If, like me, you couldn’t put Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming down when it was released back in 2018 – then I’ve got good news. Because Netflix followed her on the book tour and only went and made a film of it! And I am very much in love, as it turns out, with her music taste…
She was the first lady of the White House, but she is so much more than that. She is all her experiences, her work, her fundraising, her writing, her music tastes. She is pretty bloody amazing if you ask me. This all feels epitomised in the opening scene – where she’s picking music to play in the car, explaining how she plays different genres on different days, depending on her mood. Eventually settling on Gospel singer Kirk Franklin’s A God Like You – it is literally impossible to even dance just a little bit. The song itself (which I’ve listened to at least three times a day since because it is, undeniably, a bop) is optimistic, speaking of uniqueness – “there’s no one like you” feels like a reminder to the former first lady herself, and us. We are all original, and ever-changing. As she puts it – we are all becoming.
Becoming takes all the things you think you might know – and gives you a whole new set of ideas.
And on the topic of music – the soundtrack pretty much carries on in the same way. It might be in the background – but it’s important. It feels like a piece of her personality and attitude. Walking on stage to Alicia Key’s Girl on Fire is one of the more obvious ones, but seeing Michelle Obama jam out to Drake’s Nonstop might not be the first thing you expected. But again, that’s just what Becoming plays into. It takes all the things you think you might know – and gives you a whole new set of ideas. This isn’t about Barack, policies and politics.
This is about her fight – out campaigning and making speeches for and about him whilst the media was continually picking out her flaws. About her family growing up in the White House, and having to get her daughters to learn how to clean and make their own beds, not wanting them to become dependant on the staff. About Black Lives Matter. About meetings in communities with young people to learn about what they can do to help each other – holding them up to the “high expectations” she has of them.
But it’s also about her influence on others. How seeing such a strong woman in the White House could be so united and yet independent of her husband – carving out her own path, whilst helping him on his. A beautiful final sequence montage set to Frank Ocean’s Godspeed, sums this up pretty well. The faces of those who had come out to meet Michelle set to lyrics like; “It’s a free world / You look down on where you came from sometimes / But you’ll have this place to call home always”, creates an incredibly nostalgic tone. We live in scary times, but this final sequence feels like a peaceful ending. It’s not quite goodbye, but rather the start of something new for her and for those of us watching it.
As a feminist – I can’t quite explain just how empowering she and this film is. Just know I literally got goosebumps watching it. I felt like I could conquer the world and nothing could get in my way, as long as I had the sounds of that Kirk Franklin song by my side (Before I Die is another great song and I am definitely not bopping to it right now…)
“I will always love you – how I do” sings Ocean. I’ll always love you and your work too, ma’am.
Last modified: 20th June 2020