Disney’s “live action” Lion King remake has been disturbing the bejaysus out of audiences with its super- realistic CGI animals. Nothing is creepier, it turns out, than realistically- depicted alpha predators who burst into song.
That hasn’t detained the movie from surging its way to a $1 billion box office, however. It has also given Beyonce, who voices leonine love- interest Nala in the film, an opportunity flex her muscles (and contacts book) as curator via an accompanying soundtrack LP.
The Gift, to be clear, isn’t an official Bey album. She has described the record as a “love letter to Africa”. It is indeed, as much a showcase for artists from the continent as for Beyoncé’s big-lunged ballads (of which there are several).
Alongside Beyoncé are featured more than 20 singers and musicians from Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and elsewhere (there have been complaints about the absence of artists from east Africa, where the Lion King is set).
Beyoncé is obviously sincere in her desire to turn a spotlight on African music. She sings over African rhythms on slow-burn opener ‘Bigger’ and then raises the tempo with gusto on the no-less reverential ‘Find Your Way Back’.
The healthy state of African hip-hop is, meanwhile, celebrated on ‘Don’t Jealous Me’, featuring the Nigerian power-trio of Tekno Miles, Yemi Alade and Mr Eazi. A more laid-back vibe is struck by Afro-fusion singer Burna Boy’s ‘Ja Ara E’.
Clearly there are parallels with last year’s Kendrick Lamar-curated Black Panther soundtrack. So it’s fitting that the Los Angeles rapper collaborates with Beyoncé on ‘Nile’ — a woozy, dreamlike piece that sweeps you off a place untroubled by Hollywood commercialism or terrifyingly realistic animals with a penchant for breaking into tune.