Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Now Let's Get in Formation

Beyoncé has been on the forefront of the music industry for the majority of her life, beginning at the age of 16. She has always been considered a creative in the traditional sense, pushing music to its boundaries and forcing Pop to try new things: the face of a new era. Instead of worrying about her license or curfew, she was worrying about how well-received her band’s new single would be when it came out on the Men in Black soundtrack.

Needless to say, she has had it different from the rest of us.

However, the public has struggled with how to handle Beyoncé’s success and attitude. She uses her fame and fortune to express her thoughts on feminism, racism, and other social justice issues. Even just a year and a half ago, she donated $7 million to build a homeless shelter for her hometown, providing food, AIDS screening, and several support systems to help the residents get employed. Her talent and her creativity are all rolled-up into a lovely political-pop-icon package. 

Her newest release has taken the internet by a storm. She has been known to drop her new songs, and even an entire album, without any press knowledge or heads-up. She did this again, just a day before her Superbowl L performance. It was not just any video filled with Beyoncé’s typical musical and kinesthetic talent. It was a firm political statement, and what seems to be Beyoncé claiming her roots in Southern African American culture. Many seemed to have forgotten that she is, indeed, African American, and that she has on many occasions discussed her dismay at the racial and gender inequality in America. Her song was filled with references to the recent protests and sensitive political state around the country, particularly in the south. She had references to police violence like a sign that says “Stop shooting us,” and the video ends with her sinking a cop car. 

Her choices were definitively saying one thing: I have something to say, and it’s not just in my lyrics. “Formation” is being seen as a call to action for those who are fighting inequality. It is undoubtedly creative, as it is a cross-disciplined discussion of real issues being brought to the public through media. According to Csikszentmihaly’s theory on creativity, there are three nodes that need to be considered: the individual talent, the domain of the creation, and the field that places judgement and decides success. Beyoncé’s new video uses those three elements as a proxy for her true creation of her political statement. She is utilizing her “field” of the public to get as many as possible to hear her statement. She is putting it in a “domain” that everyone can understand, and she is doing it with talent that allows for the success of her single. Her ability to use her own established creativity as a platform for what she would next like to get to the public is an amazing feat. She bends what is considered acceptable, and uses her normalized and celebrated talent to try to make her radical views more accessible and easier to swallow.

Another aspect of creative theory, this portion stated by Gardner, is personality traits common in creative individuals. Beyoncé has easily been deemed creative by the public, for almost 20 years now. Gardner says those that are more creative seem more likely to possess “independence, self-confidence, unconventionality...ambition, and commitment to work.” In “Formation” Beyoncé directly exhibits almost a direct parallel of those personality traits. Her lyrics state “I see it, I want it...I dream it, I work hard, I grind 'til I own it” showing her commitment, closely followed by expression of her self-confidence with “I go hard, Get what’s mine, I’m a star.” 

She not only possesses the personality traits of a classically creative individual, but works them directly into her creation. She most recently described her process by saying "art is the unapologetic celebration of culture through self-expression."

People are either raging or raving over her newest form of self-expression. There are anti-Beyoncé protests being organized throughout the U.S., but many other artists and celebrities are coming out in support of her work. Her creativity is not only producing music and videos, but also a line drawn through the country dividing those who fight for rights, and those who are offended by the idea of equality. Songs rarely make people feel such intense emotions that they inspire protests, but this song is so unique it inspires protests both for its message and against the messenger. Her music and political stance are creating change, the basest form of creativity, and her hopes of unity and equality can be achieved in America if everyone works together and gets in "Formation."

Finally, it is truly just a wonderful song, accompanied by moving and original choreography. Definitely a creative landmark in music this year.

**Disclaimer: choice language in following video**


  1. We discussed this song/video at length in my queer theory class the week after it came out - the level of detail in how it gives its political message is unreal. What I think is especially interesting is that, while a lot of black music that addresses race (especially music released since Ferguson) has focused on the challenges their community faces as a result of white supremacy, Formation is mostly made up of images and lyrics meant to uplift black people and bring them together as a community. I could even argue that Beyoncé and her team are demonstrating "big C" creativity in how they chose to address politics in Formation because of it. Definitely one of my new favorite videos, at any rate!

  2. This article is so well-written! I like how you show that Beyonce demonstrates the features of creative individuals Gardner mentions, and explain the domain and field. It is a great song and video, and you made awesome connections to class!

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  4. Kaeleen, I think you are as fabulous as Beyoncé. This post was clear, concise, and educational, but also demonstrated a firm opinion on the subject. You not only argued what creativity is, but also how it can applied to bigger world issues. There is so much drama and gossip surrounding celebrities, but you put this "controversy" in a well-formatted frame.


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