The Lion King: The Gift (released July 19, 2019)
Welcome to 2019, where everything you loved about the 90s is back in weird, strange ways.
Yet y’all STILL won’t bring back those Ninja Turtle pudding pies. We need that sugary goodness back in our lives.
But what we ARE getting is an avalanche of live-action remakes of animated Disney classics, with Beyonce snatching your summer coins in the newest version of The Lion King.
I know the Innanets told us to love Beyonce unconditionally or risk decapitation, but I’ve seen her on screen many times and…
…And let’s just say I’m not too excited about Bey stumbling through yet another movie with her ABC Afterschool Special acting skills.
Acting might not be her ministry but singing definitely is, which is why the buzz around her new album, The Lion King: The Gift, is much more intriguing.
A few things to clear up: This isn’t technically a soundtrack, it’s one of those “music inspired by the movie” albums, like Jay Z’s American Gangster or Kendrick Lamar’s Black Panther. Also, this isn’t even a Beyonce album per-se – although she’s the headliner, it serves as mostly a showcase for rising talent.
Much like its namesake, The Lion King: The Gift often feels like Beyonce’s speaking from the clouds to empower her child from afar. Opening ballad “Bigger” features minimalistic, African-inspired production (a sound that permeates this entire set) that offers guidance – “Life is your birthright‚ they hid that in the fine print/take the pen and rewrite it” while the bouncy “Find Your Way Back” serves as reminder of one’s roots.
But the song that likely will get the most press is “Brown Skin Girl,” a nice tribute to the love of melanin:
Pose like a trophy when Naomis walk in
She need an Oscar for that pretty dark skin
Pretty like Lupita when the cameras close in
Drip broke the levee when my Kellys roll in
Daughter Blue Ivy pops her head in at the end of the track to hammer the message home.
But, as I said earlier, Bey might be steering the ship but it’s her crew that gets the majority of the shine here – with mixed results.
Nigerian Afro-fusion singer Burna Boy steals the show on the upbeat and infectious “Ja Ara E” while Nigerian vocalists Tekno, Yemi Alade and Mr Eazi keep the party moving on “Don’t Jealous Me.” Even when the singers are sprinkling in Swahili terminology and dropping random lyrics about snakes swinging with monkeys, you won’t be able to stop grooving – proving that music is a universal language.
You’d probably expect big things when looking at the lineup of “Mood 4 Eva,” which teams Bey and Jay with Childish Gambino, as well as “Nile” – a Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar collabo – but there’s not much to either. Gambino is an afterthought on the former while the latter song wraps up just when it starts getting interesting. Rappin’ Beyonce is my least favorite Beyonce and she doesn’t add much to either.
“Scar” features 070 Shake and Jessie Reyez and is as unpredictable and twisted as its namesake but feels too experimental for its own good. “Keys to the Kingdom” and “Already” are serviceable but pretty forgettable in the long run. Thankfully, Tierra Whack comes through strong on “My Power,” carrying the load with her aggressive, off-kilter bars and Beyonce returns to finish up the album with the typical Disney power ballad, “Spirit.”
The Lion King: The Gift certainly isn’t in line to take the throne anytime soon but it’s a interesting curiosity and a cool showcase of up-and-coming international artists.
I hope the live-action film holds up as well.
It could be worst – at least we didn’t get the Migos as the hyenas. UGH.
Best tracks: “Ja Ara E,” “Brown Skin Girl,” “Don’t Jealous Me”
3.5 stars out of 5