Black Is King review – Beyoncé’s love song to the black diaspora

The superstar’s Lion King-inspired visual album is a feast for the eyes, celebrating the beauty and richness of African cultures with emotion and power

Beyoncé’s second visual album after Lemonade is truly worth the wait. An accompaniment to her Lion King album The Gift, to describe Black Is King as just a visual album is an understatement – it is a film in and of itself. Black Is King is a global contemporary reimagining of the story of The Lion King across several countries and three continents, following a human Simba’s journey with Beyoncé as an ethereal narrator and guide. The film uses sound clips from The Lion King to assist with transitions that shape the story, and all of the protagonists from the film are recreated as real-life characters with more personality and substance. The hyenas are a devilish biker gang, and Mood 4 Eva depicts life with Timon and Pumba in a lavish mansion.

Fundamentally, Black Is King speaks to the beauty and richness of blackness without it seeming grotesquely wealthy or too contrived. The film offers varied production styles: sometimes minimal, with Beyoncé singing in vast open spaces on songs such as Bigger; other sequences are loud and colourful, with vibrant imagery and high energy dancers on My Power. Black Is King is a visual feast; it provides several slow-panning scenes of stillness where we absorb the striking beauty and duality of bright colours against deep brown tones. On Already, we see dancers celebrate under the red, black and green Pan-African flag designed by Marcus Garvey: a truly unapologetic statement of black unity in a time that feels like the world has forgotten us.

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