On Thursday night, Beyoncé dropped her anticipated The Lion King: The Gift album, which is described as a “love letter to Africa.”
She produced and curated the compilation record, which accompanies the CGI reboot of the hit 1994 film, in which she portrays Nala. The album features new songs inspired by the film, as well as “Spirit” from the movie’s soundtrack, which was also released separately as its own album. The Lion King: The Gift features the singer’s husband Jay-Z, her co-star Donald Glover—using his music artist name of Childish Gambino, Pharrell Williams, and Kendrick Lamar. In addition, Beyoncé and her husband’s daughter Blue Ivy Carter, 7, is featured on the song “Brown Skin Girl,” and also has a writing credit.
The album is “steeped in African influences from various corners of the Continent, with unexpected collaborations, pulsating rhythms and crisp production that celebrate the African diaspora. This love letter to Africa highlights the setting of the film, rooted in African culture and wondrous narratives,” according to a press release.
“I wanted to put everyone on their own journey to link the storyline,” Beyoncé said. “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.”
Let’s decode the lyrics to the songs on The Lion King: The Gift:
1. “Balance” (Mufasa interlude) – James Earl Jones: The actor reprises his role as Simba’s dad and recites one of his famous lines that he tells his son: “Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. You need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope. We’re all connected in the great circle of life.”
2. “Bigger” – Beyoncé ft. RAYE: The lyrics inspire personal motivation: “Bigger, you’re part of something way better / Bigger than you, bigger than we / Bigger than the picture they framed us to see / Legacy, oh, you’re part of something way bigger.”
3. “The Stars” (Mufasa interlude): Jones’ Mufasa tells his son to “look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars. So whenever you feel alone, just remember, those kings will always be up there to guide you, and so will I.” An African chant is heard as he speaks.
4. “Find Your Way Back” – Beyoncé: sings about navigating life: “Find your way back / Big, big world, but you got it, baby / Find your way back, don’t let this life drive you crazy / Find your way back, come back home with the street lights on / Find your way back, find your way back, yeah”
5. “Uncle Scar” (Scar interlude) – Chiwetel EjioforScar dryly tells his nephew, “Go back to your den, Simba… I don’t babysit.”
6. “Don’t Jealous Me” – Tekno, Yemi Alade & Mr. Eazi: The fast-paced song about personal relationships and conflict contains lyrics such as “Sheep don’t run with lion / Snake don’t swing with monkey / I can’t talk for too long / Got too much gold to try on” and “Jealousy / Don’t you jealous me / That’s that jealousy.”
7. “Danger” (Young Simba and Young Nala interlude) – JD McCrary and Shahadi Wright: Young Simba brags to young Nala that he “laughs in the face of danger” as he brings her to explore an elephant graveyard beyond the Pride Lands.
8. “Ja Ara E” – Burna Boy: The song title is a slang word that means “Wise Up.” It is in Yoruba, a language spoken in African nations such as Nigeria.
9. “Run Away” (Scar and Young Simba interlude) – JD McCrary and Chiwetel Ejiofor: Scar tells Simba to “run away and never return” after making him think he got his father Mufasa killed.
10. “Nile” – Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar: This slow R&B number uses a popular pun: “I’m in denial, deep in denial / I’m in the Nile, deep in denial.”
Ian West/PA Wire
11. “New Lesson” (Timon, Pumbaa and Young Simba interlude) – Billy Eichner, Seth Rogen and JD McCrary: Timon and Pumbaa teach Simba what “Hakuna Matata” means…no worries!
12. “Mood 4 Eva” – Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Childish Gambino: Beyoncé’s first collaboration with Childish Gambino features an afrobeat instrumental and lyrics that speak about power and patience.
She sings, “I know my enemy prey on me, so pray for me / Tick, tick, wait on it / I’m keepin’ down my body count / I’m finessin’ like a trap bounce, a trap bounce, yeah / ‘Cause every day above ground is a blessing / I done leveled up now, view panoramic” and “Why would you try me? Why would you bother? / I am Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter / I am the Nala, sister of Yoruba / Oshun, Queen Sheba, I am the mother / Ankh on my gold chain, ice on my whole chain / I be like soul food, I am a whole mood.”
13. “Reunited” (Nala and Simba interlude) – Beyoncé and Donald Glover (Childish Gambino): Adult Simba and Nala find each other again in this 8-second track.
14. “Water” – Salatiel, Pharrell Williams and Beyoncé: In literature, water has symbolized, life, cleansing and freedom. Sample lyrics include: “Baby, oh, I’m not much of a talker / Baby, oh, can I drink from the water? / Baby, oh, meet me down by the river / We can dance to the rhythm / ‘Til the sun is high and the water runs dry.”
15. “Brown Skin Girl” – Beyoncé, Saint Jhn and Wizkid featuring Blue Ivy Carter: Beyoncé pays tribute to Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o and BFF and fellow Destiny’s Child star Kelly Rowland by singing, “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.”
Blue Ivy sings in the outro, “Brown skin girl / Your skin just like pearls / The best thing in the world / I never trade you for anybody else, singin’…”
16. “Come Home” (Nala interlude) – Beyoncé: Her character makes a plea to Simba.
17. “Keys to the Kingdom” – Tiwa Savage & Mr. Eazi: Sample lyrics inspired by Simba’s plight: “Here some things you have to know / It go hard from have to grow / When you feel you’ve had enough / You gotta breathe / Just remember who you are / You forget, look to the stars / Even the strong, yeah, the weak / But you’re the key, you’re the key.”
18. “Follow Me” (Rafiki interlude) – John Kani: A lost Simba seeks answers. “The question is who are you?” he is asked.
19. “Already” – Beyoncé, Shatta Wale and Major Lazer: Everyone should be able to rule over their own life. Sample lyrics: “Be your own king / Make nobody come rule your world / Long live the king, you a king, you know it / Top everything, everything, you know it / Show them the way, you know it You know it, you know it.”
20. “Remember” (Mufasa interlude) – James Earl Jones: The spirit of Mufasa tells Simba the classic line, “Remember who you are.”
21. “Otherside” – Beyoncé: The spiritual song contains the Yoruba lyrics, “Sokale sokale / Solake wa / Wa o wa o / Wa wonu okan mi lo Oluwa,” which means, “Come down, come down / Come down here / Come here / Come enter my heart O Lord,” according to Genius.
22. “War” (Nala interlude) – Beyoncé: Nala leads the pack to stand up against Scar, saying, “If you wanna get him, you have to get through us.”
23. “My Power” – Tierra Whack, Beyoncé and Moonchild Sanelly featuring Nija: The song also contains the lyrics; “Woza / Vumani Bo (Siyavuma!) / Selingenile ikumkani / Ningangabazi amandla am,” which means, “Come, “The King has entered/arrived” and “Don’t doubt my power.” It also incorporates a chant used by traditional healers in South Africa that calls the African ancestors to “agree” or “affirm,” according to Genius.
24. “Surrender” (Simba and Scar interlude) – Donald Glover and Chiwetel Ejiofor: Simba asks, “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t rip you apart” and Scar replies, “I can give you more than one.”
25. “Scar” – 070 Shake and Jessie Reyez: Sample lyrics of this empowering track include, “In the jungle, ain’t no bible / Showtime, showtime, no recital / Show no fear, boy, where’s your spinal? / Where’s your backbone? Where’s your pyro? / I had to be everything you couldn’t be for my survival.”
26. “I’m Home” (Mufasa, Sarabi and Simba interlude) – James Earl Jones, Alfre Woodard and Donald Glover: Mufasa repeats his line, “The king’s time as ruler rises and falls like the Sun. One day, Simba, the Sun will set on my time here and will rise with you as the new king” as Simba returns to his family in the Pride Lands.
27. “Spirit” – Beyoncé: The song includes the Swahili chant, Uishi kwa muda mrefu mfalme, which means “long live the king.” The singer also references an iconic Lion King scene in singing, “Sayin’ rise up / To the light in the sky, yeah / Let the light lift your heart up,” and some of the words of God in the Old Testament of the Bible: “So go into that far off land / And be one with the Great I Am, I Am / A boy becomes a man.”
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