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GO FIGURE: Beyonce’s Homecoming Speech

Beyonce-profile-Homecoming-film
Photo Credit: Parkwood Entertainment

DJ Khaled is still right in 2019: Coachella is Beychella. The music festival technically happened this weekend, but thanks to Beyonce, all I cared about was HOMECOMING. The Netflix film reveals the grueling 8-month journey that went into creating a historic two-hour show. In 2018, Beyonce became the first black woman to headline the festival. She used the majority of her time on stage to empower others. And the data I collected from her vocal speech patterns prove it.

Beyonce_Homecoming_Dataviz_2019
Photo Credit: Art Party x Parkwood Entertainment

Using text and speech automation tools, I analyzed Beyonce’s lexicon throughout Homecoming: The Live Album. Trill beats and musicianship aside, why did a performance I’ve already watched sound so fresh? Why did I feel so motivated? Beyonce used a total of 5750 words while on stage. The number of different words she used equals 1171. In turn, all of those words amounted to 162 sentences. To be exact, Homecoming runs 40 tracks and actually lasts 1 hour and 49 minutes, so I rounded the time frame up. Out of all of her expressions, Yoncé kept using those listed in the graph (above) at a higher rate. The table below breaks down her frequency of certain words over the course of her performance.

Word/PhraseNumber of Times
Mentioned
Love63
Black10
Women (includes terms like “Girls” or “Ladies”) 122
Can62
Now64
Slay49
Baby71
Let/Freedom69
Grind (includes terms like “Work” or “Gettin”) 57
Good (includes terms like “Flawless” or “Beautiful”)104
Money (includes terms like “Bags” or “Dollars”)
17

I did not include words or sounds with less than three characters. I also excluded speech from anyone featured on the album or during the live performance. People like Jay-Z, Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams, DJ Khaled, O.T. Genasis, Kendrick Lamar (whose vocals can be heard during “Freedom”), the announcer or any performers speaking during interludes were not included in my analysis.

Genius has the lyrics posted for Homecoming, so I was able to hone in on Beyonce’s exact wordplay without fear of missing a phrase. The official transcription provided by Genius also helped me clearly distinguish between background vocals and crowd audio. I ignored pronouns like “you” or anything essential to basic sentence formation. I also ignored non-English words, so the majority of “Mi Gente” was not included (I did count her ad-libs).

I chose to exclusively focus on key terms that directly promote an idea or identity. Content matters just as much as context. And so, listening to the album multiple times played a key role in helping me verify slang text. Whether we recognize our personal power or not, all of us express certain values through speech. Words have power. And so, I chose to focus on the terms Beyonce kept repeating. Most (but not all) of the words she used are technically neutral (take for example, “let”). It just so happens that throughout Homecoming, Beyonce phrased technically neutral words in a positive and encouraging way.  

Beyoncé-Homecoming-stage
Photo Credit: Parkwood Entertainment

Beyonce does not care for holding back. In Homecoming, she is not toning down her blackness, womanhood, or talent for anyone. And that is why I find Beychella so thrilling. She hired over 100 black performers and staff. She entered the stage dressed as an ancient queen (who historically has been whitewashed), stood atop a pyramid and made the decision to  proclaim positive expressions of self-worth and heritage. Everything was a celebratory declaration, right down to her album cover.

Photo Credit: Parkwood Entertainment

In an era of “shit-hole countries” commentary, I appreciated the nod to Nefertiti. In an era where most African art is not owned, controlled, or funded by black people or institutions (including Egyptian work) I appreciated the live album and concert film being released through her company, Parkwood Entertainment.

Annoying pop-up forms, digital banners, and discount codes are constantly fighting for our attention. On average, human beings process up to 10,000 advertisements or marketing messages per day. Most of those ads tell us (especially women) how or what we need to change about ourselves. Homecoming serves as an escape from all of that subliminal mental chatter.

The album plants seeds of positive self-talk rather than doubt. Whether I was catching the subway or cleaning my apartment, her edict between my ears this weekend was cause for royal jubilee. In under two hours, Queen Bey kept declaring that we are all enough. In 162 sentences she told us to love, hustle, and claim what’s yours. She repeatedly affirmed my intrinsic worth as a black girl-turned-adult. Ad-free and on demand. Beyonce deserves every bit of that $60 million Netflix deal.

GO FIGURE is a data visualization series highlighting the numbers which shape culture. Subscribe here. Tell me what you think of this story. What should I analyze next? Let me know via contact.

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