After a three year hiatus, the crowned king herself is back with her most honest and unadulterated album to date, Lemonade. This album takes you through the journey of a scorned woman who has dealt with infidelity, and all of the emotions that come with it–insecurity, anger, despair, forgiveness, and everything in between.
Watching Lemonade the film and listening to Lemonade the album were two different experiences. The film guides Lemonade’s narrative by moving through 11 different motions: intuition, denial, anger, apathy, emptiness, accountability, reformation, forgiveness, resurrection, hope, and redemption. The accompanying visuals are incredible. The poetry by Somali-British poet Warsan Shire seems as if it were written specifically for Lemonade, and the music itself is solid both lyrically and sonically.
The music on it’s own is packed lyrically, truly personifying the story Beyoncé is telling.
There are sounds from different genres like Rock, Rap, R&B, Pop, Trap–yet the album still flows and most of the songs (with the exception of “Formation”) fit the album well. And though I don’t necessarily think “Formation” goes with the flow of the album lyrically or sonically, I still think it fits the album thematically as this is a story about female empowerment, and “Formation” is without a doubt, a female empowerment anthem.
Pray You Catch Me
Capturing the essence of what Lemonade focuses on, Beyoncè lays the foundation that is female intuition. As disloyalty and distrust abounds, The Queen croons over a soft alluring beat singing “Prayin’ to catch you whispering..I’m prayin’ you catch me listening”. Thematically, “Pray You Catch Me” is a brilliant intro because whether it’s right or wrong, intuition always leads us to a series of other emotions.
“Hold Up” is the uptempo dancehall-esque influenced track that makes me feel confused, mad, crazy, yet happy. Closing the song out with a nostalgic interpolation, “Turn My Swag On”, Beyoncé just knows how to make jealousy and crazy feel so empowering and fun. Also it turns out, the hot sauce in her bag is really a baseball bat.
Don’t Hurt Yourself
This gritty and grungy track is an instant ear appealer, featuring the lead guitarist of the rock band The White Stripes, Jack White. Beyoncé unleashes that anger that has leaves us in awe. She is straight gutter and unapologetic. She becomes the “dragon breathing fire” and gives off her final warning. It’s safe to say when you hurt her you really hurting yourself.
We go from the overtly angry and ready to box Bey, to the unbothered Queen. “Sorry” is the for the girl who’s fed up and just wants to spend her days chilling with her friends and stay in grinding mode. Another smooth uptempo track, “Sorry” is “I fell out with my man, I’m over it, I’m gonna live it up with my girls, and now I’m doing me” in song form.
Featuring The Weeknd, “6 INCH” is a dark toned anthem. Beyoncé talks about working hard for your money, stacking your paper, and just staying on your grind. Both artists paint a pleasantly ghastly vibe of female empowerment. Upon first listen, it reminded me of “Ghost” on her previous album, BEYONCE. I wasn’t too far off, as Boots produced both, and says “6 INCH” is the “spiritual sequel” to “Ghost.” This leads me to believe some songs on BEYONCE planted the seeds for LEMONADE.
Beyoncé takes her problems and solutions and blends them together in the country inspired song “Daddy Lessons”. All great country songs tell a story and this song illustrates her upbringing and the many things her father taught her–taking care of her mother, watching out for her sister, and warning her about men like him. As fans we’re familiar with the turmoil that caused a rift between her and her father and now we can speculate that her father’s warning about men like him foreshadowed the type of man she ended up marrying.
“Love Drought” is so emotionally vulnerable and metaphorical with lyrics like “you’re my lifeline and you’re trying to kill me” and “I don’t care about the lights or the beams, spend my life in the dark for the sake of you and me.” Coming in during the reformation part of the film, visually, you can see symbols of renewal. After everything they’ve been through, their love is strong enough to move mountains, calm wars, make it rain, and eventually “stop this love drought.”
Here, Beyoncé digs deep. So much so that when she sings the lyric, “What is it about you that I can’t erase, baby,” her voice cracks as if she’s crying or choked up. “Sandcastles” is raw and honest. Consider it the climax of the album. We have reached the peak of her emotional rollercoaster. At this point she’s ready to receive his apology and bestow her forgiveness and start anew.
“Sandcastles” seamlessly transitions into the resurrection section of the film with “Forward” featuring James Blake. This turning point is only about a minute and twenty seconds long, but with Blake’s presence and his ability to draw out listeners’ feelings, “Forward” is still emotionally packed and creates a full track. “It’s time to listen, it’s time to fight. Forward.”
From heartbroken to empowered, on the Just Blaze-produced “Freedom” featuring Kendrick Lamar. Beyoncé belts out a powerful message of womanhood and the glory of black femininity through all of the circumstances we face, and police brutality. It is most definitely an anthem track with impactful lyrics like “I’ma keep running, cause a winner don’t quit on themselves.”
Watching the film, it’s all about redemption. Sampling the famous horns from Outkast’s “SpottieOttieDopaliscious,” Beyoncé sings lyrics like “found the truth beneath your lies,” “our love was stronger than your pride,” and “true love brings salvation back into me.” Her words scream atonement. Bringing her love into full fruition, she realizes their bond is bigger than their issues.
At the end of “Freedom,” Jay-Z’s grandmother is heard saying, “I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.” In the film, Beyoncé gives a recipe for lemonade and recites how her grandmother was an alchemist. How she “spun gold out of this hard life.” How she ”found healing where it did not live” and how these life lessons were passed down from mother to daughter, who then passed it to her daughter, and so on.
Looking at her career from a bigger perspective, we were introduced to the solo artist Beyoncé as an r&b singer with safe musical content. It seemed like she has played the role of delivering catchy and friendly tunes that appeal to all masses. Now, as she’s reached a level of success most musicians dream about, Beyoncé is no longer following the norm but instead is following her own lead and creating the music that reflects herself.
Visually, Lemonade portrays the story of black women in the south. The project was filmed on a former plantation in Louisiana. The attire was southern–long dresses, wide brimmed hats, and pinned up hair. The images of the women gathering and preparing food took me back to shucking corn with the women in my father’s family. Moreover, there was so much imagery of black women working together, unifying, and just being.
Focusing on black women was definitely a risky move on Beyoncé ’s part, since “The most disrespected woman in America, is the black woman,” as Malcolm X stated in his “Who Taught You to Hate Yourself” speech (an excerpt of which was used in the film). These themes might cause listeners who aren’t black women to turn away from this project. On the flipside, this project is a major success commercially because it details a black woman’s experience, while allowing others to enter into that world via the art. It gives insight into the black woman’s world for those who have no idea what it’s like. New listeners can attempt to put their feet in the shoes of the story’s protagonist and empathize alongside her.
Lemonade takes you through a black woman’s journey and experiences in life and love. It is a story that begins with hurt, but ends with healing.
It is a black woman telling her story on her own terms. She wasn’t dealt the greatest hand life could give, but she found a way to push through and make it. She found something positive, something worth fighting for, and made the sweetest lemonade one could make with the sourest of lemons.