Way back in 2007, the mononymous star known as Beyoncé was calling herself “a legend in the making.” In the years since, she’s proven herself to be just that. With each album and series of concerts, she has arguably become the world’s biggest—and best—entertainer.
Last April, she raised the bar again by headlining the Coachella festival. The first night’s performance was live-streamed on YouTube and watched by 458,000 people, making it the most-viewed Coachella show ever. Almost a year to the day, Beyoncé released Homecoming, a Netflix documentary about the concert, plus behind-the-scenes moments showing how it all came together. The Washington Post called Homecoming “one of the greatest concert films ever made,” and for good reason. Here’s everything you need to know about Queen Bey’s latest project.
Why is it called Homecoming?
In the documentary, Beyoncé explains that she had dreamed of attending an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities—post-secondary institutions that were created in the U.S. when segregation banned Black students from enrolling in existing schools). Since she missed out on the official experience (“My college was Destiny’s Child,” she says), Bey and her team created their own college homecoming celebration fashioned with the themes of HBCU life. But the title could also relate to her return to the stage (her “home”) in her first performance after the birth of her twins.
What sets it apart from the average stadium concert?
With Coachella being a two-weekend festival, Beyoncé takes to the stage twice for near-identical shows. She makes five costume changes each night, with custom designs by Balmain. She’s joined by a team of 200 people, including her live band and dancers—and special guests like husband Jay Z, sister Solange, and former Destiny’s Child groupmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. The elaborate production is a dramatic change from the more typically loose and spontaneous open-air music festival vibe.
How long did it take Beyoncé to prepare?
Leading up to Coachella, Beyoncé rehearsed for four months with her band, followed by another four months with her dancers. She followed a super-strict diet (no bread, carbs, sugar, dairy, meat, fish or alcohol) and jumped into complex choreography rehearsals. Beyond the determination that got her body into concert-ready shape, Homecoming gives us an intimate peek at the work ethic that brought the show together. In the doc, we see Bey explain her specific intention behind every single element of the show, from the Egyptian mythology-meets-college marching band costumes to the height and shape of the pyramid set (it continues the Egyptian theme and ensures that everyone in the audience has a good vantage point), and more.
How the show made history
Beyoncé was the first African-American woman to headline Coachella, and she ensured that the stage would include people who’ve largely been left out of similar spaces. “It was important to me that everyone that had never seen themselves represented felt like they were on that stage with us,” she says. “We were able to create a free, safe space where none of us felt marginalized.” Homecoming emphasized the beauty and pride in the Black experience, with its HBCU and Divine Nine theme, and the inclusion of Malcolm X quotes, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (what’s often called the U.S. Black National Anthem), and a diasporic segment including music and dance with reggaeton, dancehall and West African influences.
She gives us an intimate look at her challenges as a new mother
Bey has previously shared the struggles that she experienced during and after her pregnancy with twins Rumi and Sir, but she opens up even more in Homecoming. She reveals that she underwent an emergency C-section, and talks about the challenges of parenting while preparing for Coachella. “In the beginning, there were so many muscle spasms and just internally, my body was not connected,” she explains in the film. “My mind was not there. My mind wanted to be with my children. What people don’t see is the sacrifice.”
She gives us one last bonus present
At the very end of the doc (and on the Homecoming Live album released after the documentary premiered), Beyoncé shares a new recording—her remake of the classic Frankie Beverly and Maze song “Before I Let Go,” complete with a New Orleans bounce beat and an interpolation of another classic, “Candy” by Cameo. Bey has been sharing videos of fans dancing to the song in her IG stories with the hashtag #BeforeILetGoChallenge, so go get familiar—you’ll be hearing it at all the BBQs this summer.