Black Is King (2020): Visual Album Review
Beyoncé shines, yet again.
When 21 Grammy winning artist and pop sensation Beyoncé announced that she would be playing the adult version of Nala in Disney's remake of their classic 1994 animated hit The Lion King, the world went crazy, the internet practically broke, and the hype was unreal. Unfortunately, when the remake actually came out, it was nothing special. In fact, it was one of the studio's most unnecessary and useless remakes ever, a CGI mess filled with no redeeming or unique qualities in any ways. While the film served as a major disappointment because of how amazing the original animated feature is, the 2019 remake also hurt because of all the potential wasted, especially in the film's use of Beyoncé, who was reduced to a role way too small for her talents. Fortunately, her newest visual album, Black Is King, makes up for the 2019 flop. Fresh with tracks from last year's companion album to the remake, jaw dropping visuals, and her stage presence in the center of nearly every frame, there aren't many times when the visual album doesn't knock it out of the park.
Black Is King is simple enough to explain - all it is is an 85 minute run-through of Beyoncé's companion album to the 2019 film remake, The Lion King: The Gift, a pretty great album that didn't get too much coverage given the extraordinary amount of press tied to the piece of content it was connected to. Filled with aerodynamic and vibrant tunes like "Brown Skin Girl" (featuring SAINt JHN, WizKid, and Beyoncé's daughter Blue Ivy) and "Find Your Way Back", the album is consistently fresh, dynamic, and a really worthwhile listening experience. The visual album puts these songs, as well as the rest of the album, back in the spotlight; using spectacular visuals, a great cast, and a high production value to give The Gift the celebration it deserves.
You can't even begin to talk about the visual album without mentioning the stunning and breathtaking visuals present in practically all 85 minutes of Black Is King. Each shot feels like an art piece in itself, a frame that should be hung up in the Louvre. Furthermore, the visual album is both Beyoncé and the cast at the top of their games. Everything is done perfectly, and it's honestly hard to imagine how much time went into making every shot and move as visually satisfying as they end up playing.
Similar to the album that it is based off of, Black Is King also draws a connection to the Lion King remake. Various monologues from the film are present in the visual album as voice-overs, often connecting into the story happening onscreen. While it sometimes feels nice to draw a connection to the film in such a direct way, the visual album doesn't really need these connections, and works much better when it operates as its own entity rather than a companion piece to the 2019 film. The visual album is so stunning, powerful, and amazing on its own that it doesn't necessarily need to be tied to anything to thrive and make an impact, simple as that.
Perhaps the most effective part of Black Is King is that it is always lively and bursting with energy. There's always something happening onscreen that keeps viewers glued to what's going on, quite similar to Beyoncé's live concert film Homecoming that premiered on Netflix last year and ironically the opposite of Disney's Lion King remake. Moreover, the visual album knows exactly what it wants to be, and how it wants to relay its message in the most powerful and affecting way possible. Black Is King is a celebration of Black pride, art, and the beauty of culture and life itself. This is Beyoncé in control yet again, exercising her power and influence as a singer, performer, and artist in the greatest way possible - and it is truly spectacular. But by now, were we really expecting anything less?
Black Is King is streaming now exclusively on Disney+. The visual album is 85 minutes long.