Beyoncé: The Lion King: The Gift review – Love Letter to Africa


Before touching down on what Beyoncé has called her “love letter to Africa, with
the likes of Burna Boy, Tekno, Yemi Alade, & Wizkid.

The Lion King roars into theaters today and Beyoncé’s new compilation album,
The Lion King: The Gift, is now streaming on all major music platforms. This
twenty-seven-track album features fourteen R&B and rap songs inspired by the
film, with thirteen interludes featuring dialogue from the film. Many of the songs
are Beyoncé solos, or at least feature her prominently on the song. Other artists
included are Jay-Z, Blue Ivy Carter, Childish Gambino, Pharrell Williams,
Kendrick Lamar, Tekno, Yemi Alade, Mr Eazi, Burni Boy, Salatiel, SAINt JHN,
Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Shatta Wale, Major Lazer, Nija, Tierra Whack, Moonchild
Sanelly, 070 Shake, and Jessie Reyez.

Beyoncé The Lion King The Gift review “Love Letter to Africa”

This album is released by Parkwood Entertainment, which is Beyoncé’s own company. The interludes serve the purpose of connecting the songs to the film. In most cases, if you didn’t know the songs were on an album celebrating The Lion King, you would have no way of knowing they’re from this album. Most of the Beyoncé tracks feature some level of African style or influence, including some raps or chants in Afrikaans or Swahili, but many
of them feel like an afterthought added in the mixing room later rather than an
integral part of the song. It’s certainly a celebration of the culture that is a key part
of The Lion King’s identity, but I think my expectations were too high for the level
of influence this would have on the album. It’s weird hearing references to things
like “Ramada Inn” on an album that carries The Lion King in its name. The songs
that are obviously inspired by the film include “Otherside,” a Beyoncé ballad that
is somehow even more spiritual than “Spirit,” which is the last track on the album.
“Otherside” features a beautiful floating piano melody and switches to Swahili
towards the end of the song. “Don’t Jealous Me” by Tekno, Yemi Alade & Mr
Eazi is one of only two tracks to reference animals including lions and monkeys
and also uses Swahili, which leads to the word “Simba” in the track. Burna Boy
provides the other track with an animal reference, hyenas in this case, on “JA
ARA E.” The only track named after a character is “SCAR” by 070 Shake and
Jessie Reyez, but his name is never mentioned in the song and it’s my pick for the
most shippable track on the album. Many of the themes in the rest of the songs are
common for the artists or the genre in general. For example, Beyoncé’s songs
reference motherhood, being a wife, and female empowerment, the latter certainly applies to her character of Nala. Other incongruous themes include celebrating big
egos and living larger than life on “MOOD 4 EVA” and partying on “WATER.”
My favorite track is “BROWN SKIN GIRL” by Beyoncé, SAINt JHN, and
Wizkid and featuring her daughter, Blue Ivy Carter. It has nothing to do with The
Lion King, but it’s a fun celebration of their skin tone and is a sweet, up-tempo bop
that includes her daughter. Queen Bey has a few other memorable tracks, including
the opening song “Bigger” and another early track, “Find Your Way Back.” If
you were expecting The Lion King: The Gift to be a fully realized tribute to the
film the way Rhythm of the Pride lands was, you’re sure to be disappointed. But if
you go into it expecting an African-influenced Beyoncé album with a lot of special
guests and occasional Lion King references, you’ll have a better experience and
come away from it feeling less cheated. The only real problem with the album is
the title, which denotes a different kind of listening experience than the one offered
Beyoncé has put these artists together and co-produced every track, giving the
dominant Afro beats sound a vast new level of exposure – an impressive feat in
itself. It’s an album, then, that ably displays her excellent taste, rather than a
great Beyoncé album per se.

Each track on the album has it story to tell and could be traced down to African
heritage; the Colombia Artist Beyoncé has proven that music is a general language
everybody speaks and understand despite tribe.

…Everybody is somebody even a nobody”
…Give me one reason why I shouldn’t rip you apart; I can give you more than
…Everything you see exist in dedicated balance
…You need to understand that balance and respect all the creation


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