Get ready to relive Beychella in all of its electrifying glory.
That means it’s been 367 days since popular culture was changed forever by the invigorating, empowering performance by Beyoncé, the first black woman to headline Coachella. Dubbed Beychella, her set comprised 26 songs over two hours, with Beyoncé ringed in by 100 backup dancers as she whirled through five costume changes and sampled 18 tracks from other black artists. It was a joyful, triumphant ode to black excellence and confirmation – as if it was ever needed – of Beyoncé’s icon status.
As Beyoncé sings on Formation: “I came to slay, bitch.”
It’s been 367 days since Beyoncé stormed that Coachella stage. And as the memory of her unforgettable 2018 performance looms large over the dusty ticketholders at this year’s festival, Beyoncé quietly dropped a two-hour Netflix documentary called Homecoming that follows the journey involved in crafting that historic concert.
Along with starring in the documentary, Beyoncé directed, wrote and produced the film, too. In it, footage of Beyoncé on the Coachella stage is spliced with behind-the-scenes snippets of the singer during her eight-month long gruelling, sweaty rehearsals. (Four months with her band, four months with her dancers.) The film provides a window into Beychella’s many and varied influences, from black college marching bands to black artists like Nina Simone and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to the black national anthem Lift Every Voice and Sing.
As Beyoncé herself explains in the documentary: “When I decided to do Coachella, instead of me bringing out my flower crown, it was more important to me that I bought our culture to Coachella.”
She continued: “It was important to me that everyone that had never seen themselves represented felt like they were on that stage with us.”
Have you been to a Beyoncé concert before? Then you’ll know, intimately, that vibrating energy that you get merely by being in the same room as this woman. It’s electric, an experience that can barely be contained by the definition ‘religious’.
That’s what Beyoncé has captured in Homecoming. Not only because it’s a chance to relive Beychella from the exact camera angles that Beyoncé wants you to relive it through. But because the singer ushers us into her exacting world as she prepares for the performance of a lifetime.
In it, we see Beyoncé in the minutes after giving birth to her twins Rumi and Sir, a “surprise pregnancy” that led to an emergency caesarean. When Beyoncé returns to the rehearsal room for the first time after giving birth, she looks visibly shaken.
“[Coachella will be my] first time back on the stage after giving birth,” Beyoncé says in voice over from those first moments preparing the dance routines. “I’m creating my own homecoming. It was hard. There were days that I thought, you know, that I would never be the same. That my strength and endurance would never be the same.”
That was more than 100 days out from Coachella. Back then, Beyoncé was struggling with hitting the mark in each of the impeccably choreographed dance routines, and it is to the singer’s credit that she shows footage of herself failing, a word no one ever associates with Beyoncé.
“A lot of the choreography is about feeling. It’s your own personality that brings it to life,” Beyoncé explains. “That’s hard when you don’t feel like yourself. It took me a while to feel confident enough to freak it.”
By the time she reaches the months and weeks before Coachella, Beyoncé’s confidence had returned. She says, in voice over, that she personally chose every dancer, that she decided on the stage and lighting design, the materials used in the sets, the colours of the costumes, every single patch that appeared on every single outfit.
At one point in the documentary, Beyoncé recounts the strain of pulling off her audacious Beychella set. “I definitely pushed myself further than I knew I could,” she says. “I will never, never push myself that far again.”
We all know that Beyoncé is going to do nothing of the sort. The truly thrilling thing about her is that the next Beychella or the next Lemonade is always around the corner. And until then? We’ll always have Homecoming.
Homecoming streams on Netflix now.