Beyoncé’s “Formation”

Students examine the use of language in Beyoncé’s song “Formation.” Suggested sequence: the first time they watch the video, ask them to write down what the song is about, then compare notes with a partner. The second time they can read the lyrics, then again discuss what the song is about: how does Beyoncé use language to express herself? What is the message here?

This activity can be followed up by reading a New Yorker article about the making of the video: ” The Provocateur Behind Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Issa Rae” about the director of the video for “Formation,” Melina Matsoukas.

Short essay or Blackboard Discussion Board assignment: 1. Watch the video and listen to Beyonce’s song “Formation.” Read the New Yorker article titled “The Provocateur Behind Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Issa Rae: How the director Melina Matsoukas helps female artists reinvent themselves” by Alexis Okeowo. You can skim through the parts that don’t directly address the Matsoukas/ Beyonce team work, but do read the entire article as relevant information can be found in different parts of the piece. Next, discuss some of the following questions: what messages/ themes did Beyonce want to express through the song and video? Are those messages/ themes similar to your initial reaction to the song and video? how did Matsoukas help Beyonce convey those messages/ themes? Can you find any emotive language or rhetorical devices? Why do you think the song and video became controversial?