Ready to feel empowered? Well hold up, because this post is all about Beyoncé, and our take on her influential performances at this year's BET Awards and the MTV Video Music Awards, which we encourage you to click on above and watch now! These performances are iconic, and we'll examine the details that make her acts so impressive, down to the fashion, lighting, and actual onstage water.
Bey’s surprise appearance at the BET Awards opens the show with her emotionally and politically charged song, “Freedom." Lines from MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech play in the beginning as many backup dancers parade on stage in chains and tribal face and body paint, alluding to slaves in shackles traveling on the oceans from Africa to establish America’s slave trade. At the center stage is Beyoncé, standing in a body of water along with the dancers, kicking and splashing, creating a rainstorm. As the performance progresses, you can feel Bey’s anger increasing, and eventually fire flares across the stage, ramping up her emotional message that institutional racism is still part of our landscape.
At the VMAS, Beyonce’s set is focused on her most recent album, “Lemonade,” and deals with her more personal and intimate marital situation. It is a very bold move to create an album all about her personal struggle, for the world to witness. Here, the lighting is used practically and artistically. Blinding at times, the lights are used to disguise a costume change, as well as to underscore her anger and humiliation. She seems to speak to all women who have encountered sexism, who have been treated unfairly because of their gender. Beyoncé’s hairstyle is carefully planned to maximize her movement, swaying as she dances, the blonde, wild-looking long locks adding to her anguish. The most impressive visual is the acrobatic feat during “Formation,” as dancers on the ground form the shape of the female gender symbol. Although this is a huge production number, she is baring her soul in a very intimate way, and ultimately, the effect is an uplifting and deeply affecting performance.