Does everyone appreciate how much attention to detail goes into Beyoncé’s work?
After watching Beyoncé’s Coachella set from Saturday night, on Sunday morning I wrote this on Twitter:
I meant every word of it, but it reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write about Beyoncé’s Lemonade for the past two years.
I got a glimpse into what goes into making one aspect of one scene of her work and I want you to imagine and extrapolate what the entire production might have entailed. This is the story of the smallest atomic unit of Beyoncé awesomeness.
The first scene from Lemonade that left me speechless was when she appears on a street in Hold Up, wearing the resplendent flowing yellow gown and holding the Hot Sauce bat.
Every shot in the sequence is glorious. You understand the anger and aggression from being wronged by a partner, and you feel a sense of release when she unleashes on every car and store window on the street.
I was immediately drawn to the bat. The reference of “hot sauce in my bag” came from Formation, the first song released ahead of the album and video, but she carefully hides the logo in the video until this moment when she rolls it on her shoulders to reveal what we thought was just a bottle of hot sauce is something else entirely.
Now I’m a nerd that often replicates things I love, especially in relation to movies or TV, and I immediately wondered how hard it would be to replicate the bat in the video. I don’t know why I wanted to make one—I’ve never been publicly cheated on or wrote a song about it, and I’m not a black woman! I can’t tell you why I was drawn to it, but sometimes I see something in a piece of culture and I can’t stop thinking about it until I duplicate it myself, or at least find out how to do it. Usually, I head home from a movie and immediately check RPF, or replica prop forums, to see if someone made a weapon or an outfit from a film, or I fire up photoshop to replicate t-shirt designs from movies, but this time I was curious to see what it takes to make that bat.
The next day, I started by contacting Louisville Slugger, because they had a custom bat section of their site but it didn’t offer exactly what I needed, and I had to ask if they’d be open to changing the logo on a customer bat (to a semi-parody of their own logo design). I’d visited the factory and took the tour on a visit to Louisville five years ago, and remembered all the custom bats are handmade by people, so I figured they might be game.
By the end of the day, I heard back from them. They couldn’t do it, and they couldn’t help me in suggesting anyone that could. I was disappointed, but I knew they had competitors, so I googled around. I put out feelers to 3–4 more custom sporting goods companies and got nothing back until I found a guy named Brian who was totally into the project at a place called Smacker Bats. He said if I could send artwork over, he’d put it on a bat.
The next night, I spent a couple hours in photoshop, carefully taking screengrabs from the video to measure the total pixel-length of the bat to estimate the scale of everything (assuming it was a standard 34" long bat) and compared it against a standard Louisville Slugger bat. Then I measured the size of the logo (about 5–6" across) and figured out the exact placement on the bat, which I noticed was several inches closer to the end than a Louisville Slugger, specifically so you could see it when it was on her shoulders. Someone on her team had to figure that out in rehearsals.
Recreating the logo was a bit more work the next night. The oval was easy, and it wasn’t too tough to match the font (Thames Serial, if you were wondering). But if you look closely, the logo looks like a single font, but with two treatments. To get it pixel-perfect, the “Sauce” was easily typed and spaced tightly, but the “HOT” was a fake Small Caps that required tweaking the character widths by hand (looking at the logo today, I think my kerning on the O in HOT could still use some work).
I sent over the image to Brian and we talked about what different woods could be used and he picked one with a similar grain pattern to closely match the original. Once he burned the image onto the bat, he identified the method used to wrap the grip and replicated it as well.
He sent me a shot of the final product, and I sent him a hundred bucks via paypal, and it was off to me. Once I had it, I immediately felt weird about it, since I’d appropriated a piece of culture not expressly for me. But I was more interested in the journey than the destination so I gifted it to the biggest Beyoncé fan I knew and someone that deserved to have a cool object like this, my friend Erica.
All told, it was probably 8 hours of work spread over a week of my free time. I had to spend a few hours researching and emailing suppliers, spend some production time in matching the fonts and logo, and then after days of waiting on the factory, I had the prop.
After creating the bat, I watched the full Lemonade video for the third or fourth time and noticed the shots at the end of that same Hold Up section, where Beyoncé drops the bat and gets into a monster truck to smash the cars she’d previously broke the windows out of.
Cars are another thing I’m into, and I even know a bit about monster trucks (shoutout to Monster Jam, the pro wrestling of monster trucks) but I’ve never seen a monster truck with wire wheels like in her video, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the scene. Monster trucks have 3–4 foot deep wheels so someone had to make those wheel covers. They look to be mounted on a beadlock rim, but done for looks only. A quick Google image search backed up that wire wheels on Monster trucks weren’t a thing before.
I quickly realized it’s a nod to lowrider culture, and while lowriders with classic Dayton wire wheels originated on the West Coast, Southern lowriders have their own flavors (like donks, boxes, and bubbles), but Houston has its own form of local lowrider culture in SLABs (Slow, Loud and Bangin’ vehicles, often with “Swangas” wire wheels sticking out). And oh shit, Beyoncé has referenced H-town Slab culture before:
Then it hit me: Beyoncé’s production team made those wheel covers especially for that monster truck, all for a fleeting shot in an hour-long film so that maybe a few people might recognize the reference to the Houston car scene.
I thought about that bat I had made, and how it took a handful of hours of research and production and a week of time to create, and I couldn’t possibly imagine the production job of figuring out how to get custom wheel covers made at that size, where you’d even start looking to find someone that could produce them, and how long would it take to get the final product ready and mounted on a truck in time to shoot the scene with a whole crew waiting to film it.
Those are just two small things out of one scene in a much larger work. Think about all the production work, and every prop and every other shot in every other scene in the Lemonade video. Imagine the spreadsheets required to pull all that off.
Now, think about the Coachella concert: all the songs, all the music, all the dancing, and the set design. Think about every dance, and every member of her crew, and how every bit of their clothing is custom made and how it is worn in a specific way, and even where people stand on stage has reasons why, and how every single little thing has forethought and care and loads of work put into it and has a reason for being there and looking the way it does.
And that is how fucking awesome Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter truly is. Appreciate her attention to detail, in case you didn’t already.
addendum: Jen Simmons’ thread on the sheer amount of planning and rehearsing that must have went into the Beychella performance is another great look at what sweating every single detail takes.
I never thought of the importance of the camera crew, but I remember the sound and video work was impeccable during the whole set, and live concert sound is rarely good on a stream, but hers was perfect.
also addendum #2:
“The Coat of Arms on the one outfit is 100% blazonable: correctly constructed by heraldry’s rules. It could easily be a registered grant of arms”—https://twitter.com/PennyOaken/status/986410886935048200
Now that is attention to every last detail.