The critics wasted no time condemning Beyoncé's "Formation" Super Bowl routine for its overarching symbolism that included Black Panther-styled costuming, dancers in a (somehow threatening) "X" formation and afros all around. The accompanying video goes a step further with lyrics and imagery referencing Hurricane Katrina, the Black Lives Matter movement and the ongoing problem of police brutality.
Not absent from the hating on Bey's half-time performance was former New York City Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, who went so far as to call it an "attack" on police.
"This is Football, not Hollywood," Giuliani said on Fox and Friends, suggesting Beyoncé misused her Super Bowl platform by making a political statement.
Yes, Rudy, because Hollywood has done such an outstanding job waving the flag for disenfranchised black folks.
Maybe he'd be more comfortable if Beyoncé kept going on about "partitions," "XO's" and "surfboards?" And what about the rest of us? Do we ignore police corruption, or pretend we don't notice our criminal justice system has failed us? Do we make believe our communities are okay, that everyone is being treated with dignity and judged by the content of their character? Yes, let's keep everyone comfortable and stay quiet.
That the former mayor of NYC -- and so many others -- were talking about B's performance the day after it happened was confirmation that she executed her mission. I wish more artists would follow suit, be brave, and use their platform.
With few, welcomed exceptions, popular artists are cookie-cutter. They're beholden to their labels, afraid to rock the boat and deal with backlash, poor record sales or worse. They hide behind Auto-Tune, fancy production and costumes. They don't say much.
They should be applauded when they do.
What Beyoncé accomplished with "Formation" is rare in this era for an artist who is considered so mainstream: she unapologetically spoke to the times. She showed us she's not so "Queen B" that she's lost touch. Some of the lyrics are laughable (because they're meant to be), but the track is an overall rallying cry with a video that celebrates black beauty and the assertion of power. That some are uncomfortable with the message has nothing to do with Beyoncé. She expressed herself. As an artist and a citizen, she did her job.
When we think of great artists who have impacted our culture, we see the common thread of those who are strongly convicted and aware of the world around them. They don't live in a bubble. They say what we wish we could if we weren't afraid. They speak to our hopes, fears and everything in between.
Shouldn't art make us think, or shift in our seats because we're uncomfortable? Shouldn't artistic expression get us talking? Shouldn't it be raw, gritty, and totally controversial?
If more artists stepped up and used their influence -- if more people were brave enough to speak their truth -- the world would change. The bigger the platform, the better. The Super Bowl, The Grammys, The Oscars, Twitter, Instagram - there's no wrong time to speak on injustice.
Bravo, Beyoncé! I'm in Formation.