Beyoncé’s new single “Formation” calls for ladies to “get in formation” (’cause she slays). Ostensibly the line asks her dancers to get into one of the choreographed dance formations that appear in many of her videos. Against the backdrop of post-Katrina New Orleans and #BlackLivesMatter imagery, however, it’s not hard to see how the idea of formation takes on figurative meanings as well. Formation might signal a kind of aesthetic unification against the media regime catering to middle-class white tastes. Hot sauce, cornbread and collard greens pronounce Beyoncé’s roots in southern black culture even as her Givenchy dress and private helicopter unsettle class-based stereotypes associated with entrenched poverty. Queen B will have it all—her roots and her aspirations, a pop song and a political slogan.
When heard rather than read, the lyric “now let’s get in formation” could just as easily signify as “now let’s get information.” Plenty of
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