Beyoncé’s new Netflix special, Homecoming, is much more than an in-depth look at her historic Coachella performance — it’s a master class in black excellence.
From the moment the nearly two-and-a-half-hour film begins, the 37-year-old superstar takes viewers to school as she pays homage to the historically black colleges and universities that inspired her jubilant April 2018 headlining gig at the Indio, California, music festival.
The documentary intercuts footage from both weekends of Beychella, as it has become known, effortlessly switching from the entertainer’s now-iconic yellow and hot-pink hoodies. And yes, that means one second she’s wearing one color and moments later she’s wearing the other — all in the same song because magic (and the power of editing) is real.
Like a traditional concert film, Homecoming begins with music at the forefront, showcasing Beyoncé strutting to the main stage in a Nefertiti-inspired ensemble before performing “Crazy in Love,” “Freedom,” the black national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “Formation” on a larger-than-life, pyramid-shaped set of school bleachers. Once the audience is warmed up, the doc cuts to a rare behind-the-scenes look at the tireless eight months of music and dance rehearsals that formed the final show.
“I grew up in Houston, Texas,” Beyoncé says in a voiceover. “I always dreamed of going to an HBCU. My college was Destiny’s Child, my college was traveling around the world, and life was my teacher. I wanted a black orchestra, I wanted the steppers, I needed the vocalists, I needed different characters. I didn’t want us all doing the same thing.”
Later on, the Grammy winner puts it more bluntly: “When I decided to do Coachella, instead of me pulling out my flower crown, it was more important that I brought our culture.”
Homecoming dives into Beyoncé’s unexpected and difficult second pregnancy with her twins, Rumi and Sir, which forced her to postpone her Coachella appearance by a year. There are also never-before-seen home videos of Bey with her husband, Jay-Z, and their eldest daughter, Blue Ivy, at home and in various dance studios. (As it turns out, Blue, 7, is already shaping up to be a miniature version of her mom, following her every dance move during rehearsals and even breaking into song toward the movie’s end.)
Beyoncé narrates how she was 218 pounds the day she gave birth to her twins, marking one of the only times fans have heard the usually resilient performer lament about her private insecurities and vulnerabilities, none of which show once she steps on stage. She exudes utter confidence at Coachella, never missing a beat of her high-intensity choreography or sounding off-key. In an age where many of her counterparts lip-synch their live performances, Queen Bey does the complete opposite, putting in countless hours of painstaking work to craft the perfect show front to back for her dedicated legion of fans.
“I personally selected each dancer, every light, material on the steps, the height of the pyramid, the shape of the pyramid, every patch was hand-sewn, every tiny detail had an intention,” she explains in another voiceover.
Luckily, it all paid off. Beyoncé became the first-ever black woman to headline Coachella (“Ain’t that ‘bout a bitch?” she jokes to the crowd) — and she did it with loves ones by her side. While she can command the stage all on her own, Beyoncé shines when joined by Jay-Z, 49, for “Déjà Vu” and her sister, Solange. As for the moment when her Destiny’s Child groupmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams make a surprise appearance? Well, their chemistry is simply undeniable.
“That’s my best friends,” Beyoncé adorably gushes after the trio’s reunion, which features their hits “Lose My Breath,” “Say My Name” and “Soldier.”
Other highlights include Bey’s take-no-prisoners dance break to rapper O.T. Genasis’ “Everybody Mad” in the midst of “Diva” and a sing-along rendition of “Love on Top” as the encore. While the closing credits roll, Beyoncé delivers one final treat: a stunning cover of Frankie Beverly and Maze’s “Before I Let Go,” which also appears on the accompanying Homecoming live album.
Sure, most of the world already saw Beychella in bootleg livestream form, but Homecoming turns a pop culture moment into another grand spectacle in a way that only Beyoncé can.
Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé is now streaming on Netflix.