A Rundown of Beyoncé’s History-Making Coachella Performance

beyonce performing at coachella 2018

It’s 40-something degrees and raining outside and no one is doing anything except talking about Beyoncé at Coachella…


Not only was Beyoncé the first black woman to ever headline the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival over the weekend, but she also put on a show that was equal parts politically powerful and massively entertaining. She delivered a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the black national anthem. She played excerpts of a Malcolm X Speech. She sampled Nina Simone’s 1954 version of “Lilac Wine.” She paraded out trumpets, trombones, sousaphones, violins and fireworks. She graced the world with a Destiny’s Child reunion. She danced with Solange. She performed for two hours and barely took a water break.

In the words of Jon Caramanica for The New York Times, “There’s not likely to be a more meaningful, absorbing, forceful and radical performance by an American musician this year, or any year soon, than Beyoncé’s headlining set.” Needless to say, the internet has been freaking out. I spent a good portion of this morning combing for articles, tweets, rumors, fangirls, whispers, clips and gifs related to this topic out of personal interest and, by the end, I realized I had compiled a Beychella starter syllabus of everything that happened during her 105 minutes onstage:

Destiny’s Child Reunited

Roughly 90 minutes into her set (happy accident or 90s nostalgia brilliance?), Beyoncé brought out former bandmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. Wearing black and gold outfits that paid homage to their iconic matching looks of yore, the trio belted out “Lose My Breath,” “Say My Name” and “Soldier.”

Solange Danced to “Get Me Bodied”

Four years ago, Beyoncé surprised her little sister Solange at Coachella for an impromptu onstage dance (pictured above). This weekend, Solange showed up to return the favor, except this time their routine was far from spontaneous — it was an incredible, highly choreographed dance-off to “Get Me Bodied.”

JAY-Z Showed Up for a Duet

The couple performed “Deja Vu” from Beyoncé 2006 album B’Day. Apparently Blue Ivy was watching from backstage, though she remained in high demand:

As for Rumi and Sir? I’m guessing they were off doing something low-key like planning their 2020 Presidential run.

Beyoncé Sang the Black National Anthem

Just before transitioning into “Formation,” Beyoncé gave her rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a hymn known widely in America as the black national anthem. James Weldon Johnson wrote the lyrics as a poem 1899, and his brother John later put the words to music.

“The inclusion of the turn-of-the-century hymn was notable not only because of size of the audience but because of the setting — a mainstream festival that is known for being attended predominantly by white people,” Samantha Schmidt wrote in The Washington Post. The hymn’s title became a trending topic on Twitter as people reacted to its message:

References to HBCUs and Black Greek Life Abounded

“Beyoncé’s Coachella theme was re-creating the historically black college experience, which cannot authentically exist without a marching band,” writes Vulture. Flanked by hundreds of musicians and dancers (including former members of Florida A&M University’s band) on a set designed to resemble bleachers, Beyoncé presented what can only be described as Beyoncé University (arguably better than Hogwarts). There were school colors (black and yellow — an homage to the Beyhive), there was a mock probate (an initiation ceremony wherein new members of Black Greek Letter Organizations are introduced) and there was collegiate apparel (Beyoncé wore a cropped sweatshirt emblazoned with the letters “BDK,” or Beta Delta Kappa. Fans have speculated that the B and K stand for Beyoncé Knowles, while the Delta alludes to her favored number, four).

Beyoncé Changed into Five Different Custom Balmain Outfits

Apparently she collaborated closely with Balmain’s Creative Director, Olivier Rousteing, to execute on her distinct aesthetic vision for the show: “B is a perfectionist,” Rousteing told Vogue. “She has such a distinct vision for fashion and for her music, I really learned a lot from this experience and from watching her work in those rehearsals…If I am being totally transparent, it is very, very rare in this kind of process to have so much communication with the artist and the ones closest to her on her team. I was able to be in the room with her and she would give me direct feedback about how the lighting should hit the clothes, what the music had to emphasize about each look — I never had to guess what to do next.”

Other Celebrities Fanned Out Hard

Also, People Speculated That She Changed Her Manicure Mid-Performance

After Beyoncé’s performance, observant fans noticed that her nails were two different colors in the photos she posted on social media.

Buzzfeed promptly investigated and posted a theory that some of the photos were from a dress rehearsal that took place on a different day, but I would like to submit three alternative hypotheses:

1. Beyoncé can bend the space-time continuum.

2. Beyoncé’s nails change color according to her mood.

3. Beyoncé has a contact at NASA who gave her a sample of the instant-dry nail polish formula currently under top-secret development.

Any additional nail theories or favorite highlights from Beychella? Please deposit them below. If you haven’t watched the performance in full yet, this two-part recording on Rap-Up is the best I’ve found, but let me know if there’s a better version floating around the internet as I have two hours set aside for re-watching it this evening.

Feature photo by Larry Busacca via Getty Images for Coachella.

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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