Compton gets another big TV close-up, as Beyoncé opens Oscars with soaring ‘Be Alive’

Beyonce Knowles singing
Beyonce performs “Be Alive” to open the 94th Academy Awards.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Can an opening act steal a show?

That’s the question Beyoncé posed with a lavish and swagger-ific performance of her song “Be Alive” that opened Sunday’s Academy Awards, where the throbbing power ballad from “King Richard” is nominated for original song.

Performing on a public tennis court in Compton — where “King Richard’s” subjects, tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams, learned to play under the guidance of their father, Richard — Beyoncé led an ensemble of dozens of dancers and musicians through a stately rendition of “Be Alive,” which she co-wrote with Dixson and which celebrates Black excellence as a function of family and community.

“Couldn’t wipe this Black off if I tried,” she sang, rhyming the line with “This is hustle personified.”


Dressed in tennis-ball yellow — and proudly introduced by the Williams sisters — Beyoncé instructed her collaborators to “tell these people where we are” before interpolating recognizable elements of 2Pac’s “California Love” and Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang” into her song — and only weeks after Dre shone an even bigger spotlight on his hometown during last month’s Super Bowl halftime show. (It wasn’t clear if Beyoncé’s performance, which took place about 20 miles from the Oscars’ home at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, was live or had been pre-taped.)

She pulled off intricate choreography that evoked the Williamses’ confidence on the court. And she put a bit of growl into her powerful voice as she sang about having her family by her side.

Beyoncé’s nomination for “Be Alive” is her first Oscar nod, though she’s been a frequent presence at the movie industry’s premier awards show, having performed in 2005, 2007 and 2009.

The other songs nominated for original song are “No Time to Die,” from the James Bond film of the same title (written by Billie Eilish and her brother, Finneas O’Connell); “Somehow You Do,” from “Four Good Days” (written by Diane Warren), “Dos Oruguitas,” from “Encanto” (written by Lin-Manuel Miranda) and “Down to Joy,” from “Belfast” (written by Van Morrison).

All but “Down to Joy” are expected to be performed during Sunday’s show.