Beyoncé is back. No she hasn’t released any new music quite yet (save one feature that dropped last week), but she is back, and it’s clear that this is a new era for Queen Bey.
I’m one of the few people who has a Tidal subscription, so without having to make the trip to Philly and miss Welcome Week, I was lucky enough to watch Bey’s Made In America festival set from the comfort of my own bed. That’s when I realized it: This isn’t the same Beyoncé I saw last summer on the On The Run Tour. This isn’t the same Beyoncé who dropped a surprise album in December 2013. Yes, that Bey and this one are eerily similar, but this one has a few new tricks for her loyal fans.
For starters, anyone who has seen all of Beyoncé’s tours/DVDs knows that she keeps up fan favorites throughout her shows. She’s been daunting the same intro to “Get Me Bodied” for years now and same for her go-to finale “Halo.” But now, her set has clearly been revamped, so it begs the question: was MIA just a singular b-day show, or was it the mark of Beyoncé’s new realm of royalty?
Even throughout the first minute or two of her set, it’s clear that it is the ladder. Beyond new choreography, she chose to open with the sultry 2015 remix of “Crazy in Love” topped off with lip-biting and kiss blowing. She’s taken on the role of seductress. As she has gotten older, Bey has clearly become increasingly open with her sexuality (just ask Mike Huckabee). Beyoncé was the first album in which she got down and really dirty, and since then, she hasn’t let up much. “7-11” can be some filthy dance floor music in the right setting, and her appearance on “Feelin’ Myself” with Nicki Minaj isn’t something she would’ve been privy to long ago.
Nonetheless, her subtle transformations are more than her embracing of her sexuality. MIA is by far the most feminist context in which she has put herself. She boasts “FEMINIST” as proudly as she did on the VMAs in 2014, but now she goes even further. The French section in “Partition” is repeated in English during an interlude. “Do you like sex? Sex. I mean, the physical activity. Coitus. Do you like it? You’re not interested in sex? Men think that feminists hate sex, but it’s a very stimulating and natural activity that women love.” She also embraces fellow badass Ronda Rousey when she uses her “Do Nothing Bitch” quote as an intro to “Diva.” And even more intriguing is the new intro to “Grown Woman:” a reading of Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman.” A single dancer moves gracefully as the poem is read.
Not only has she embraced her womanhood, it seems that she also managed to pick up a few tricks of the rap game while on tour with Jay. Her covers are typically glossy and high-class, like Whitney Houston or Lauryn Hill, but this set was coverless. However, the guest spots during dance numbers where a special treat to the Philly crowd and will certainly be appreciated in whatever tour plans may arise. Not only did she go for her guest spot in “Feeling Myself,” but the unmistakable beat of “Truffle Butter” as well as “Trap Queen,” “Nasty Freestyle” and Lil Ronny MothaF’s “Circle” made sick cameos.
And finally, while the video of her new Naughty Boy-produced collab with Arrow Benjamin doesn’t quite resonate with all of this, her message is there. The power in her voice equates with the badass-ness of her new persona. The defiance of “If I lose myself, I lose it all” speaks to her commitment to herself and her commitment to genuinity.
After an extensive career, Bey has taken the best of the best, dropped the old and thrown some spice overtop to create the most captivating Beyoncé show ever. It seems that, at the ripe age of 34, Beyoncé Knowles has reached the age where she is going to do whatever she damn well pleases … and that makes for the best Beyoncé yet.