Beyoncé’s “Formation” video dropped on Saturday and has stirred up its fair share of extreme reactions.
On the positive side, you have the vast majority of the BeyHive losing their minds and giving themselves carpal tunnel while trying to tweet out a string of 140 bee and crown emojis. The Daily Show‘s Jessica Williams also chimed in with an excellent and upbeat response.
However, there was a decently-sized contingent of the public that took offense at Beyoncé’s use of Hurricane Katrina imagery and the video’s implied support of the Black Lives Matter movement. According to some of these voices – the loudest of which was former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani – “Formation” was intentionally divisive and anti-police.
This level of back-and-forth around a music video is nothing new and it’s telling that almost all artists who have suffered through this kind of backlash came out relatively unscathed (if not handsomely rewarded).
Nirvana courted controversy with their video for “Heart-Shaped Box.” The grunge gods’ music video featured Jesus Christ on the cross while a small child in a Ku Klux Klan robe looked on. Though it made certain viewers angry, the clip took home two MTV Video Music Awards that year.
The Prodigy ensured that their name would circulate forever by creating “Smack My B*tch Up,” a video that consistently gets ranked as one of the most controversial of all time. Even before the video’s twist-ending, viewers are treated to first-person view of violence, drug use, and vomiting.
While The Prodigy and Nirvana dealt in genres that are much more open to controversial visuals, that doesn’t mean Bey is the only pop queen to ever stick her neck out. The burning crosses and black Jesus of Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” video angered Evangelical Christians to no end. MTV viewers picked it as their favorite video that year.
What do you think? Will Beyoncé’s video be spoken of in the same breath as these controversial classics?