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The Oscars

Beyoncé, Billie Eilish, Reba McEntire To Perform At 2022 Oscars

The brightest stars attending the 94th Academy Awards won’t just be those from the movies. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPSA) announced Tuesday that Beyoncé, Billie Eilish, Reba McEntire, and Sebastián Yatra will be on hand to perform four out of the five original songs nominated for this year’s Oscars.

Beyoncé will perform “Be Alive” from the Will Smith-starring King Richard, which she wrote alongside Dixson. It’s just one of the numerous accolades for the single, while it’s also the first time the 28-time Grammy Award winner has been given an Oscar nod.

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The 20-year-old Billie Eilish will perform “No Time To Die” from the James Bond film of the same name. Eilish penned the song with her brother, Finneas O’Connell. Like Beyonce, the siblings are first-time nominees.

Perhaps “No Time To Die” should be looked at as the favorite if one is to go on the past trend of Bond films eeking out award-winning singles. Adele’s “Skyfall” from Skyfall won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2012, while Sam Smith’s “Writing On The Wall” from Spectre won the Award in 2015.

Yatra will be singing “Dos Oruguitas” from the Disney animated movie Encanto. Unlike his competition above, Yatra didn’t write the lyrics or music – instead, that honor belongs to Hamilton star Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Miranda — who wrote the entirety of the soundtrack to Encanto — will be heading to the Oscars with a nomination for the second time. The first came back in 2016, with Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go.” Miranda is also attached to the Netflix musical drama tick, tick… BOOM!, of which he served as the director. The movie has two nominations, with Andrew Garfield vying for Best Leading Actor.

According to Deadline, Ecanto’s other popular (but not nominated) song, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” will also be performed, certainly as an attempt to boost ratings for a program that has seen significant decline in recent years.

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McEntire is set to perform “Somehow You Do,” from Four Good Days. “Somehow You Do” was composed and written by Diane Warren, who has had an incredible 13 total Academy Award nominations for Best Song over her career. 2022 will be Warren’s fifth straight year with a nomination, and seventh in the last eight years.

The only nominated song that won’t be performed live is “Down To Joy” from Belfast, composed and written by two-time Grammy winner Van Morrison. The AMPSA announced that due to Morrison’s touring, he wasn’t able to attend the ceremony. It’s the 76-year-old Morrison’s first Oscars nomination.

Each of the songs’ movies look to make big splashes at the Awards. Belfast has seven nominations — which includes Original Screenplay, Directing (Kenneth Branagh), and Best Picture — while Encanto is nominated for both Animated Feature Film and Original Score. King Richard’s Smith is up for Best Leading Actor.

Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes will be set to host the Oscars at the Dolby Theater, which premieres this Sunday, March 27, at 8 p.m. Eastern Time/5 p.m. Pacific Time on ABC.

Atlanta

Tyler Perry Opens Groundbreaking 330 Acre Studio In Atlanta

Tyler Perry has opened his own studio this past week in Atlanta, Georgia, residents and African Americans in the industry alike are now referring to the famous Georgia city as “Black Hollywood”. The plot of land is 330 acres and this weekend it brought together every major African American star for its grand opening gala event. Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé, her husband Jay-Z, Cicely Tyson, Sidney Poitier, director Ava DuVernay, and so many others joined together to support Perry’s major accomplishment and rejoiced to finally have a space where African American Hollywood stars, established and up and coming, will be able to thrive and be given more opportunities than ever. The studio cost $250 million, contains 12 large studio spaces named after esteemed black performers, and was built on a site that originally was a Confederate Army base, according to CNN

“I could feel our ancestors’ presence. Surrounded by my heroes, I watched Denzel, Queen Oprah, Spike, Whoopi, Sir (Sidney) Poitier, Will, Halle, Dame Cicely (Tyson) and our angels John Singleton and Diahann Carroll honored. The Armand de Brignac crashed against each soundstage as fireworks lit up the sky. Generations of blood, sweat and tears, success, excellence and brilliance. It makes me so proud, so full, I could not stop crying. Thank you my Virgo brother for so much love and passion put into every detail. My prayer today is that you will take it all in. You inspire me to dream even bigger” said Beyonce Knowles-Carter in an Instagram tribute to Perry.

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Dozens of other prominent African American cultural figures also praised Perry online, emphasizing that he is the epitome of the American Dream for any minority that has felt like they’ll never be able to grasp the same opportunities in the mainstream. Perry is famously known for being self-made and pulling himself out from being a homeless playwright nearly two decades ago. In 2006 he became the first African American to open his own studio, which was also in Atlanta, but not nearly as expansive as this one. Since the opening of that studio he’s made countless movies which have grossed around $900 million. 

Perry originally purchased part of the army base property back in 2015 and finalized the purchase later that year. He’s nowhere near done though, and plans on keeping up the expansion of the studio to offer as much work and opportunity as possible. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did an interview with Perry about his monumental accomplishment, to which he compared to having a child, and his future plans for the studio’s development. 

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“Perry said he plans to open his studio for tours for school children by next summer. He’s also planning an up to 3,000-seat theater for concerts and other events. Frustrated by a lack of development outside his complex, Perry said he also plans restaurants and retail on the grounds of his studios, which he said he wants to become a weekend destination for tourists and the community,” according to the AJC

He also wants to create community centers, specifically for victims of human trafficking to find a safe haven. The expansions he predicts will be done within the next three years. With all he’s invested, Perry intends on maintaining full power and control over the space, but has designated multiple studio spaces to lease out to other filmmakers as a part of his greater goal of expanding the market for new African American creators and talents. 

Lion King

Lions, Let’s Get In Formation! Everything We Learned From Beyoncé’s “Making The Gift” Documentary

Okay Lions now let’s get in formation! ABC premiered the documentary special “Making The Gift” this Monday, showcasing how Beyoncé came to creating the beautiful tribute album to Africa. The Lion King, which Knowles-Carter starred in as the voice of Nala, was of course the main source of inspiration for the album. Throughout the work, audio clips from the movie work as interludes to the tracks, setting the scene/tone of whatever track is to follow. The purpose of this was to make the whole body of work cohesive, and have a clear beginning, middle, and end. 

Beyoncé and her team discussed how they didn’t want to “water down” any of the overarching themes and metaphors from the film, both original and remake, and wanted to remain as authentic as possible. They wanted the songs to emulate the same emotions that the characters in the film were emulating during different major plot points. In addition, Beyoncé wanted to make the tracks personal as well, and allow the listener to interpret the music however they wanted. 

“I wanted to put everyone on their own journey to link the story line. Each song was written to reflect the film’s storytelling that gives the listener a chance to imagine their own imagery while listening to a new contemporary interpretation. It was important that the music was not only performed by the most interesting and talented artists but also produced by the best African producers. Authenticity and heart were important to me,” said Knowles-Carter in the special. 

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Beyoncé at The Lion King’s European Premiere 

The ability to make an album that is both open for interpretation and meant to coincide with a specific fixed plot is no easy task, however, this is Beyoncé we’re talking about. The impact that this album had on the African American community when it first came out in 1994 was astounding, and the soundtrack had everything to do with that. The original soundtrack to the first animated film was intended to work the same exact way that The Gift did. As each track progresses into the next one, the tone of the music shifts to match the plot. Obviously, Beyoncé wanted to pay homage to the original soundtracks impact while also creating a body of work that completely and unapologetically praised African culture and tradition. 

This album was meant to be just as much of a tribute and “love letter” to Africa and its people as it is a movie soundtrack.  In order to make sure that they fully embodied Africa’s culture and music, Beyoncé and her team reached out to work with not only African American artists and producers, but also actual African musicians and producers from the continent, who have been raised in traditional African sound and culture.  The album as a whole includes artists like Pharrell, Jessie Reyez, Tekno, Yemi Alade, Mr. Eazi, Burna Boy, Salatiel, SAINt JHN, WizKid, Tiwa Savage, Shatta Wale, Tierra Whack, Busiswa, Moonchild Sanelly, and 070 Shake.

“This soundtrack is a love letter to Africa, and I wanted to make sure we found the best talent from Africa, and not just use some of the sounds and did my interpretation of it. We’ve kind of created our own genre, and I feel like the soundtrack, it becomes visual in your mind. It’s a soundscape. It’s more than just the music because each song tells the story of the film,” Beyoncé said during an interview with Good Morning America.

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Beyoncé and Blue Ivy at The Lion King’s US Premiere

Fans were also treated to plenty of footage of the entire Knowles-Carter family, including husband Jay-Z and twins Rumi and Sir Carter. The documentary special followed the family as they journeyed to parts of Africa, such as Egypt, Nigeria, and Kenya, in order to get inspiration for the album, and so the family could really connect to their ancestry. 

Of course, Blue Ivy, Beyoncé’s first born daughter, was also in the documentary and even had her own mini segment. Beyoncé’s children we’re a major inspiration for the album in general, since a general theme of the movie is remembering your roots (family and culture). Blue Ivy even recorded a sample chorus for the track “BROWN SKIN GIRL,” which has become one of the most popular songs on the album, as an empowering anthem about the importance of embracing Brown Skin, regardless of what society tells you.

The empowering message for all minorities is so clear and beautiful, Beyoncé truly topped herself yet again with this body of work. The documentary concluded with Beyoncé discussing the final track and music video on the album titled “SPIRIT”, the visual and lyrical metaphors being the strongest within this track. 

The concept of the video is to show how God is the painter and natural beauty in nature needs no art direction. It’s the beauty of color, the beauty of melanin, the beauty of tradition. It was important that throughout this body of work we weren’t just inspired by Africa but that we actually included and learned from the motherland.”