By Marina Souliman
Music not only has the power to move the public but also to tranquilize them. When coupled with political rhetoric, it can of bring about change as well as anger.
Recently, some artists have been providing political rhetoric with their musical performances: bringing about both cries of support and anger.
On February 1, Beyoncé received criticism for her performance of her new song “Formation” at the Super Bowl halftime show. While there are people who criticized her provactive costumes, many more people were talking about her political message which seemed to be anti-police.
In her Super Bowl performance, her backup dancers wore black berets and leather suits, a homage to the Black Panthers.
The organization was established in the 1960’ s and fought to establish the notion of militant self-defense against government discrimination as well as building community programs to help the African American communities in poverty. Their anti-police and revolutionary rhetoric led to their status as a terrorist organization and their closure by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
“I think it was outrageous…. This is football, not Hollywood, and I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive… to keep us safe,” New York mayor Rudy Giuliani said to Fox News.
Police unions are protesting against Beyoncé’s upcoming Formation World Tour. Tensions are rising in Miami, Florida, the first stop of her World Tour, since the Miami Fraternal Order of Police urged a boycott of her show.
However, many others reacted differently, supporting Beyoncé’s performance.
“There’s definitely an evolution going on with Beyoncé. It shows you how smart she is. She’s tapping into the same consumer culture that she’s always tapped into but she’s doing it with some political overtones,” Bakari Kitwana, the CEO of Rap Sessions, said to Cable News Network (CNN).
Another performance that raised eyebrows from the media was Kendrick Lamar’s performance of “The Blacker the Berry” and “Alright” at this year’s Grammy Awards. Shackled to his microphone, Lamar rapped about the imprisonment and slavery African Americans faced.
Furthermore, he was surrounded by dancers shackled by chains and the band was imprisoned behind bars, supporting his political message against mass black incarceration. Lamar makes an allusion to February 26 which marks the death of Trayvon Martin, an event that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement.
Music and political rhetoric has always mixed but never on this scale of influence.
Both Beyoncé and Lamar are using their music as a way to show their solidarity with their community, but are being shut down by media and critics who cannot see the world from their perspective.
The emergence of these types of songs marks a revolution in music as artists take their stride into the political world.