and dance. I have to really condone Beyoncé on giving her audience a clear understanding of how this culture celebrates happiness, life and why it is important. This is done with beats and music videos that show specific instruments and dances.
Beyoncé produced and curated the album and included appearances from Jay-Z, Childish Gambino, Pharrell Williams, Kendrick Lamar, Tierra Whack, 070 Shake, Blue Ivy Carter and Jessie Reyez, as well as African artists such as Wizkid, Shatta Wale, Burna Boy, Mr Eazi, Tiwa Savage, Tekno, Yemi Alade, Busiswa and Salatiel.
Majority of the album is from African influencers to symbolize Africa as a whole so that the people have a form of art they can really relate too culturally. This does not mean that the albums whole purpose was just to relate to a culture. That is part of the purpose, but other things like representation, proudness and cultural understand also add to the truest meaning.
Beyoncé’s songs on this track were based off either scenes or characters in the movie. She illustrates this with small interludes before most of her songs. In Making the Gift, a 40 minute behind the scenes video, Beyoncé explains that she wants to put people in movie scenes with her music. This is probably why interludes stand.
Although I can understand and appreciate the line of reasoning, I felt that leaving out the small skits before the songs would have made for a much more appreciated piece. There is some thought that Beyoncé could have been under contract and force to keep them in her album, but I still felt they were very interrupting to what the music offered.
I will add that when I first did a full run through the album, I was thinking very critically of those small interludes. So much to the point where I was guided away from the songs recorded. Although I wasn’t too impressed at first, doing research and finding defining details that made me relisten to specific songs made the whole experience so much more promising.
One major goal for The Gift was for it to have his unique sound and anything unlike what is currently in Billboard’s Top 100. Beyoncé mixed Africa with today’s hip hop, pop and R&B music and created this shared space of a possible trend in music down the road.
The best part of everything though would have to be watching Beyoncé bring a youtuber to tears on her first song in The Gift. With the short amount of time she had, Beyoncé transformed how society looks at African music. To listen to the album for yourself, click here.