Live albums are rarely as strong as their studio hits. Even the most talented artists struggle to replicate the polished and practiced tones easily manufactured in a controlled environment like a studio room. On “Homecoming: The Live Album,” Beyoncé manages to breaks this curse. With remixed instrumentals, powerful vocals, and the quintessential mixture of her most acclaimed hits, “Homecoming” is a live album that surpasses all expectations and pitfalls of its form.
One year after her iconic Coachella performance, Beyoncé dropped her live album, without advance notice, the same day her documentary “Homecoming” debuted on Netflix. The documentary follows Beyoncé’s historic headlining performance at Coachella in 2018, dubbed “Beychella.” The release of “Homecoming: The Live Album” functions as a 40[-]track compilation featuring hits like “Love On Top” and “Crazy in Love” from Beyonce’s live performance, as well as a few bonus tracks and instrumentals.
Beyoncé’s Coachella performance outshined past and present headliners, blending an adrenaline-inducing setlist accompanied by a dance routine paradigmatic of revolutionary proportion. Beyoncé is now cemented in history as the first black woman to headline the festival, and it remains the most viewed performance up to date and most watched live stream event of all time. This is a feat that Beyoncé took to heart as her performance paid tribute to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Beyoncé left a consequential and historically significant mark upon Coachella in a performance teeming with pride, culture, and a political commentary on divisive issues in America. The performance featured nods to historically Black Greek life organizations and Step teams. The title “Homecoming” itself is representative of the importance of homecoming events that are popular at many HBCUs — demonstrating the coming together of different communities.
This is Beyoncé’s second album release within a year, and while most of the songs are ones that audiences have heard before, they are augmented by dynamic drum lines and the indispensable message that celebrates HBCUs and their students.
The album includes instrumentation from the HBCU tribute marching band DRUMline Live. In various tracks Beyoncé adds in compelling and memorable statements commemorating black history. In an poignant rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” Beyoncé is unapologetic as she sings what is often referred to as the black national anthem. There is a second version of the same song on the album featuring her eldest daughter, Blue Ivy, singing.
In her track “Run The World (Girls),” Beyonce says, “Coachella, thank you for allowing me to be the first black woman to headline Coachella. This song is dedicated to all the incredible women that opened up the doors for me, thank you so much ladies.” The epochal track is concluded with a voiceover from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who is a well known Nigerian novelist speaking to the necessity of feminism: “We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls: ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you will threaten the man’” Adichie says. “We raise girls to see each other as competitors. Not for jobs or for accomplishments. But for the attention of men. Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”
Each track presents a fresh vibe, an added rhythmic beat, and step show skits that add personality to well-known tracks that fans can’t help but love. The energetic drumline further enhances the pulsing tempo already present on the album. Additionally, the album includes modified iterations of Beyoncé’s original versions. She changes the lyrics and only performs a select few at full-length, giving an air of capriciousness to the album. Beyoncé also manages to bring her personal life into the album in the form of guest artists. Her husband Jay-Z and daughter Blue Ivy both make appearances, while Beyoncé’s fellow Destiny’s Child members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams are featured performing their most notable hits “Say My Name,” “Lose My Breath,” and “Soldier.” J Balvin appears in Beyoncé’s rendition of “Mi Gente,” with Beyoncé acing the vocals and adjusting the ending lyrics to the original song.
“Top Off” is unfortunately short, not allowing the audience the revel in her comparably more outstand vocals. Other tracks on the album that deserve the spotlight are “Flawless / Feeling Myself,” “Run The World (Girls),” and “Formation.” The added brass and hypnotic drumline, in tandem with Beyoncé’s flawless execution of these songs and fresh take on lyrics, make these songs an essential addition to any summer playlist.
“Homecoming” is more than an album. It’s an empowering collection of songs and interludes that celebrate Beyoncé’s journey to Coachella, one that is filled with historical significance and a tenacious mindset, cementing Beyoncé’s place as one of the most influential artists of her time.