The Retirement Of “Halo” & Justice For ‘B’Day’: Breaking Down Beyoncé’s Coachella Set
Beyoncé elevated performance art to new heights on Saturday night (April 14) at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California. The first headlining set by a black woman at Coachella was also the best in the event’s 19-year history — and arguably the finest festival performance of all time. The New York Times called it the most “meaningful, absorbing, forceful and radical performance by an American musician this year, or any year soon,” while The Washington Post named it “a historic cultural moment.”
And that’s not hyperbole. Queen Bey pulled off a musical miracle in the desert — an intricately-choreographed, yet loose and joyous celebration of a brilliant career that began in the ’90s and has only become more profound and impactful with each passing year. She somehow coordinated a cast of 150 people, paid tribute to black culture throughout the ages (there were to nods to everything from Ancient Egypt to 2002 comedy Drumline) and reinvented her iconic discography. I’ve rounded up 10 highlights of her breathtaking set below.
1. The retirement of “Halo”
I love “Halo.” It’s one of my favorite songs of all time, but the 36-year-old has finished every show with the power ballad since 2008 — making it the only constant in her ever-evolving career. That led to a little bit of fan fatigue, which Bey obviously picked up on. The track was not included in the Beychella setlist, leading many to believe that it has finally been laid to rest. RIP.
2. “Love On Top” is the new “Halo”
Since dropping in 2011, “Love On Top” has become something of a fixture in Beyoncé encores. After all, it is one of the most feel-good songs in her stunning back catalogue and remains the number one that got away. Well, it looks like the 4 anthem has finally been promoted. The game-changer closed her Coachella set with the throwback anthem and had (at least) one hundred thousand people singing along to every word.
3. “I Care” finally got some respect
While we’re on the subject of 4 classics, “I Care” finally had its moment. I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that “I Care” is the best song on Bey’s 2011 opus since the day it was released, but the soaring ballad has been conspicuously absent from recent tours. It shows off the superstar’s breathtaking range as well as any song in her discography and was a spine-tingling Coachella highlight. Now we just need justice for “Rather Die Young.”
4. “Deja Vu” came back from the dead
The Hive loves “Deja Vu” almost as much as they hate the Grammy committee. The soulful lead single from B’Day is treated like the problem child of Beyoncé’s catalogue probably because it wasn’t as big a hit as expected in 2006 — forcing it to live in the shadow of “Irreplaceable.” (Don’t even get me started on “Ring The Alarm”). Well, that situation was finally remedied at Beychella. She even brought out Jay Z to deliver his verse.
5. B’Day was rightfully celebrated
Critics like to pinpoint 4 as the emergence of R&B/hip-hop Beyoncé, but B’Day literally exists. A collection of soulful, sexy grooves that still sound newborn in 2018, the album was rightfully celebrated at Coachella. Queen Bey belted out “Deja Vu” (as already mentioned) as well as “Kitty Kat,” “Check On It” and “Get Me Bodied.” She also sprinkled in snippets of “Green Light” and “Irreplaceable.”
6. Beyonce took us to church
As a legendary Hive member quipped on Twitter, “Beyoncé doing Lift Every Voice And Sing into Formation gives pastors everywhere the right to have this morning off.” Of course, this is a reference to the set’s one cover — a gospel staple often referred to as the black national anthem. “Lift Every Voice And Sing” was as key to the set at using a snippet of Malcom X’s iconic speech about the neglect of back women. It gave the performance weight and historical context.
7. “Mi Gente” had its live debut
Beyonce flew under the radar (at least by her standards) in 2017, but still somehow managed to land two top five hits — the chart-topping “Perfect Duet” and a remix of “Mi Gente.” The latter got its live debut at Coachella and the crowd went ballistic as soon as the instantly-recognizable beat wafted across the Polo Club. J Balvin and Willy William’s verses were scratched, but it still sounds impeccable as a solo outing.
8. “Bow Down/I Been On” was restored
Remember when Beyonce shook the table by leaking “Bow Down/I Been On” months before the arrive of 2013’s game-changing visual album? The former sparked more hissy fits and think pieces than any other song in the Queen’s catalogue, but it least it made the album — kind of. (It is used as the introduction to “***Flawless”). The original two-parter was restored at Beychella and those chopped-and-screwed vocals were otherworldly live.
9. Bey’s rap prowess is undisputed
As anyone who heard “Yoncé” knows, Queen Bey is one of the best rappers in the game. And she deftly incorporated that prowess into her Coachella set, performing that song as well as her contribution to DJ Khaled’s “Top Off” and that fiery “Feeling Myself” verse. With rumors of an album with Hov still gaining momentum ahead of their joint tour, don’t be surprised to see a lot more of rap Beyonce in the near future.
10. “7/11” comes into its own
“7/11” is that song, but most critics and some of the Hive refuse to admit it. One of two new songs on Beyoncé: Platinum Edition is generally regarded as a throwaway club song — despite being one of the most innovative, forward-thinking bangers in recent memory. Who else does away with a traditional chorus and just delivers hook after hook? Happily, the chart phenomenon included it at Beychella, a feat that will elevate its status no end.