Beyoncé Described Her New ‘Lion King’ Album As A “Love Letter To Africa”

by Jessica Wang
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Following the success of cultural phenomenons Lemonade and Homecoming, Queen Bey will grace fans with a curated album titled The Lion King: The Gift pegged to her upcoming live-action The Lion King, in theaters July 19. According to Beyoncé, The Lion King: The Gift album serves as a “love letter to Africa.” In a rare interview with Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts, set to air on Tuesday, July 16 at 8 p.m. EST on ABC, the “Formation” singer — who voices adult Nala in Jon Favreau’s remake — dished on the African influences that brought the album to life.

“This soundtrack is a love letter to Africa and I wanted to make sure we found the best talent from Africa, and not just use some of the sounds and did my interpretation of it,” she tells Roberts in a preview clip. "I wanted it to be authentic to what is beautiful about the music in Africa.”

With “incredible new sounds mixed with some of the producers from America,” the album is slated to debut on the same day as the film’s July 19 global release. Beyoncé first announced the release of her curated album on July 9, pegged to the release of The Lion King’s live-action album release. The film’s album features renderings of classics such as “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” in which Bey croons alongside co-stars Donald Glover (adult Simba), Billy Eichner (Timon), and Seth Rogen (Pumbaa). The film's soundtrack also features Beyoncé’s track “Spirit,” which will also appear on The Lion King: The Gift. Additionally, ABC will premiere the “Spirit” music video during the singer’s exclusive interview with Roberts.

On July 16, the Lemonade songstress unveiled the official The Lion King: The Gift track list on her website. To the sheer delight of many, Bey’s eldest daughter Blue Ivy Carter is credited on a track titled “Brown Skin Girl” alongside her mom, St. Jhn, and WizKid. The power this has! The clearance this has! Beyoncé’s curated album also includes collaborations with husband Jay-Z and co-star Glover, who’s credited in his rap moniker Childish Gambino. On her website and social media, Bey also unveiled The Lion King: The Gift’s album cover. In it, two gold lions are set against a black backdrop. She captioned the photo, “Learn more about this album and watch the premiere of the new music video for ‘Spirit’ airing tonight 8pm EST on ABC.”

The Lion King: The Gift is also executive produced by Beyoncé. In the Good Morning America clip, Beyoncé tells Roberts of the album: “We've kind of created our own genre and I feel like the soundtrack is the first soundtrack where it becomes visual in your in your mind. The soundscape is more than just the music because each song tells the story of the film."

Along with high-profile American collaborators such as Pharrell Williams and Kendrick Lamar, The Lion King: The Gift features collaborations with African artists Salatiel, Tekno, Yemi Alade, Busiswa, and more.

While the release of the album is highly-anticipated, mixed reactions also surfaced on Twitter. Several users pointed out the album’s lack of East African artists. “Not even one East African artist,” Twitter user @miss_mumbz wrote. “It wouldn’t have taken much for them to realize that this is a little weird considering the alleged setting of the film… East Africans have collaborated with most of the artists on that record, it wouldn’t have taken much to seek them out.”

Twitter user @wagatwe added, “The Lion King is my favorite movie but I am not that excited to watch or listen. Tired of East Africa used as a blank canvas for Western storytelling [while] its peoples remain invisible.”

The Lion King, as well as Beyoncé's curated album The Lion King: The Gift, debuts on July 19. If the album truly is a love letter to Africa, we're all ears.