A month after its release and Beyoncé’s, “The Lion King: The Gift” is a refreshing soundtrack of many people’s lives. Empowering, mesmerizing and chilling are just some of the words to describe this creative body of art. Under Queen Bey’s flawless production, The Lion King: The Gift is as an ode to the iconic classical Disney film, “The Lion King.” Expressed as a “love letter to Africa,” The Lion King: The Gift is bursting with cultural empowerment, liberation, self discovery and revelation.
The Gift blends various black American styles and creates its own experience both in sync and separate from the film. For many who are unfamiliar with Afrobeats and Afrofusion, Beyoncé helps to expose, while also introducing them to this beautiful world. Bey taps into some of Africa’s notable artists such as Mr. Eazi, Burna Boy, Shatta Wale, Wizkid, Yemi Alade and more. Without forgetting the American greats on the album, Bey taps respected artists such as her husband, JAY-Z as well as Pharrell, Donald Glover, Kendrick Lamar, Tierra Whack and more. She even gives her baby girl, Blue Ivy Carter a feature which is simply warming to the core.
The first notable track arrives from Beyoncé herself in “BIGGER.” Following James Earl Jones’ thrilling “balance” interlude, Beyoncé delivers what might be one of the most important tracks on the album. She reminds us that our lives are much more than our own. She encourages us to look at the bigger picture and truly recognize the excellence and greatness that resides inside each and everyone us. The song is truly spiritually beautiful. Her voice gives you a rash of goosebumps as she pours her spirit into the track, while revitalizing and refreshing our souls.
Beyoncé does not hold back as we reach the next stand out song, “FIND YOUR WAY BACK.” The record serves a dual meaning: to pose as Bey’s Nala, singing and reminding Donald Glover’s Simba of his power and his father’s teachings, “Find Your Way Back” also reminds listeners to remember who they are and never let this life overwhelm us. Bey reflects on the many lessons her father taught her as a youth and now as an adult, wife and mother she reflects on those very same lessons taught by him. Mentally and emotionally, this song is a breath of fresh air. Beyoncé uses the song to empower and strengthen listeners to walking in their power.
As the album progresses, listeners are introduced to the Afrocentric styles of the album with tracks such as “DON’T JEALOUS ME,” Burna Boy’s soothing “JA ARA E,” and “WATER.” It is easy to notice the impactful messages in these songs; while they also help to tell the story of the film, they each stand alone as tracks that are powerful, beyond the film.
One of the most memorable tracks arrives with the revolutionary “MOOD 4 EVA,” featuring JAY-Z & Donald Glover (who takes his Childish Gambino persona on the track). An anthem of life, the three come together celebrating life, ignoring the haters and simply living in pure bliss and happiness. Bey gets gritty and reminds the entire world of who exactly she is and shuts down each and every one of her haters gracefully. The song blends both traditional Hip-Hop with the Afrocentric style and production. The song really is a true mood as Bey continuously repeats through the song.
Continuing the blend of both American and African cultures, “BROWN SKIN GIRL” is a truly beautiful ode to all of the dark skinned and brown skinned women all around the world.
Blue Ivy beautifully sets the atmosphere as she sings:
“Brown skin girl
Your skin just like pearls
The best thing in the world
Never trade you for anybody else”
Wizkid, Beyoncé and SAINt JHN remind the world that black is beautiful in all shades, but specifically brown skinned girls are just as beautiful as pearls. Bey even name drops notable figures such as the beautiful Lupita Nyongo and her childhood best friend, Kelly Rowland.
My absolute favorite track on this entire project arrives with Nigeria’s finest, Tiwa Savage & Mr Eazi’s, “KEY TO THE KINGDOM.” Another track that serves a double meaning, the song is a pure reminder from Mufasa to Simba that he is the true deserving king regardless of his past. Tiwa and Mr. Eazi deliver one of the most meaningful messages thus far, which strikes listeners right in the heart (if they pay attention). The two assure us that in order to grow from your past, you must face it head on, keep your head up and remember who you are.
“Oh, you are the remedy, don’t know what’s inside
But you’re the key to the kingdom
You’re the key to the kingdom
Oh, so believe
Even if you can’t see, I’ll never leave
‘Cause you’re the key to the kingdom
You’re the key to the kingdom”
They remind us that regardless of our pasts and what we have endured, we are still deserving of a beautiful life. They instill in each of us that we are Kings and Queens with pure purpose and that we truly have greatness on the inside of us.
Mimicing the same message from the previous song, “ALREADY” brings Beyoncé, Major Lazer and Shatta Wale together, again encouraging both us and Donald Glover’s Simba that we are great! The message is simple: we are already the Kings (and Queens) and it is our time to walk in our truths and power. With upbeat Afrobeats tempo and high charisma, the song not only uplifts listeners, it makes you want to get out of your seat and dance.
One of the last standout tracks that arises is the high energy, high tempo, “MY POWER.” Following Nala’s call to action to fight with Simba against Scar and the hyenas, Beyoncé calls on new kid on the block Tierra Whack, Nija, Yemi Alade, Busiswa, and Moonchild Sanelly. Ironically, the song focuses on Scar’s perspective as Nija bellows, “They’ll never take my power, my power, my power.” Like a madman, Tierra explodes on the song putting on for the queens. She expresses that she is tired of being modest and that she is ready to claim her power in full, along with every other woman.
Bey makes it clear that she is ready for war as she follows Tierra’s league. She threatens the enemy that she will revert back to her old ways if she has to and that her power will never be taken. Her verse is very feministic as she sings about her perm, her braids, her truth and her strength. The song poses to be a low-key female anthem just like “BROWN SKIN GIRL.” However this time, the women are not asking for respect, they’re taking it by force.
Just as the film ends on a beautiful note with Simba returning home to reclaim his throne and starting his own family with Nala, Beyoncé ends The Gift with the uplifting ballad “SPIRIT.” Another song that is truly moving and touching in every way possible, Beyoncé tells us to walk towards our greatness and in those times where obstacles rise, to lift our heads, stand up and fight for our destinies. She uses spirituality and imagery to almost bring one to tears as they reflect on both the film and their own lives.
Overall, The Lion King: The Gift not only reflects on the story of the film, but it allows the listeners to connect to the music to their own stories, revelations and truths. The soundtrack manages to stay true to the classic film, yet succeeds in reimagining in it a way that truly adds to the legacy of The Lion King.
Favorite Tracks from The Lion King: The Gift:
- KEY TO THE KINGDOM
- FIND YOUR WAY BACK
- BROWN SKIN GIRL
- MOOD 4 EVA
- JA ARA E
- MY POWER (Honorable Mention)
A job well done to Beyoncé, the producers, and each and every single artist who contributed to the soundtrack.