According to Entertainment Weekly, each night on Beyoncé's Formation tour, she closes the evening with one song and one song only: "Halo." On Tuesday, June 14, concertgoers witnessed a moving moment when Beyoncé sang a tribute to Orlando. The singer paused before starting the song in order to dedicate her performance to those who lost their lives at Pulse nightclub in the mass shooting that took place there on June 12. She told crowds that, “This next song is about love, and I’d like to dedicate it to all the family members of those who lost their lives in Florida.” Beyoncé isn't the first artist to honor the victims. Lady Gaga read the names of the victims in a speech, Adele teared up onstage while performing a tribute to the victims of the tragedy, and the Dixie Chicks played a set celebrating pride at Madison Square Gardens for example. However, Beyoncé's tribute felt... a little off.
In the past year, Beyoncé's not just grown as a musician; she's also become far more politicized than we've ever seen her before. She used her Superbowl halftime show to pay tribute to Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Her dancers even used their moment of publicity to get the press to focus on Mario Woods, who had been killed by San Francisco police.
And this wasn't just a blip on the radar. With Lemonade, Beyonce released her most political album to date, an album that news sites like CNN read as having a radically different theme than mainstream coverage suggested: "The theme of Lemonade isn't about a man, but black women's relationship with a patriarchal society." In a snippet of the album, we can hear Malcolm X intoning "The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman." So why didn't she bring this same passion and activism to this situation?
What makes her statement on this tragedy so strange is that, despite it being a massacre in which so many of the LGBT community lost their lives due to an act of homophobia, there's no hint of this in her tribute. Dedicating a song to the victims' families is warm and touching, but it's very safe. It feels more like a politician move than a Beyoncé Knowles circa 2016 move. It brings to mind gay British writer Owen Jones walking off a Sky News program on the Orlando massacre because the presenters were so resistant to acknowledging the massacre for what it was — one which targeted the LGBT community. When Owen Jones described the tragedy as "one of the worst atrocities committed against LGBT people in the western world for generations and it has to be called out as such," presenter Mark Longhurst replied saying that it was a crime carried out against “human beings” who were “ trying to enjoy themselves, whatever their sexuality," thus sweeping the politics of the hate crime under the rug.
But perhaps we should give Beyoncé the benefit of the doubt. In a time in which celebrity allies' voices are the ones heard most strongly, and not the voices of those from the community itself, it makes sense that Beyoncé wouldn't speak for too long on the subject. Perhaps she didn't want to take the spotlight off the people who should really be talking right now: the members of the LGBT community.
Still, if you're looking for a moving, musical (but not so political) tribute, you should check out the above.
Images: Dreamdefenders; jamilahking; Musicsrebellion/Twitter