Beyoncé is back and shining in her latest song, “Spirit,” one of 14 tracks from The Lion King: The Gift, her companion album to the new version’s original soundtrack.
Featuring Queen Bey, as well as incorporating singers and dancers from Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Cameroon, this song powerfully channels its African roots as it focuses on hope, perseverance and God.
This song functions on two levels. The first theme is the most obvious, as many lyrics clearly allude to the story of Simba, called to take his place as the king of Pride Rock. Secondly, the song encourages listeners to pursue their destiny and to be invigorated inwardly through a spiritual experience.
The first line (“Uishi kwa muda mrefu mfalme”) is in Swahili, and it translates to, “Long live the king.” The king, of course, will one day be Simba. As he begins to embrace that calling, he hears “the wind talkin’/for the very first time” and in “a melody” that paints “pictures of paradise,” one in which “a boy become a man.”
In a style reminiscent of a Gospel spiritual, Beyoncé sings, “Sayin’ rise up/To the light in the sky, yeah/Watch the light lift your heart up/Burn your flame through the night.”
Those lines obviously reflect Simba’s journey to embrace his royal responsibility. But Beyoncé infuses her lyrics with words and images that also have resonance in the Christian tradition.
We hear her sing, “Spirit, watch the heavens open.” She challenges us to “stand up and fight” and to “go into that far off land/And be one with the great I am.” Christians will likely hear those lyrics as a call to seek a deeper relationship with God, one that empowers and encourages us to become the people He intends us to be.
Like the movie it represents, the video’s images seem intended to evoke an African landscape (though they were filmed in Arizona near Apple Valley and Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon).
In it, Beyoncé and a group of brightly clad men and women dance and sing beautifully to the words and rhythms of “Spirit.” Among the outfits they wear, some of the women’s are a bit tight and revealing, while men sometimes dance shirtless. A few other scenes include women holding their babies, including one with Beyoncé and her daughter, Blue Ivy.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight Canada, Beyoncé summed up her view on the visuals and the production: “The concept of the video is to show how God is the painter and natural beauty and nature needs no art direction. It’s the beauty of color. The beauty of melanin. The beauty of tradition.”
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).