Beyoncé Takes ‘Freedom’ To Another Level of Free

Beyoncé loves doing things spontaneously.

Out of nowhere like a deer darting across the street, she drops Lemonade, her sixth studio album. While exclusive to Tidal (which she co-owns because, you know, she’s married to Jay Z and all, and Jay owns the music streaming service) for a while, it eventually saw a release to all other music platforms. Accompanying this record was a “visual experience” of the same name, a collection of videos that gave shape and definition to the intense and rather scathing lyrics she bellowed across the approximate 45-minute long LP. This “visual experience,” a 60-minute long affair, saw the former Destiny’s Child performer battling demons, singing in busses, drowning underwater (not literally, of course), and—my favorite—beautifully smashing cars and windows while looking absolutely flawless. Beyoncé dropped Lemonade out of nowhere, with little to no promotion—save for The Formation Tour—a couple of singles, and a music video or two. (Still, out of nowhere.) Well, she’s back again. This time with a spontaneous performance at the 2016 BET Awards with Compton rapper, Kendrick Lamar, where they performed her empowering song “Freedom.” And goodness, was it powerful.

The song itself, a message to break free from societal chains, is loud, bombastic, and explosive. The crescendos—and there are several—are punchy and aggressive, a plea to “get the hell away from me!” With very few pauses and subtle build ups, Beyoncé uses her impressive range to command the attention of the listener, with pounding drums, percussion, back-up vocals, and discordant crashes. This is an anthem, an anthem that fuels revolutions. (And it’s very fitting, considering the recent events.) Now, imagine how this absorbing, reverberating track translates to live performance.

“I’m telling these tears, ‘Go and fall away, fall away’

“May the last one burn into flames.”

In case you missed it, the 2016 BET Awards happened last night. Filmed in the Microsoft theatre in Los Angeles, the BET Awards celebrates entertainers—musicians, producers, actors, etc.—of Black and other minority groups. In addition to presenting awards for such accolades like “Best New Artist” and “Video of the Year,” the BET Awards also puts on impressive, incredible, and overwhelming performances. This year, Beyoncé (with the help of a plethora of back-up performers) opened the awards ceremony with “Freedom,” the impressive “break free” anthem.

Beyoncé, scantily clad in black lace, struts across the water-filled stage. Her backup dancers, primarily comprised of Black women, stomp in and kick up the water around her as she sings. Walking to and fro one end to the other of the stage, Beyoncé is in complete control, demanding to “Cut Me Loose.” Approximately three and a half minutes into the almost seven minute performance, Beyoncé stops singing to stomp in solidarity with her performers, reminiscent of tribal dancings of African tribes. Not too long into the stomping and stepping and the roaring, Kendrick arises from the stage (a la Michael Jackson) to do his frantic, scatter-brained feature. Fidgety and erratic, Kendrick emotively and tensely raps. He flips the mic stand over (and shorts his mic for a quick moment) with enthusiasm, and joins Beyoncé on the water-filled portion of the stage. Together they weave, kick, and stomp with thunderous momentum. Truly a spectacle. It concludes with an uproarious applause, as both Beyoncé and Kendrick hug and stare off into the crowd.

“Channel 9 news tell me I’m movin’ backwards

“Eight blocks left, death is around the corner.”

You can watch the performance here, or (since you’re already here) below.

[Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP Images]