There are certain artists who are and always will be bigger than their music. Beyoncé is one of those artists. From her Super Bowl performances, to her hits, her dances, her iconic fashion moments, her family, her magazine covers and everything in between, Bey has always been an icon. But even though she has always been bigger than her music, she has always had the music to back her up. LEMONADE is no exception.
This album was delivered to the world in classic Beyoncé fashion with a larger than life visual album premiered on HBO that made everyone stop what they were doing, even with little to no promotion.
Beyoncé has always seemed larger than life and even on her most open songs up until this point she has still been seen in the eyes of the public as a superstar who is unbreakable. It has been almost as if she is Wonder Woman, a superhero that is is incapable of being emotionally defeated. With LEMONADE, I think the world finally gets to see Beyoncé as a person. She became someone who everyone can relate to and not just look up to; someone who is just as vulnerable as the rest of us.
Beyoncé’s marriage to husband, Jay Z has been the topic of much controversy over the last few years. First there was the infamous elevator incident, then there were rumors of cheating, and finally murmuring of a divorce; before all of that was put to rest after their joint tour last year. With these thoughts in the back of my head while listening, I found this album to be a way for Beyoncé to finally address everything going on in her life and it seems like she has been wanting to get this off of her chest for a while now.
The album begins with “Pray You Catch Me” which is a spark of honesty that sets the tone for the rest of the 45 minute journey through Beyoncé’s mind. “Hold Up” comes next with a more upbeat tempo but continuing the theme of her marriage and infidelity. On this song she confidently tells her man that he has the “Baddest woman in the game up in your sheets” and that all of these other girls “Don’t love you like I love you.” Beyoncé shows strength, confidence and no sign of insecurities here. She talks about having extreme love for her husband and wanting to make it work, but at the same time she may be running herself into the ground thinking about all of the possible lies that he is telling her.
Unlike many artists, Beyoncé does not hide from her emotions here at all. She portrays extreme anger on “Don’t Hurt Yourself” with Jack White singing lines like “You ain’t married to no average b***h boy.” The most amazing part about this album though is how empowering it is for women. Even in her most vulnerable and angry states Beyoncé remains poised with confidence that seems unshakable. She does not ever seem to question her beauty or worth, rather all of the blame and questioning is shifted onto the man who does not appreciate her for who she is and what she has to offer. On “Sorry” she refuses to apologize for being confident in herself and not thinking about her man, but instead focusing on her own happiness.
This album is about more than just the ups and downs of a relationship. It is about finding strength within when others are pulling you down. It is about finding happiness and clarity in times of struggle and questioning everything else around you except for yourself. Beyoncé questions her father’s intentions and compares her relationship with her man to the relationship she had with her father, and the relationship that he had with her mother on the jazzy, “Daddy Lessons.” She questions if she should be doing the same thing as her man and seeking revenge on “6 Inch” and she questions the possibility of remaining in love on “Love Drought.”
This was the toughest review that I have ever written. Being a white-Canadian male writing a review on this album, I know nothing about the African-American female experience, and I do not want to pretend that I understand everything that Beyoncé is talking about. This album is about a larger issue of the oppression of black females within society and how they are told to conform to be like other cultures and races. On the song “Freedom” Beyoncé and Kendrick discuss the current tribulations that they face within an American society that is resistant to change and still has injustice going on within it everyday.
So I will not pretend to fully understand this album, these words are just my perspective and me doing my best. Like my friend told me, “You can speak on someone, but you can’t ever speak for someone,” so hopefully this review relates to your experience listening to the album whoever you are. But perhaps this album is not even meant for me to understand.
The album ends with a triumphant ode to her perseverance within her relationship and within society. “All Night” is by far my favorite song on this album, and potentially one of my favorite Beyoncé songs of all-time. I think the fact that it comes after so much hurting and wondering throughout the album makes it feel even more freeing and open. “Formation,” which is the lead, and only single from LEMONADE, closes off the album as what feels like somewhat of a bonus track. I liked this song a lot better in context with the album because it feels like her confidence that was displayed throughout the album shines through at it’s brightest here.
Whether this album simply becomes a conversation about marriage, infidelity, and how to get through troubles within relationships, I think that this album will leave a lasting impact on the world. People stopped what they were doing and they listened to Beyoncé. People felt her emotions and her vulnerability. People related. People cried (I am sure). I think that this is some of Beyoncé’s best and most complete work yet and I am looking forward to her either winning a Grammy this year or hearing Kanye say that she deserved the Grammy.
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