Here’s What We Learned About Beyoncé, Her Music, and ‘The Lion King’ From ‘Making the Gift’

Beyoncé loves to surprise her fans. On Sept. 16, Beyoncé released her latest documentary on ABC, entitled Making The Gift. There, the artist discussed the process of creating the themes, music, and lyrics for her album. Even though The Lion King: The Gift was inspired by The Lion King, Beyoncé was sure to add her own flair to the music. Here what we learned from Making The Gift.

Beyoncé wanted the album to tell a story of ‘The Lion King: The Gift’

While each song off of The Lion King: The Gift is unique on its own, together, they help tell the story of the movie, The Lion King. The place of each song on the album moves the narrative along while giving the listeners the opportunity to explore the metaphors in Disney’s The Lion King.

“[The album] tells you basically the storyline of the film, the titles and a synopsis of what those songs are about so we can try to match some of these songs to the same emotions that happen throughout the film, so we have a rounded body of work,” the artist explained during Making The Gift.

“I wanted to put everyone on their own journey to link the storyline,” Beyoncé said in a statement. “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.”

Another layer to the album, Beyoncé explained she wanted the music to reflect African culture. To do that, Beyoncé took Blue Ivy and the rest of her family to Africa. Additionally, she featured many African artists and producers on each song.

Beyonce Knowles-Carter
Beyonce Knowles-Carter | Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Disney

Beyoncé visited Africa with her family to get better connected to the music

This artist even stepped outside of the studio to get a well-rounded concept for the album. She explained that she took her whole family to Africa to connect with her ancestors and her past. She even had women in Northern Kenya create an outfit for Blue Ivy; some parts symbolized the phrase “circle of life.”

Other artists helped create this Lion King-inspired soundscape. The soundbites from The Lion King in between songs features actors like Donald Glover and Seth Rogen. For the 14 songs, contributors listed include 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.

“Kendrick [Lamar] sent over a track and it felt like your subconscious it felt like that moment before you pass on when your life kind of flashes and you’re fighting for your life,” Beyoncé said, talking about the song “Nile.”

In ‘Making The Gift,’ Beyoncé explained the meaning behind each song on ‘The Lion King: The Gift’

In the music, Beyoncé said, she didn’t want to water down the themes of The Lion King. As a result, songs range in topic from religion to family to love to power. One song, “Brown Skin Girl,” is an anthem for young girls of color. Some fans even shared videos of themselves singing the song and Beyoncé included them in her documentary. She also featured clips of Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o, and Kelly Rowland.

“I remember Tina Knowles, Bey’s mom and I; I remember being out in the sun and I was trying to shield myself from the sun, and she said, ‘Are you crazy?’ She said, ‘You are absolutely gorgeous,’ and she just told me how beautiful I was and how rare chocolate is and how gorgeous the skin is, all of this stuff. And I was just like ‘Yeah!’ Like, a light went off,” Kelly Rowland said. “So between her and my mother and then me sitting out in the sun a little more, just to be a little more chocolate. You just embrace it. You embrace everything that you are as a woman, even your flaws, too.”

Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift is available for streaming on Spotify, Tidal, and most major music platforms.