Beyoncé is ever-growing and ever-maturing in her musical stylings. Not one to shy away from a challenge, she has provided the voice of lion queen, Nala, as well as curating an entire companion album for Disney’s CGI remake of The Lion King.
Bey importantly introduces African-influenced music - not to mention African artists - to an audience which some may not have previously been exposed to. ‘The Lion King: The Gift’ is a 27 track album where diasporic connections are made. Collaborations take place with artists from the US to Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa. Tracks like ‘Don’t Jealous Me’ and ‘Water’ have a heavy afrobeats influence.
The album also incorporates quotes from the film. For example, there is an interlude at the very beginning where Mufasa is speaking to his son, Simba (voiced by James Earl Jones). The opening track, ‘Bigger’, has uplifting lyrics (“if you feel insignificant/you’d better think again”). Beyonce raps on this track. She also raps on other tracks and manages to sneak in the lyrics “I’m keeping up my body count” onto a PG-rated album. Her singing voice is exemplary as always. Some of the notes she hits are astoundingly good.
She brings in personal elements to her music about “trying to be a good wife”. There is an argument to be made that this could easily have been a stand alone Beyoncé album rather than an accompaniment to a film, despite her saying, “This is sonic cinema”.
There are songs directly inspired by the film, such as ‘Find Your Way Back’ and ‘Otherside’ but they are lacklustre. On the other hand, it is important to remember that this project is an extension of her work as an artist so she has the right to express herself. Solo track ‘Find Your Way Back’ feels like it is more for younger fans but it is catchy.
There is no shortage of A-listers on this album. Kendrick Lamar features on ‘Nile’ while Jay-Z and Childish Gambino and Burna Boy also appear. However, Jay-Z’s rap is lukewarm, to say the least.
Conversely, rapper Tierra Whack absolutely kills it in M.I.A-esque, ‘My Power’. Her flow is mesmerising and the track is upbeat. ‘Brown Skin Girl’ is a touching anthem, celebrating the beauty of black women. Alongside ‘My Power’, it is one of the best songs on the record with inspirational lyrics (“Pretty like Lupita when the cameras close in”) and features Blue Ivy.
Not every track is as strong as ‘Brown Skin Girl’. ‘The Lion King: The Gift’ showcases what Beyoncé can do at her best and most creative, yet consistency is an issue with this eclectic album.
Ultimately, despite it's enormous profile this is definitely one for the fans.
- - -
- - -
Words: Narzra Ahmed
Join us on Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.