Early Wednesday morning, Netflix began streaming “Homecoming,” a 137-minute documentary and concert film detailing Beyoncé’s headlining set at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2018.
Her elaborate performance — complete with 64 credited musicians, a phalanx of dancers and pyrotechnics both real and figurative — was an instant sensation when she unveiled it in the desert, and it streamed live online, last April.
Beyoncé’s show brought more than a century of black musical traditions to America’s biggest music festival, with quotations and techniques joining her hits with Houston’s slowed-down screw music, Washington, D.C.’s percussive go-go rhythms, New Orleans’ brass bands and bounce artists, the Nigerian Afrobeat of Fela Kuti, the Jamaican dancehall of Sister Nancy, the Atlanta crunk of Pastor Troy, and even a moment for “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the early 1900s hymn long called the black national anthem.
“Homecoming” includes brief vignettes exploring the months-long run-up to the most celebrated concert of the internet age. Here’s what we learned.
The show’s theme of homecoming at historically black colleges and universities (known as HBCUs) was inspired by personal experience.
Though Beyoncé did not attend college, the Houston native explained that she would visit Prairie View A&M University, rehearse at Texas Southern University and “always dreamed of going to an HBCU.” Her father, Mathew Knowles, went to Fisk University in Nashville. “I wanted it to feel the way I felt when I went to (the HBCU marching band showcase) Battle of the Bands,” Beyoncé explains of the Coachella set, “because I grew up seeing those shows and that being the highlight of my year.”
Her difficult 2017 pregnancy was more harrowing than we knew.
Though Beyoncé has talked about battling pre-eclampsia while pregnant with twins Rumi and Sir Carter, she reveals that one of the babies’ heartbeats “paused a few times,” necessitating an emergency C-section.
Balancing being a mother and a superstar was not easy.
Beyoncé has said she was 218 pounds the day she gave birth to her twins in the summer of 2017. In the documentary, she details a pre-Coachella diet that cut out bread, carbs, sugar, dairy, meat and alcohol — she lets out an exhausted sigh and adds that she’s hungry.
“There were days that I thought, you know, I’d never be the same. I’d never be the same physically, my strength and endurance would never be the same,” she says. “In the beginning it was so many muscle spasms. Just, internally, my body was not connected. My mind was not there. My mind wanted to be with my children. What people don’t see is the sacrifice. I would dance, and go off to the trailer, and breast-feed the babies, and the days I could, I would bring the children.”
If you couldn’t have guessed, this is Beyoncé’s show.
“I personally selected each dancer, every light, the material on the steps, the height of the pyramid, the shape of the pyramid,” she says in the film. “Every tiny detail had an intention.” (This is also what her Coachella choreographers told us.)
There’s more music beyond the massive performance.
Inside the doc, Beyoncé’s daughter Blue Ivy Carter, 5 or 6 at the time, provides an a cappella version of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Also, in one more nod to the rich musical history explored in “Homecoming,” the end credits feature a new Beyoncé cover of “Before I Let Go,” the 1981 R&B hit by Maze featuring Frankie Beverly. And when the film was released early Wednesday morning, it came with a surprise: a live album capturing the festival set.
New York Times