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Black Is King First Reviews: Queen Bey Drops A Masterpiece

Critics say Beyoncé's musical film is a timely, visually stunning feast for the senses that reaffirms her status as pop culture royalty.

by | July 31, 2020 | Comments

Barely one month after announcing the project, Beyoncé has dropped her latest visual album, titled Black Is King, on the streaming service Disney+. The surprise new release stems from her involvement with last year’s live-action reimagining of The Lion King and is a complimentary work to her 2019 record The Lion King: The Gift. The first reviews of the musical film, which wasn’t screened early for critics, are unanimously positive, recognizing its visual craftsmanship, timeliness, and how it progresses both its material and Beyoncé’s own career as an artist.

Here’s what critics are saying about Beyoncé’s Black Is King:


How does this project fit into Beyoncé’s artistic reign?

Beyoncé, the master of the visual album, just keeps getting better with each release.
– Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen, Sydney Morning Herald

The greatest success of Black Is King, with all its ambitions, purposeful revelations and nods by Beyoncé, may be the conformation of its creator and star as the cultural Queen of our time.
– Dominic Patten, Deadline

[It] is a particularly genius sleight of hand only she could pull off.
– Jude Dry, IndieWire

It’s a remarkable addition to the pop world and tribute to her artistry.
– Anne Brodie, What She Said

The product feels like a natural progression in her evolution as an artist… and truly, the outfits are just fabulous — possibly her best to date.
– Anna Menta, Decider

Black Is King doesn’t exactly stand with the best of her previous work — it’s a pleasure but not a landmark — but the Queen Bey goes through it with her head up and her crown intact.
– Steve Pond, The Wrap


Beyonce in Black Is King
(Photo by Disney+)

Is it only for Beyoncé fans?

With appearances from Jay-Z, Kelly Rowland, Pharrell and Naomi Campbell, this star-studded film has something for everyone.
Chanté Joseph, Guardian

The Queen Bey orchestrated visual album is… well, rather excellent and exciting on various fronts.
Dominic Patten, Deadline


How does it honor the legacy of The Lion King?

It bears little resemblance to the Disney film.
Anna Menta, Decider

Beyoncé, who lent her voice to Nala in said remake, is here to offer a corrective… a bold and unique offering that’s brimming with Black pride.
Amon Warmann, Empire Magazine

The Lion King always was and should have been an African-told story. And while Beyoncé’s lens is certainly an American one, her inclusion of Nigerian, Ghanaian, and Cameroonian collaborators drives home this necessity.
Jude Dry, IndieWire

The ties to The Lion King occasionally ground the story in that familiar coming-of-age story, but they just as often feel beside the point.
Steve Pond, The Wrap

Though some sections incorporating dialogue feel a little clunky, the parallel generally works well.
Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen, Sydney Morning Herald

If the public is tiring of Disney doggedly remaking all of its old animations in live action format, finally some original content is coming out of the project as well.
David Smyth, London Evening Standard


Beyonce in Black Is King
(Photo by Disney+)

What else is Black Is King reminiscent of?

Similar in stature and design to Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker film from 1988, Black Is King is clearly structured to be an event release in this time of essentially endless options.
Dominic Patten, Deadline

At times, it feels like Terence Malick’s Tree of Life meets Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther.
Jeremy Helligar, Variety


How are the visuals of this visual album?

Black Is King is a visual masterpiece. It’s almost overwhelming.
Anna Menta, Decider

If there is one thing to be said about Black Is King, it’s that it is visually stunning — from beginning to end. The whole thing.
Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

Each scene somehow more spectacular than its predecessor, Black Is King is a feast for the eyes.
Amon Warmann, Empire Magazine

It’s a sumptuous visual feast, from detailed costuming to choreography.
Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen, Sydney Morning Herald

Black Is King is a visual feast; it provides several slow-panning scenes of stillness where we absorb the striking beauty and duality of bright colors against deep brown tones.
Chanté Joseph, Guardian

This visual feast… finds its moments of glory in the strength of its images, which are more arresting than the story or the subtext.
Steve Pond, The Wrap


Black Is King
(Photo by Disney+)

Who else deserves recognition for the artistry on display?

Beyoncé’s fashion is next-level throughout Black Is King… Shout-out to costume designer Zerina Akers for making Bey look fierce, flawless and Afro-fabulous.
Chuck Arnold, New York Post

Every single outfit that Beyoncé wears is just absolutely beautiful.
Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

The real star of the visual film, however, is the raw, untapped talent from performers around the world showcasing their rich tradition and culture, history and lineage.
Cydney Henderson, USA Today


What’s the best musical number?

When supermodel Naomi Campbell, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, and Beyoncé’s fellow former Destiny’s Child Kelly Rowland pop up during “Brown Skin Girl,” a tribute to Black women, it feels transcendent.
Jeremy Helligar, Variety

“Brown Skin Girl” is especially moving, showing Beyoncé, Rowland and Blue Ivy together in a strong visual affirmation of generational black womanhood.
Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen, Sydney Morning Herald


Will Black Is King move you?

I’ll admit, I got emotional when Beyoncé and former Destiny Child’s member Kelly Rowland were singing praises to each other.
Anna Menta, Decider

It is impossible to watch the emotive story unfold, accompanied by Warsan Shire’s poetry, Yrsa Daley-Ward’s writing and warm images of west Africa, without feeling emotional.
Chanté Joseph, Guardian


Black Is King
(Photo by Disney+)

Are there any imperfections?

The uneven music of the original soundtrack, though enhanced by the visual accompaniment, can still be hit or miss.
Jeremy Helligar, Variety

There is one part that I would totally skip if I were to watch it again. The celestial stuff… For me, it felt a little weird and out of place.
Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

It’s mildly disappointing that more inspiration isn’t drawn from East Africa given that’s where The Lion King is set.
Amon Warmann, Empire Magazine


How important is Black Is King to young Black people in particular?

Black Is King, if nothing else, will perhaps inspire them to learn about the history of their race and the ways in which it has shaped the world.
Jeremy Helligar, Variety

There’s an urgency in the way that Beyoncé is addressing the “black kings,” as if she feels like she’s running out of time.
Anna Menta, Decider

Black Is King is both her gift and her hope for humanity.
Jude Dry, IndieWire


Beyonce in Black Is King
(Photo by Disney+)

Is this another masterpiece for our time?

Black Is King [is] vital to the current conversation in a way that no one could have foreseen, but is most welcome.
Amon Warmann, Empire Magazine

Her visual album has taken on new meaning following the reemergence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight against police brutality and racism.
Cydney Henderson, USA Today

With the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement this year, Black Is King is a timely, powerful declaration of pride.
Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen, Sydney Morning Herald

With this vivid celebration, she goes way beyond saying Black Lives Matter to showing the dazzling inspiration of her ancestry.
David Smyth, London Evening Standard

The film is being released at a time when Disney is coming to terms with some of its own racist past.
Steve Pond, The Wrap

What the world needs now is love, sweet, love, and this colorful reminder of the power and glory of Black, here in America but even more so in Africa.
Jeremy Helligar, Variety


Black Is King premieres on Disney+ on Friday, July 31.

#1

Black Is King (2020)
95%

#1
Adjusted Score: 96.97%
Critics Consensus: Beyoncé is King.
Synopsis: The voyages of Black families, throughout time, are honored in a tale about a young king's transcendent journey through betrayal,... [More]
Directed By: Beyoncé Knowles

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