Black Is King is finally, finally out—and in case you have no idea what I'm talking about, it's only the highly anticipated and absolutely stunning visual album that Beyoncé just debuted on Disney+. The visual album (also being referred to as a film), which features Beyoncé's husband Jay-Z, children, and mother as well as a number of star cameos, was written, directed, and executive produced by the icon. It's 90 minutes long: During its impressive runtime, it depicts stylish music videos of songs from the The Lion King: The Gift album and goes through Simba's journey (based off of the recent Lion King remake, but with humans instead of animals). It also happens to be an absolute visual feast and a celebration, as early reviews explain: "Black Is King excels as a celebration of Blackness in its many forms: Black women, Black men, Black children, Black motherhood, Black fatherhood, Black pasts, Black presents, and Black futures." Reactions have already ranged from completely overawed to leaping on the sofa and cheering out loud. Here's what to know before you go watch.
This is how Black Is King reimagines 2019's The Lion's King.
In case you missed it, Beyoncé voiced Nala in the Lion King remake and also curated and contributed to the accompanying album. According to Disney+, Black Is King "reimagines the lessons of The Lion King for today's young kings and queens in search of their own crowns." An accompanying release explained it would elevate "the voyages of Black families, throughout time" and that the narrative would focus on "a young king’s transcendent journey through betrayal, love and self-identity. Black Is King is an affirmation of a grand purpose, with lush visuals that celebrate Black resilience and culture."
The timing of the release is apparently not a coincidence: It's also the one-year anniversary of the film's theatrical release. Special appearances included Naomi Campbell, Kelly Rowland, Wizkid, Pharrell Williams, and many, many more (including those who were featured artists on The Lion King: The Gift):
There are also, as fans are discovering, lots of Easter eggs, references, and allusions throughout the story. The filming was international—including New York, Los Angeles, South Africa, West Africa, London, and Belgium—and apparently included a ton of international talent as well.
Beyoncé spoke about what Black Is King represented to her.
In a long, highly personal post (which is unusual for the star), Beyoncé spoke about how Black Is King has been a "labor of love." "It was originally filmed as a companion piece to 'The Lion King: The Gift' soundtrack and meant to celebrate the breadth and beauty of Black ancestry. I could never have imagined that a year later, all the hard work that went into this production would serve a greater purpose," she went on.
"The events of 2020 have made the film’s vision and message even more relevant, as people across the world embark on a historic journey," she continued. "I believe that when Black people tell our own stories, we can shift the axis of the world and tell our REAL history of generational wealth and richness of soul that are not told in our history books."
Here's the full caption:
So, if you didn't stay up until 3 a.m. EST to watch the second it debuted, definitely go and take a look as soon as you can.