From dominating the pop-music scene over the past decade to remaining out of any media controversy, Beyoncé found her artistry and visual peak with the latest world premiere event in “Lemonade.” The visual album debuted on HBO and made sure to captivate audiences with visually stunning movement artistry while airing out some dirty laundry. Considering that her previous project was shrouded in mystery, fans did not know what to expect this go around. If the self-titled “Beyonce” brought out a balanced feminism with newfound sexuality, “Lemonade” brings about a more vulnerable and personal artist that has made her appear more relatable than ever before.
Beyonce has always been a visual artist whose unique blend of pop, R&B, and soul that made her one of the leading artists of the past generation. Always more of a performer than an innovative artist, the singer realizes the power of visual stimulation when it comes to audio affinity. From “B’Day” to her self-titled project, Beyoncé has evolved her performances to incorporate more modernized and captivating pieces of art. With “Lemonade,” she makes one of her boldest and intriguing efforts to draw the attention of onlookers by inviting them into the happenings of what goes on behind closed doors in her highly private relationship with Jay-Z and, alleged, infidelity in the relationship.
Here is where the visual and musical journey begins. Opening with “Pray You Catch Me” and “Hold Up,” “Lemonade” brings the metaphorical calm before the storm. “Pray You Catch Me” is the equivalent of the spouse confirming that her/his intuition was right. Following with the inner rage, but still calm track of “Hold Up”. Ironically, the Caribbean vibe provided by Diplo and Koenig on production offers that relaxed island feel and also serves a sort of jab to the rumors of Jay-Z’s infidelity with Bajan-beauty Rihanna.
Since the drop of “Formation,” it seems that Beyoncé decided to address the naysayers and critics within her lyrics instead of through the media. Claiming that she likes her man’s “negro” nose and her daughter’s baby hair and afro, it would not be surprising if she indirectly addressed the Rihanna cheating rumors with a song that finds Beyoncé embracing her building rage.
Carrying on her turmoil, Beyoncé brings it to the forefront with a little rock and roll with in the following “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” Sharing lyrics and a catchy guitar rip with The White Stripe’s Jack White, the songstress spins the role of victim to a full-on confident and very angry diva. Displaying a side which fans have not seen in Beyoncé since her “Ring The Alarm”. The crazy is in full effect and she makes sure to let Jay-Z know how serious she is as she lets the explicit lyrics and threats loose. Nothing but rage and strong vocals over a drum and guitar-driven beat, Beyoncé no longer has time to play a damsel in distress.
Regaining her calm and cool, the Hit-Boy and Melo-X co-produced “Sorry” find her retaining confidence, but embracing a new level of revenge. Channeling her rage past her cheating her spouse, Beyoncé finds herself going out and giving him a dose of his own medicine with little remorse. Basically stating that if he can go out creeping and enjoying the spoils with other women (Becky with the good hair to be cryptically precise), nothing is stopping her from going out with her girls and doing the same. If “Single Ladies” was the up-tempo dance anthem for a woman reclaiming her freedom from being taken for granted in an emotionally abusive relationship, then “Sorry” is the mellowed 2016 version of a woman scorned turning the tables on the unappreciative.
The following Danny Boy Styles, Boots, Dixie, and Ben Billions produced “6 Inch” brings in The Weekend over a trap-inspired/moody rhythm that continues this unapologetic confidence in both sexuality and feminism. After a betrayal in a long-term relationship and moving from the stages of anger and revenge, the betrayed may find a loss of self and embrace a newfound love in reclaiming a new identity as he/she focuses on taking care of her business. Whatever that business is, it involves self-preservation and not relying on others to sustain you. Becoming self-sufficient above all else because the one that was always supposed to have your back (your spouse) you can no longer trust.
However with this newfound independence, Beyoncé still finds herself looking back as to why she is in this position. One of the strongest tracks on “Lemonade,” “Daddy Lessons” finds the southern belle taking a look back as to why she fell for a man just like her father-a cheater. Drawing from the personal, this heavily Blues-inspired Dixie-produced tune finds Beyoncé also coming full circle, in a way. Considering that her father and former manager also cheated on her mother, listeners could infer that Beyoncé understands that she chose a man just like her father because he was the first prominent male figure in her life, whom contributed heavily to the woman she is today.
Understanding that after so many years of love and devotion, Beyoncé reflects on the love lost. The melodic and atmospheric “Love Drought” sees her still trying to figure out what went wrong between the two. Reminiscing on how strong their love once was over the dark and mid-tempo ballad, “Love Drought” also finds the songstress yearning for this pain to end. The addition of haunting visuals of an Igbo Landing-inspired mass suicide of slaves in 1803 Georgia add a poetic, yet eerie quality to the song. The chose of visuals combined with the lyricism further emphasize the message that the pain and anger she carries is a, somewhat, tumorous baggage holding her back from love. “Sandcastles” further touches on this concept and brings in visuals of her family life with Jay-Z as she slowly releases that pain and anger to trust again.
Breaking away from her hatred of the betrayal and finding forgiveness, the self-explanatory “Freedom” is Knowles’ rebirth song. Taking from her struggles and hard times, Beyoncé finds forgiveness and breaks from the hate that nearly consumed her. Considering that Kendrick Lamar had one of the most prolific and powerful modernized spiritual tracks this past year with “Alright,” it is no surprise that his addition on this spiritual blues-rock track serves as a great and complimentary fit. Almost an anthem for a call to change, this empowering Just Blaze and Coffer-produced ballad is a triumphant, soulful track that but speaks volumes to the eardrums and spirit.
Latching onto to this emotional message of hope through change, “Lemonade” closes with a cute R&B ballad, titled “All Night.” The track finds the artist coming full circle and finding forgiveness. Realizing no one is perfect, she chooses love over all else and embraces happiness above all else. The Diplo and Henry Allen co-produced ballad is a great closer and strategically sounds like the closing of a concert as the “Lemonade” journey comes to a close. Just shutting the eyes and listening to this track, one can just imagine a stadium of teary-eyed fans waving their hands from side-to-side just singing along as a collective emotional release from a dramatic trip.
Though “Lemonade” may be Beyoncé’s shortest album, it is the most telling and artistic of her career. Bringing both a well-thought-out visual and musically driven project, this is album gives listeners more than just her usual love ballads and dance numbers. Considering that reports are already dropping that Jay-Z and Beyoncé are releasing a collaborative album in response to “Lemonade,” there is no telling whether this album truly revealed what happened behind closed doors or was just a masterful ploy to sell to the masses. Whatever the case may be, there is no denying the musicality and drama in this effort. Since Knowles is credited on co-producing and penning every track on the album, her dedication to her craft is an undeniable fact.
Opinion By Tyler Cole
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Images Courtesy of Home Box Office, Inc.