Powerful, confident and vulnerable are just some of the many words we can use to describe Queen Bey’s newest album “Lemonade”. While marital strife has often been a subject the Carters have shied away from discussing in the public eye, it seems as though it is the forefront topic of discussion in this album. In addition to references to her marital issues, Beyoncé also touches on the issue of equality within society. Not only for women, but also African Americans. In the past, we have often seen Beyoncé express herself through characters such as Sasha Fierce, but with all that being said, we can truly see Beyoncé being herself, delivering the simple yet prevailing mantra ,“If life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.”
The album, which debuted Saturday at 9 p.m. on HBO, consisted of a visual sequence of music videos featuring poetry by Somali-British poet Warsan Shire and highly respected directors such as Mark Romanek. The album was available for streaming exclusively on Tidal after the hour-long premiere.
The visual album took us through a series of songs in which Beyoncé explained her love for her husband Jay-Z. In the first video “Pray You Catch Me”, we watched Beyoncé walking down the street and smashing up cars with a baseball bat, singing about a man who betrayed her, but doesn’t understand how much she loves him. Musically, the album is exocentric and electrifying, with sounds from rock, jazz and reggae and collaborations with Jack White, Diplo, James Blake, The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar.
Lemonade also demonstrates Beyoncé’s increasing willingness and desire to express her political views. One of the films for Lemonade depicted the mothers of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin holding photographs of their sons. The viewers were truly taken through an emotional rollercoaster with the single “Freedom,” which uses a sample from the group Kaleidoscope and a 1947 snippet from an unidentified prisoner at the Mississippi State Penitentiary to telegraph its larger intent.
The album is also strongly feminist in tone, one song declaring “women don’t quit on themselves”. The video is filled with images of female solidarity, which is something Beyoncé has always stood for. With anthems like “Run the World (Girls)” and “Single Ladies”, Beyoncé has perhaps been a voice for many women. She also expresses her roots as she is joined by African American women in white clothes enacting communal ceremonies.
The African American women shown in this visual album have been ones who have faced either extreme loss through police brutality or have faced criticism from social media. In other words, the women portrayed have all received lemons, but have figured out how to turn them into lemonade.
Beyoncé, seen in multiple hairstyles and fashions, is shown taking us through transitions from simplicity to sexy. She takes us through her most vulnerable state of finding herself, which can be seen at the beginning of the visual album when she is walking through the woods. She then presents us with an upbeat Beyoncé persona as she wears an antebellum-style dress remade with fabric patterns derived from African textiles, also known as Ankara.
Whether or not Beyoncé of Jay Z are actually going through marital issues is an answer to a question we will never find out, but one thing she does make clear is her ability to overcome. This is especially shown through “Freedom,” inspired by Jay Z’s mother who explains, “I’ve had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to cool myself off. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.” This quote can be used to serve any area in your life, not just a relationship. We have all been through times when we felt like life was dealing us a negative hand, but like the song says, “A winner doesn’t quit on themselves.” Stay strong. (And be sure to stay away from Becky with the good hair.)
Photo via Okay Africa